The Oakland University community in southeast Michigan is mourning the loss of one of its own.
Local officials report the body of 19-year-old Corey Jackson was found in a wooded area of the campus. Police and the medical examiner’s office tell the Oakland Press the young gay man hung himself.
The suicide happened Tuesday night, as activists across the nation were preparing for a Facebook driven day of activism to counter a wave of suicides of young gay people across the country that have been tied to bullying. Wednesday was dubbed Spirit Day by the Facebook plans, and was designed to draw attention to the suicides by encouraging people to wear purple.
Police say there is no indication bullying was a factor in Jackson’s suicide.
And while bullying may not be a factor, Melissa Pope, director of the university’s Gender and Sexuality Center said the issue points to larger, hidden epidemic of suicides among LGBT youth.
We must look beyond the term “bullying” to the overall treatment of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community to begin to grasp the long-standing epidemic of suicide among our LGBT youth.
While the national press has picked up this issue over the last two months, we have been losing high numbers of LGBT youth to suicide for decades. In recent years, we’ve labeled the cause as bullying. But the root cause goes deeper – it goes to the very core of our society that discriminates against the LGBT community on all levels, including the denial of basic human rights that are supposed to belong to every person.
As I sit with the students who regularly visit the Oakland University Gender and Sexuality Center, including the newer members of our community, drawn to the Center for affirmation and support, I am confident that these individuals know they are loved and accepted for who they are. My greater concern is the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who do not come to the Center. Those who are afraid to come out – perhaps even to themselves – for fear of the persecution they will suffer. My greatest hope is that those who feel isolated reach out to resources like the GSC to discover they are not alone. We are here to listen and offer support.
Oakland University President Gary Russi sent an e-mail to students at the university Wednesday, reports the Oakland Press.
“Any death in the campus community diminishes us all. We know there will be no quick antidote for the pain that Corey’s sudden death has caused, and that only time can heal the sorrow felt by his family and friends. In our mourning, I am hopeful that we will not focus on the manner of Corey’s death, but rather celebrate the life he lived and the people he touched.
“Reassuringly, this spirit of community is already evident. Corey’s family and friends gathered in Van Wagoner Hall (Tuesday evening) to talk about Corey’s death and to comfort each other. At 10 p.m. this evening, those who loved and befriended Corey will gather again to celebrate his life on the bridge that crosses Bear Lake.
“I encourage all in the campus community to come together and comfort those who need our support at this sad time. I’d also like to share that Graham Health Center is prepared to provide counseling to anyone who feels the need to talk about their feelings or manage their grief.
“I’m confident that those who knew and loved Corey will miss him and cherish his memory. I know, too, that we as a campus community will keep his family and closest friends in our thoughts and prayers.”
Jackson was from Pontiac.