Posted by: Lauren--NY | July 21, 2010

News You’re Not Hearing: Todd Ransom’s Suicide

“Never awake me when you have good news to announce, because with good news nothing presses; but when you have bad news, arouse me immediately, for then there is not an instant to be lost.” ~Napoleon Bonaparte

UPDATE 7/27/10: I’m very happy that Todd Ransom’s family has released a statement and shed some light on this unfortunate situation. I want to clarify that while I can only speak for myself, I do not think that anyone in the blogosphere would be so presumptuous as to assume that Todd Ransom was not loved unconditionally by his family, or that this is not a loss of devastating magnitude for them. They have my deepest, sincerest condolences. It is worth pointing out, however, that one can never truly know the causes of an individual suicide, and that Utah bloggers are indeed claiming that there has been a recent and shocking increase in the number of suicides among gay male Mormons. This is not about demonizing the Ransom family, or even the LDS Church–it’s about defending the notion of truth; it’s about holding media accountable, and it’s about digging under the surface of what looks simple (or, what is made to look simple) and making sure that our gay, lesbian and trans brothers and sisters have the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as any others do. For the record, that includes religious freedom. We have a free press in the United States for that reason. If Mr. Ransom’s liberty was in any way compromised because he was gay, and I personally believe that it was, then bloggers and journalists alike have the right to question why. It’s the patriotic thing to do, and the human thing to do.

UPDATE 7/27/10: Another excerpt from the family website that I feel is relevant: “Our lives changed when Todd announced to his family in 2001 that he was gay. Thus began the difficult dance that takes place between a faithful Mormon family and a much-loved son and brother who chooses to live a gay lifestyle. It was difficult for his parents to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, and this hurt Todd in ways that his parents did not intend. On the other hand, in spite of his upbringing in the LDS Church, Todd insisted that family members affirm his sexuality in ways that put them at odds with their conscience and beliefs. Todd was very hurt when his parents felt that they could not attend his commitment ceremony with Jake Jacquez, his partner of eight years, however he and Jake were both welcome in our home.”

UPDATE 7/26/10: Todd Ransom’s family has launched a website in his memory, and there is a family statement. After clicking ENTER SITE, the statement from the family reads: “Our beloved son, brother and friend took his own life at Battle Creek Canyon near Pleasant Grove, Utah after a long and painful battle with depression. Some people have said that Todd ended his life because he was gay or felt persecuted by the LDS Church and his family, but this is not true. We loved him unconditionally. We were always there for him. Todd attempted suicide previously and we know from that experience that his manic depression was a constant thorn in his side and that there were other factors that influenced his suicide. Todd didn’t always agree with us or want to share his life with us, but he was loved by us. That is the undeniable truth.” You can visit the website and read the rest of the statement here. You can also send your condolences to Mr. Ransom’s brothers, photographer James Ransom and Tyler Ransom, through Twitter @jamesransom_nyc and @tyleransom. Please be kind, compassionate and respectful. Thank you.

UPDATE 7/26/10: Mr. Todd Ransom’s obituary.

SAME-DAY UPDATE 2: According to the L.A. Weekly blog The Informer, the director of 8: The Mormon Proposition, Reed Cowan, has commented on Todd Ransom’s death. He has also confirmed that Mr. Ransom was not featured in the documentary as has been reported by many blogs (including this one, and it has been corrected), but “signed up for an interview and then inexplicably left before he could appear in front of the camera.” Mr. Cowan also declared that there has been a “rash” of suicides among gay Mormons in recent weeks, but I don’t know where he’s getting his information. Mr. Cowan is an ex-Mormon, and also stated: “In Mormon culture, when one of these kids commits suicide, you never know at first if he’s gay because his sexual orientation won’t be in the obituary and families will sweep it under the rug. But you hear from friends that he is gay and that’s why he killed himself.”

SAME-DAY UPDATE 1: Lovely reader Danielle helped me out in the comments by pointing out the fact that Mr. Todd Ransom’s name has not been officially released to the media, and there are a few blurbs where the story appears, but his name is not included which explains the lack of search results. She provided us with the link to Utah Valley’s Daily Herald, as well as to Salt Lake City’s ABC 4, where it is, interestingly, the most popular story. I’m unfamiliar with those outlets, so I don’t know if those links will continue to update as more information comes in, but do continue to check back. I imagine, however, that this will be relegated to blurbs and bulletins even as more information does come down the wire, and the deeper layers involving the Mormon Church will probably remain untouched. She also wants everyone to know that there is a memorial for Mr. Ransom at Battle Creek Falls that is growing as we speak. Thank you, Danielle!

