There is very unfortunate news today as yet another young gay man has taken his own life. Twenty-six-year-old Joseph Jefferson of Brooklyn, New York reportedly committed suicide on Saturday by hanging, friends and associates of the former gay youth activist and HIV peer educator tell Rod 2.0.
By most accounts, Jefferson was a true LGBT youth pioneer. The 2002 graduate of New York City’s Harvey Milk High School later worked on HIV prevention and outreach for Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) and the now-shuttered People of Color in Crisis (POCC), New York City’s leading HIV/AIDS groups for Black gay men. More recently, Joseph Jefferson was an assistant to Laurence Pinckney and James Saunders, New York City’s popular Black LGBT event promoters, reports Nathan James. Jefferson was also active in New York City’s colorful ballroom community.
“Joseph was truly a sweetheart,” one friend who knew him well tells R20. “Extremely bright and impassioned about social justice causes… It’s such a loss.” The friend, who requests anonymity, adds that Joseph Jefferson seemed in good spirits and “showed no indications of being unusually depressed.”
“As an advocate for LGBT youth, Mr. Jefferson surely made a positive impact on those he met and counseled. But this same nurturing and enrichment he offered to others, was absent in his own life to such a degree, that he felt the only way to deal with the pain of his existence was to end it,” wrote author and activist Nathan James on Facebook.
Joseph Jefferson becomes only the latest young LGBT person to commit suicide in recent weeks. Jefferson also becomes the third Black LGBT youth to commit suicide in three weeks.
At only 26-years-old, Joseph Jefferson was only beginning his journey in life and seemingly had so much to offer the community and other Black gay youth. Will this ever end? Will there ever be hope for young people such as Joseph Jefferson, Aiyisha Hassan, Raymond Chase and Tyler Clementi?
Why did Mr. Jefferson commit suicide? Why did any of these people commit suicide? Is it a coincidence that these five young people have taken their own lives? Justice-loving people everywhere need to reject the hatred, violence and inequality that many gay people experience as commonplace. Was that Mr. Jefferson’s experience? I don’t know. But I believe that human rights and human dignity must be nurtured, protected and grown so that all people have an opportunity to flourish. Mr. Jefferson didn’t feel he had an opportunity to flourish, and so he took his own life.
More rights for someone else need not mean fewer rights for me. “Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its shalom you shall find your own shalom.” Jer. 29.6, 7 . Shalom is safety, health, peace, unity. Shalom isn’t a zero-sum game. Neither are rights.