There was an eerily prescient moment in popular culture today. R.E.M, one of the most influential bands in the last thirty years announced their split. Perhaps the most well known anthem, Everybody Hurts touched millions as a message for those contemplating suicide with the simple message: Don’t do it.
Fast forward twenty years and their message was lost on Jamey Rodemeyer. A back story: Jamey Rodemeyer was a schoolboy from New York who experienced bullying owing to his perceived feminine nature, he came out as bisexual earlier this year, released a video for the pro-toleration ‘It Gets Better’ campaign and gained a legion of supporters. And quite rightly, it takes a hell of a lot of bravery to release such a public message about such a sensitive issue. However, things didn’t get better for Rodemeyer and this Monday he was found dead, having committed suicide. He was fourteen. Here was his courageous message:
This piece of news illicits many reactions; tears, anger and the hope that finally, finally people might wake up to intoleration. A few months ago, I wrote an article where I wavered on whether we should support pop music’s new found love of being ‘weird.’ Well, I waver no more. Rodemeyer was a huge fan of Lady Gaga and found inspiration in her music, her persona and her message. If anyone doubted that popular music could be a force for good, they need look no further. Perhaps one of the most touching elements of Rodemeyer’s death was his last twitter message, addressed to Lady Gaga:
“bye mother monster, thank you for all you have done, paws up forever.”
No matter what you think of Lady Gaga and her antics, I find it awe-inspiring that she’s managed to be a supportive figure for so many people. I’m not often serious on this blog; it’s not really what we’re about. But I feel at times like this, a degree of seriousness is warranted. This post isn’t going to change the world but if it spreads the message to just one person, I’ll be content. Jamey’s story should give us the courage to stand up to adversity. It’s not always easy to tell your friends that the fact that bus is late isn’t ‘gay,’ but unfortunate. It’s difficult to call them out every time they use a gay slur when describing a heavy workload. You can seem sanctimonious when you don’t laugh at a homophobic punchline. But it’s worth it. I’m not suggesting every circumstance is an act of homophobia, but it is rooted in intolerance and contributes to a wider problem. If no-one else takes a stand against discrimination and helps kids like Jamey, they don’t stand much chance in this world. I call in the wisdom of one of my heroes, one Albus Dumbledore. In the face of adversity, he tells us we are ‘only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.’ The fight against homophobia and discrimination can only be achieved through a collective force. And perhaps Dumbledore’s, and by extension J.K Rowling’s, wisest piece of advice is the one that we find hardest to swallow: ‘If the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave.’ Dumbledore may have been referring to a school champion but Rodemeyer was just as much a hero.
This being a music blog, I thought we should take the time to listen to Jamey’s biggest idol (who is currently using all her social media strength for the best.) Although her latest album was not one of my favourites, I have a deep respect for Lady Gaga as a musician and campaigner. One of the most striking songs of hers I can leave you with today effortlessly combines tolerance with a catchy hook. It’s called Hair, and is ostensibly follicle-centric. However, it’s not difficult to work out that there might be a slightly deeper issue as she sings:
I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to know, I am my Hair
I appreciate her music isn’t to everyone’s taste but I think we can all support her message. I’m sure I can speak for the rest of the guys here at Can You Hear This when I send my condolences to Jamey’s family and hope that anyone else in a similar situation finds the solace they need, and deserve. Paws up, indeed.