OutUK Archive Item
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

Clifton Spires is the father of a gay son who walked out of the family home in 1996 after a family row and they've never seen or spoken to each other since. A journalist living in Ohio with his wife and other son he now campaigns vigorously for gay rights and each week on OutUK he reflects on how this affects his life and family. Though it's written in America, we believe the issues he deals with affect the worldwide gay community. Previous columns are archived in OutBack.

Dying Young - Brad Matthew Fuglei

The recent report by journalist Tom Musbach of the suicide death of Brad Matthew Fuglei, a 19-year-old who organized gay rights rallies at his high school in Omaha, Nebraska, was heart-breaking to his family and friends, as well as strangers such as myself who are parents of gay children.

As it happens, my younger son, Jonathan, who is not gay, is the same age as Fuglei was, and so the young man's death hit me doubly hard, not only because I could identify as the father of a gay son --- my oldest son, Patrick, 29, is gay --- and as the father of a son just about to leave his teen years.

What doubles the tragedy of Fuglei's death --- he was found by his mother in the driver's seat of his car, which was parked in the garage and running. A suicide note was found in the house, but details were not released --- is that his short life seemed to be an example of what many of us want for our gay children. He appeared to be self-aware and self-accepting and was highly motivated to help others reach that same level.

At the news site where Musbach's article could be accessed on the internet, there is room for commentary about the article. Many of Fuglei's friends have posted messages of condolence and expressions of grief there and others, who did not know him directly, have made similar postings. The general consensus is that Fuglei was an outstanding young man full of promise and inspiration to others. His mourners and even those who did not know him take his death very personally, as if hit in the stomach and their breath taken away.

Fuglei reportedly came out at the age of 14, and he worked with several Gay Straight Alliances in area schools. Last year he participated in an unsuccessful attempt to add sexual orientation to a nondiscrimination policy in the Millard school district.

In 1998, the Omaha World-Herald published a feature article on Fuglei and his organizing of a local vigil in memory of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who had been brutally murdered in Wyoming.

At North High School, Fuglei was senior class president and elected homecoming king last year. He performed in several theatrical productions and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Why would someone so positively motivated commit suicide? Those of us at a distance will never know. His family and other close loved ones can only speculate, unless the suicide note is more revealing.

But what we all have in common are two things: (1) A sense of loss that the gay civil rights movement lost an important member, and (2) a sense of joy that no matter how Brad Matthew Fuglei's life ended, there were moments of pride and accomplishment in it, not only for himself but for those who want similar moments for our gay children and other family members.

Can it be really as far back as the mid-to-late 1970s when many newspaper readers clucked with dismay about reports of gay teens bringing same-sex dates to the prom? And here, less than three decades later --- in Omaha, for pete's sake, a heartland city with all the sterotypical reactionary conservative stigma surrounding it --- things have progressed to the point where an openly gay teen-ager can be elected homecoming king and senior class president. High school gay-straight alliances are becoming, if not quite commonplace, at least not necessarily an unusual or unexpected phenomenon that blindsides the school boards who are forced to make decisions about allowing them.

Young people like Brad Matthew Fuglei quietly, in their day-to-day interactions with their classmates, made more progress for their generation's acceptance of gay people in society than all of us older folks who write columns, form PFLAG groups, run for office or write letters to the editor.

I don't know why Fuglei died and it's none of my business to know. But I do mourn his departure and celebrate his life of accomplishment, inspired to go on giving love to my own family, especially my sons, and support to all who want to see acceptance of gay people as complete equals to all in our society, in our lifetime.


search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk shop | home | outback | more



  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.