Saturday, November 6, 2010

Colt Hansen - Rest in peace

Three days ago in Salt Lake City, Colt Hansen, a young gay man from a Mormon family, took his life. Colt participated in the SLC gay community and had worked at Try-Angles, a local gay bar. Colt's friends report that he struggled with his family over their refusal to accept him. This came to a head the night before Colt's death, when he and his father argued for the last time.

The obituary prepared by Colt's family is stunning. I'll quote a little of it. The whole thing can be found here.

Our beloved son, brother, grandson, and uncle passed away peacefully in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 3, 2010 after a severe battle with depression.


There is nothing peaceful about suicide. It is an extreme form of violence. I can assure you that Colt's last hours on this earth were the exact opposite of peaceful. It breaks my heart to think of it.

How much of Colt's "severe battle" was caused by familial rejection? Academic studies show that young gay people whose families exhibit rejecting behaviors toward them are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

Colt loved being around his friends and family. ... Colt loved his dogs, Kasha and Travis. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This paragraph breaks my heart. The last communication Colt had with his family was an argument over his rejection of the LDS Church. I guess the family got the last word on the subject. Even in death they couldn't leave this one alone. I guess it could be wishful thinking on the part of the parents or attempt to reduce the family's shame over having a gay son. In any case, identifying Colt as a member of the LDS Church dishonors his life.

Colt is survived by his loving parents, Rick and Connie Hansen

I know that I in similar circumstances would not have the gall to editorialize about myself in this way. Is that adjective really needed under these painful circumstances? Does no one feel even partial regret about actions they might rethink in the face of tragedy?

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the LDS Church Missionary Fund.

This part is over the top. I am speechless at the insensitivity. The subtext is one of utter cruelty. It almost gloats. It says that Colt's life, what he chose for himself, the hopes and dreams that he nurtured, are of no importance. This one statement is the complete invalidation of a particular human life.

Colt will be buried on Tuesday, November 9.

Reading reports of the needless deaths of our beautiful young gay Mormon people should distress us all and motivate us to action. We must stanch the flow of blood.

Via: Eric Ethington

11 comments:

Neal said...

You have me crying again...

His parents will surely be held accountable for rejecting their own precious child and pushing him into the abyss.

Ann-Michelle said...

I really appreciate this post. I knew Colt from about 5th grade on. I have to disclose that I wasn't good friends with him, but I definitely observed the ridicule and bullying that he endured in that small, mormon community. I am astonished that his family could dishonor him so blatantly. I am hoping (by sharing your post) that others from our town will wake up and reflect on the way they treated him. I can only hope that it will stir feelings of compassion and empathy.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Neal,

I don't know what went on in that family. I don't pretend to know. I do know that the Church and small-town LDS culture plays a big role in how a family reacts. There are a bunch of factors coming together to cause these suicides. I see it as something we need to work on as a community.

Ann-Michelle,

Thank you for commenting. Thank you for honoring Colt's memory and raising awareness about treating your gay brothers and sisters with dignity.

Heather said...

This breaks my heart. So... so... incredibly sad. Why is it so easy for people to treat others with such callousness and selfishness? I'm trying so hard to find a way to reconcile my faith but it's incredibly hard to do when things like this are happening all around. How do I refute the idea that religion is abusive when things like this continue to happen?! And how can supposedly inspired men be so blind to the suffering and pain THEY are fomenting?

MoHoHawaii said...

Heather,

Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, the best thing to do is speak up. When you're in Church and you hear things that diminish the worth of other human beings, SAY SOMETHING. We've all sat there in uncomfortable silence. I think it's time for that to stop.

Anonymous said...

This was found on another site...
COLT IS MY BROTHER. We don't have to explain anything to anyone as to what we are doing. My brother is gone. We all loved him and supported him in more way than any of you know. You all are just making assumptions. He didn't die b/c he was gay.He didn't die b/c of the LDS church. He had spoke to my dad the night before he passed and not one of you know what was said or what was bugging him. Not one of you that has posted has ever met us. But havn't held back on assuming that you know how we feel or what we think. So continue to make your comments if they make you feel better. I however will not say one thing bad about any of you. For those of you that have had kind remarks thank you for understanding that he have lost a loved one.

~Colt's sister, Adrienne

MoHoHawaii said...

Anonymous,

I presume you are not Colt's sister, Adrienne.

None of us is happy about the horrible turn of events that led to the loss of this young life. Despite my disagreements with them, I wish his family the best.

Invictus Pilgrim said...

Thank you for making me aware of this tragedy. My life will never be the same again since acknowledging and affirming that I am gay. And one aspect of that new life is to be newly aware of and infinitely more sensitive to tragedies such as this and the circumstances that lead to them.

Galloway Fam said...

I agree with Neal. The church teaches love. God is love. A person's family should never shun them over something that is not chosen by them.

Natalie said...

Adrienne is Colts sister, she is an awesome lovely girl.
I wish everyone could care more about offering love in times of sadness, and not worrying so much about labeling it all.
I wholeheartedly support the rights of homosexuals to have a happy life like the rest of us, but I would like to just throw it out there that we do not know everything, and who's to say the words being judged so harshly were even written by his family.... There is just so much nobody can know about anything... Why put effort into judging everyone and everything.
His family are good people.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi IP and G. Fam.,

Thanks for your comments.

Hi Natalie,

Yes, Adrienne is Colt's sister, but "Anonymous" is not Adrienne. Instead, a comment by Adrienne that was left on another blog was anonymously pasted here by someone else. Adrienne is not speaking. She's being quoted.

While I personally can't excuse the obituary's extreme insensitivity, I appreciate your perspective.