Teen deaths weigh heavy at Outfest

What is normally a jubilant, outgoing celebration of the gay community became a sublime affair inside the William Way Community Center yesterday afternoon during a memorial to recent victims of anti-gay bullying.

The ceremony in honor of several teenagers who have killed themselves was held during Philly Pride’s annual Outfest, the blocks-long party celebrating the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Some might say [they] took their lives, but I would say [they] were slaughtered by societal homophobia,” Malcolm Lazin of the city-based Equality Forum told the audience.

The overlying message of the event was a call to action for change in the community. “This society has not yet put this tragic social disorder to an end,” said Lazin.

Julia Moon, a former co-president of BiGLARU, the GLBT alliance group at Rutgers University, the college Tyler Clementi attended when he killed himself after a roommate taped him with another man, said Clementi is part of “an epidemic of gay suicides.”

“Tyler, your death was not in vain,” Moon said.

Victim’s mom calls for action

Susan Wheeler, of Lebanon, Pa., lost her son when he committed suicide after being bullied by classmates. “We must be strong advocates for our youth,” she said. “When we hear about bullying, we must take action. This has gotten out of hand and we have to do something.”

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