Silence=Death: Like Reagan on AIDS, Obama Needs to Come Out

There’s an epidemic in America: due to the rapidly expanding homophobia tolerated, and rewarded, in our political sphere and due to more tolerance of bullying, LGBTQ teens are taking their own lives in despair and mistaken shame. America is rapidly reaching double-digits in teen suicides in the past few weeks, and these are the ones we know about. Why won’t Barack Obama speak out?

Come out, President Obama. Come out against teen suicide. Come out against hate crimes. You can make a difference in a young person’s life, today.

Today is National Coming-Out Day. Barack Obama can come out strongly against homophobia, intolerance, hate, violence, and bullying. Coming Out Day is the perfect opportunity for the president to confront the public actors — bullies, politicians, pulpit-owners, homophobes, and ignorant bigots. These people make American teens consider, and act on, their suicidal thoughts.

We need presidential leadership, just like we needed presidential leadership in the 1980s on AIDS. President Reagan failed that test, not mentioning AIDS until two years after Hollywood icon Rock Hudson sickened and died in 1985:

Reagan very belatedly addressed the issue of AIDS while president. His remarks came May 31, 1987 (near the end of his second term), at the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington. When he spoke, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died. The disease had spread to 113 countries, with more than 50,000 cases.

President Obama, don’t fail this presidential test of leadership. Sending your spokeswoman Valerie Jarrett to the HRC black-tie gala this past weekend to co-opt Dan Savage’s "It Gets Better" language to excuse your own political failures on DADT, iENDS, UAFA, and DOMA doesn’t count. Speak up yourself, Mr President — give teens hope.

Do it today.

Some LGBTQ teens don’t seem to have much hope right now. Our culture doesn’t seem to provide them with much hope.

And your lack of leadership and forceful language against homophobes is part of that. Allowing the Senate to debate DADT repeal in the starkest, most bigoted language without a response from you did not ease today’s climate of fear and despair. Allowing your Justice Department to stand aside while local law enforcement conclude ‘no lasting damage’ was caused to a beaten, bloody man with $30,000 in doctors’ bills after being bashed in Savannah doesn’t give anyone hope for your Administration’s implementation of the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Law. Defending DOMA in crassly derogatory terms doesn’t help anyone think ‘we are worthy.’

Give us — give them — some hope. There’s precious little on offer lately. You remember hope, right?

It’s the only thing some of these teens have. And you can be the one who saves a life. You’re living proof it gets better for some people — now prove to every American teen they have the same chance you did for a better life.

Do it today, Mr President: please Come Out against hate.

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