Dr. Wendy Walsh: Nine days after a middle-school boy in California attempted suicide by hanging, he died. What's remarkable about this tragic story is that it reads like a script out of the 1960's. The boy, 13-year-old Seth Walsh (no relation, although his mother shares my first and last names), was reported to be gay and was being bullied at school. As in the old stories of homophobia and discrimination, the school administration in the small town of Tehachapi, California, did little to help young Seth.
According to The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a sexual-orientation law and public-policy think tank, there are an estimated 8.8 million gays and lesbians in the U.S.; some experts say it's more like one in twenty people. The body of evidence that proves sexual orientation has a genetic component grows every day. So why are some people STILL threatened by one of nature's precious variations? Why can't middle-school kids have more compassion for each other's differences? How could what happened to Seth have happened in this day and age -- and in progressive California, no less?
The amazing thing about the Walsh family is that their grief has not exploded into anger at this senseless death. Instead, they wish to celebrate Seth's life and are asking mourners attending the October 1st funeral to be tolerant. According to the Tehachapi News, Seth's grandmother, Judy Walsh, said, "We are trying to keep it more positive. We are hoping the community will develop more tolerance for different people."
Meanwhile, the town of Tehachapi's website reads, "Tehachapi is a vibrant community known for its quiet neighborhoods and bustling business districts. With many community groups, places to worship and cultural activities, we offer something for the entire family." Hmm ... the only thing the town does not seem to offer families is a respite from horrific intolerance.
May you rest in peace, Seth.