With striking rainbow flags and clothing to match, hundreds of people, many of them friends and family of Tyrone Unsworth, gathered at Roma Street in Brisbane on the coast of Queensland’s Australia on Sunday. Among them were some celebrities, including Australian pop star Jess Origliasso of the Veronicas and Multicultural Affairs Minister Grace Grace.
The gathering wasn’t a celebration, though.
On Nov. 22, Unsworth killed himself after being bullied mercilessly because of his sexual orientation.
He was 13 years old.
Now, his friends and family, as well as those who feel his pain, gathered to argue for the Safe Schools program — which aims to create “safer and more inclusive environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families” — in area schools.
“We can’t just hear more talk. We can’t just let Tyrone be another person lost. … Action has to be taken,” Jessica Payne, who organized Sunday’s event, told the crowd.
Unsworth’s school had no such program, and the pain he felt, the bullying he experienced, grew unbearable. Now an online petition requesting Aspley State High School install such a program has reached more than 27,000 signatures.
The day before taking his own life, Unsworth told his friend Gypsie-Lee Edwards, “Everyone wants me dead.”
“He was an absolute mess,” Edwards told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He was … crying his eyes out.”
Feeling “gobsmacked,” she asked her friend what he meant.
“The kids at school keep telling me to kill myself,” he told her.
The reason? Unsworth was gay.
“He was a really feminine male, he loved fashion, he loved makeup and the boys always picked on him, calling him gay boy, f‑‑‑‑t, fairy; it was a constant thing from year 5,” his mother, Amanda, told the Courier-Mail. “I feel like these people who were bullying Tyrone are the cause of why he is not here anymore. They pushed him to the edge.”
Edwards agreed, telling ABC, “He loved girly things, he’s chosen dresses for me and his mum to wear, he’s asked to use makeup.”
Added Edwards, “Kids obviously thought that because he was like that that he could be a target for bullying.”
When Edwards pushed her weeping friend to tell the school’s administration about the bullying, he responded with a simple, heartbreaking sentence.
“They don’t care.”
It seems he thought this due to an incident that occurred a month earlier, when he was attacked by another student.
“This kid picked up a fence paling and hit him from behind and knocked him out and broke Tyrone’s jaw,” Edwards told the Sydney Morning Herland. The attack landed him in the hospital, the Guardian reported.
On his Instagram account, amid the posts of Ariana Grande songs and memes featuring cute, fluffy rabbits that wouldn’t appear out-of-place on most teenagers’ accounts, was a photograph of him in a hospital bed, brace collared tightly around his neck.
After the altercation, Unsworth didn’t want to return.
“He was adamant he didn’t want to go back to school,” his grandmother Twiggy Jones said. “We tried to force him but he kept saying, ‘No, I don’t want to go back to school.’”
Although the school’s principal, Jacquita Miller, said in a statement obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald that the school was aware of the incident and had contacted the police, she claimed they were unaware of any bullying.
“In relation to bullying, let me be very clear: no allegation of bullying against this young person was made to our school,” Miller said in the statement, which was released two days after the boy’s death.
The day after he died, the Courier-Mail ran a photograph of the boy on its front page with the bold headline, “Bullied to death.”
His mother took to Facebook, and wrote, “All of this Because of BULLIES thinking there tough hero’s. now i dont have my SON never will i ever get to see my beautiful boy alive.”
In a different post, she wrote:
To know that we are only going to get to hug/feel/see you another 2 times in this life Tyrone is beyond shattering and No words can explain how we are feeling for you and what has happened .. but we know you will be completely set free of this cruel nasty world so sorry son
But she was not set free. While that should have been the end of this tragic story, it wasn’t.
Perhaps telling of how harshly he was bullied while alive, the taunting didn’t seem to end with the boy’s death.
Other users posted photographs of what appeared to be fake accounts claiming to be the boy.
Most, though, seemed to express condolences.
According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, and “The rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth.”
Furthermore, the organization states, “Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.”
Though she’s grieving, his mother seemed to have taken up the anti-bully cause.
“We Love and Miss you so much Tyrone,” she wrote on Facebook, according to the Guardian. “We will stand up and fight to get as much awareness help and support for others out there, SAY NO TO BULLYING.”
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