On Thursday June 26, a random hiker in Le Var area in the south of France discovered a body at the bottom of a bridge. The body appeared to be Peter, a 22 years young man who lived in the area. Though autopsy at that time still needed to determine the cause of death, all signs indicated it was a suicide. Peter was 22 when he apparently decided his life was not worth living anymore. Peter was gay and had his whole life in front of him. Then why did he feel it was necessary to make a decision so dramatic and so final? Why did he feel that he had to escape a reality he could no longer live in.
In September 2013 Peter wrote the following message: "My parents are becoming stronger and stronger in their prayers against the devil. It shouldn’t surprise me after they appealed to an exorcist priest to make me change sides." These two sentences give a clear picture of how Peter’s parents looked upon their son and his sexual orientation. If this is part of the reason why Peter felt it necessary to take his own life, and we have all reasons to believe it was, we honestly don’t really know what to say. Peter was a regular visitor of Le Refuge in Montpellier. Le Refuge is an association that concerns itself with guiding and protecting young people who are victim of homophobia, non-acceptance and have nowhere else to turn to and no one else to talk to. Peter was one of those young men. Only 2 weeks before his premature death, Peter came to Le Refuge and stayed for one week. It would be his last visit. The team of Le Refuge is doing fantastic and – unfortunately – very necessary work. But they can’t do it all. If parents are so strong in their beliefs that they cannot find a place in their heart for their own son or daughter, regardless their sexual orientation, how can we even begin to fight the negative feelings and the unacceptance of homosexuality on bigger scale. If kids feel so threatened, so loathed, so unloved by their own parents, that they truly believe they can no longer continue their life – their life – I’m asking you, what world are we living in today. And let’s not overlook the deeper point of this story. If Peter felt the need to end his life because his parents could not accept who he was, he did it out of love for those same parents. Because he saw no possibility to live with himself and live up to the expectations of his parents. To be loved by them.
Peter can no longer be helped. He escaped, robbing himself from a life that could have been - should have been - full of joy, love and exploration. There is nothing we can do about this, except learning and trying to prevent this from happening to others. Because Peter is not the only one who struggles. And so I’m calling out to all the parents out there. No matter what your values and believes are, no matter if you despise and cannot understand homosexuality, if your son or daughter is homosexual, don’t stop loving them. If you want to help them, help them in their way. By accepting them, by helping them to accept themselves and by offering them a life full of love. Because no matter what, they are still your children and they deserve a life of happiness, and to live it with the person they choose to live it with, whether it is a man or a woman. Because if you can’t do that, it is not only a sad day for the acceptance of homosexuality, it is a sad day for humanity.
RIP Peter –BM-
Cover photography by Simon Barnes, featuring Scott King.
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