This post originally appeared on AAUW’s blog 'AAUW Dialog' in conjunction with the release of AAUW’s latest research report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.
I’ll never forget the day my friend killed himself. Everyone was surprised. He seemed to have everything in life. Attractive, hilarious, great athlete. But something about Dimitrius was different. He was gay.
I met him at an arts program, so obviously his sexual orientation was more accepted there, and I never witnessed him being harassed. He was just the guy every gay man wanted and every girl wished would turn straight. It seems unfathomable to me that anyone could even insult him.
The day he died, a Facebook page was made to honor him, and more than 1,000 people “liked” it. It was on that page that I learned of his struggles -- saw what people at his school thought of him. I only knew a small part of his life, and here I finally got a glimpse of the full picture.
His was the first death I had experienced in my life, and I still wish I had asked more questions and gotten closer to him while I had the chance. Maybe I could have helped him.
Dimitrius was an intimidating guy. His stature and build (he played football and lacrosse) made an average hater think twice, but sadly Facebook evened the playing field. Guys who would avoid him in person would insult him on Facebook because they were too scared to do it in the halls of school.
My friend ended his life because others wanted to feel better about themselves. Their decisions to insult him, which probably took around five minutes to make, made him end his 17 years of living. People need to realize that words do hurt. In fact, they can be deadly.
-This post was written by a senior at Langley High School in Virginia.