Online anti-bullying campaign It Gets Better celebrates its first anniversary this month.
The viral campaign was the brainchild of US columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller.
It was aimed at reassuring children and teenagers who identify as LGBTI that, after high school, things do get better.
Sadly, only days after the anniversary, 14-year-old Buffalo, New York student Jamey Rodemeyer, a participant in the campaign, took his own life. Rodemeyer was an avid blogger and spoke openly about his torment at the hands of bullies from his school. He was relentlessly hounded online by bullies who would post “Jamey is Stupid, Gay, Fat and Ugly. He must DIE”.
It’s understood Rodemeyer was seeking help from social workers and friends, and seemed determined to remain brave in the face of the abuse.
It was this bravery that led Rodemeyer to post his It Gets Better video on YouTube in May. In the video, he recounted his experience with bullies after he identified himself as bisexual in December 2011. He encouraged others in similar situations, expressing the strength he received from online supporters and his idol Lady Gaga.
“All you have to do is love yourself, and you’re set,” he said.
“I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier,” one bully posted.
“I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so people will listen to me?” Rodemeyer wrote on his Tumblr profile in his final days.
One of his final messages was a tribute to Gaga, along with the lyric “Don’t forget me when I come crying to Heaven’s door.”
Responding to Rodemeyer’s death, Lady Gaga tweeted, “I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation had the power to end it #MakeALawForJamey.”
New York police have opened a criminal investigation into Rodemeyer’s death, however, no bullying laws exist in New York state. Police will have to determine whether aggravated harassment charges can be laid against the bullies.
Savage has spoken online about his sadness at Rodemeyer’s death and the teen’s involvement in the It Gets Better project.
Savage said he feels that for some, “hope isn’t enough. Sometimes the damage done by hate and haters is simply too great”.
He said those responsible for bullying Rodemeyer should be held accountable but “not prosecuted or persecuted”.
News of Rodemeyer’s loss has been felt worldwide. His parents Tracey and Tim Rodemeyer will bury their son in a T-shirt that reads “Born this way” to symbolise acceptance and defiance of bullying.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper speaks with Rodemeyer’s family here: