10 LGBT Teen Novels that Tackle Teen Suicide & Bullying by Collin Kelley

In September, the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi was a tragic close to a shocking month of gay teens taking their own lives. Clementi's dormmate secretly recorded the teen having sex with another man, sent out messages on Twitter and broadcast it across the Internet. Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge.

Clementi's death also brought attention to three other teen suicides-Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Luca-that occurred in September; all had been bullied over their sexuality. We'll never know exactly how many LGBT teens have taken their lives because of physical or cyber bullying.

So although the media glare has revealed that bullying is an epidemic, LGBT novelists have long tackled this issue in the pages of their books.

In my own novel, Conquering Venus ($14.95, Vanilla Heart), the story is set in motion by the suicide of a high school student, Peter, fearful that family and friends will abandon him if they discover he is gay. Peter’s boyfriend, Martin, goes to Paris to try and move on with his life, but meets another young man tormented by his sexuality who seems to be heading down the same irrevocable path.

Here are 10 books for teens and adults that confront bullying and suicide in frank language and tone, not to mention providing hope that “it gets better.”

By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peter
A bullied high school student trolls a suicide “completers” website determined to get it “right” after several botched attempts. Then she meets a young man dying of cancer, who is just as determined to make sure she lives. Peters includes information about suicide prevention at the end of the novel.

Bait by Alex Sanchez
Told from the prospective of the bully, Sanchez charts the course of a 16 year old coming to terms with his abusive past after he is arrested for assaulting a gay teen.

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
A 15 year old tries to commit suicide and wakes up in a juvenile psych ward, where he confront his burgeoning sexuality with the help of three other teens.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
A transgendered high school student gets support from his family while trying to defend himself from bullies and act on his attraction to the hottest girl in school.

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole
A Cuban-American girl in a Catholic school is expelled and abandoned by her mother after they discover she is a lesbian.

A Scout is Brave by Greg Novak
A Native American is bullied at a Boy Scout summer camp as he faces his own sexuality and the traditions of his family.

The Side Door by Jan Donley
A teen gets bullied after coming out at her high school and tries to uncover the secret behind the suicide of another bullied teen, whose death has been hushed up by the small town.

Freak Show by James St. James
Teenage drag queen Billy (or “gender obscurist” as he calls himself) faced down bullies as he seeks to become the homecoming queen at his conservative high school.

Finlater by Shawn Stewart Ruff
A book for older teens and adults, this story of a young African American teen and his Jewish boyfriend in 1969 is sexually frank and shows that bigotry and bullying roots are deep. (Reviewed for LLF by Reginald Harris)

Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein
Okay, this isn’t a novel, but it’s definitely a book for bullied teens that belongs on any list. The celebrated transgender writer offers up suggestions from the witty to the controversial, but all with one simple message: “Don’t be mean.”

©2010 by Joe Kort

Related: Issues, Books

Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives. or

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!

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