I first met Wendy Walsh last June 16 when the Southern California chapter of the ACLU honored trans hero Chaz Bono and writer Dan Savage for creating the It Gets Better Project. During the event, ACLU/SoCal’ James Gilliam announced the Seth Walsh Project to intervene in school bullying when asked. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
The project was conceived after the suicide of 13-year-old Seth Walsh last September. Walsh was in the eighth grade at Tehachapi’s Jacobsen Middle School and had suffered intense anti-gay bullying and gender-based harassment since coming out as gay in the sixth grade.
“Wendy Walsh contacted us after her son committed suicide,” Gilliam said. “In the suicide note Seth left her, one of the things it said was, ‘Make sure you make the school feel like shit for bringing you this sorrow.’ And so she asked us what could be done with the school district.”
I was struck by how much grace-under-pressure Wendy exhibited before this huge crowd of strangers wishing her well. But she was there with her other loving son Shawn, who, of course, had his own reaction to Seth’s suicide. On this Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to Wendy and all other mothers who’ve lost children to suicide, hatred and violence, including most recently, the mother of Treyvon Martin. During the height of the AIDS crisis, I felt like a surrogate mother to so many young gay men whose families rejected them, who cried in my arms that they were dying and had never fallen in love. My own children have four legs – my dogs Charlie and Pepper – and as I wrote about my little Shitzu, I know deeply the heartbreak of loss. But I can’t imagine what Wendy and other mothers left behind must feel today. My heart and thanks goes out to them for sharing their children and their loss with us. Big HUG this Mother’s Day!