In the latest news you’re not hearing, a 28 year old gay Mormon named Todd Ransom committed suicide on Monday. The Utah resident was featured in the documentary was scheduled to be interviewed for the documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition, a film exploring the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in funding the “Yes on 8” movement behind the passing of Proposition 8 in California in November 2008, but backed out. According to PRIDE in Utah, Mr. Ransom left behind a note that read “Sunrise–Accept this Offering.”

This devastating tragedy at the hands of bigots is depressing enough on its own, but the fact that this story–and its shady connections to the Mormon Church and to Proposition 8–has gone entirely unreported by both local Utah and [Ed. Note: see updates] national news media makes it all the worse. As of this writing, a Google News search for Mr. Ransom’s name still turns up nothing. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CBS News, ABC News, NPR, even the local Salt Lake Tribune–nothing. This follows an embarrassing trend of under-reporting when it comes to LGBT stories, no matter how much death and destruction they contain, because the mainstream media does not consider these stories to be mainstream. Todd Ransom was somebody’s child, somebody’s brother, somebody’s friend, somebody’s lover. These stories are not “fringe,” and they deserve more attention.

The media barely touched on the Dr. George Rekers “Rentboy” scandal, and failed miserably to dig under the surface and report that story’s untapped depths. There was very little coverage of the deaths of two gay teenagers within a week of each other in November 2009. The first was 15 year old James Mattison, Jr., who was raped and brutally murdered by a family friend and his body shoved in a closet at his aunt’s home in West Baltimore, Maryland. It was discovered that the family friend had been committing statutory rape with James for quite some time leading up to the murder–a spokesman for Baltimore police called it a “forced sexual relationship.” That’s a hate crime. When an adult male systematically rapes and dehumanizes a fifteen year old boy it does not make the assailant gay; it makes him a monster. The second murder occurred the following week in Puerto Rico, when 19 year old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was decapitated and dismembered. The CNN Wire Staff had it covered, but it received little or no television coverage from what I saw at the time, even when several hundred activists rallied. To be fair to the MSM, it had only been a month since Balloon Boy, and as we all know there were many layers to that story…the major fail here is not just the lack of reporting on the story itself, but as in the case of the Rekers saga, a failure to dig deeper into the layers–Mr. Lopez Mercado’s murderer chose to use the horrible “gay panic” defense, tying this one instance of violence to a history and culture of hate.

On Christmas Day 2009, a 39 year old gay man named Robert LeCompte was stabbed to death in the prominent LGBT night club he managed in Houma, Lousiana. The robbery of $4700 led the media to report it in a quick blurb as a robbery only, but the multiple stab wounds led his partner (also the club owner) who is a former police detective, to say: “I would believe motivation would be definitely robbery [sic], but when you start stabbing the body multiple times, that’s a crime of passion. I’m not ruling out the fact that it could be a hate crime. Whoever killed him was very angry, as far as the police are concerned.” There are more cases like these, but you don’t hear about them.

The media has completely ignored the shocking number of murder cases that victimize trans women, such as that of Andrea Waddell in Brighton, England, in October 2009. The Daily Mail taunted her loved ones and desecrated her memory by referring to her as a “sex-change prostitute.” Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was strangled to death in New York City on March 30th, and barely a week later on April 8th, a trans woman was decapitated in Chihuahua, Mexico (WARNING: the image at that last link is graphic). Authorities judging by her facial expression believe she was alive when she was beheaded. The list goes on. The Transgender Europe supported Trans Murder Monitoring Project found 333 cases of reported murders of trans people in the past two years. The media reports none of this.

The blogosphere is all over it, thank goodness, but the people who are paid and trusted members of the news media fail time and time again to make it clear to Americans (and, I suspect, members of the international community) just how much discrimination and violence the LGBT community continues to face on a global scale.

“Anderson Cooper 360” admirably posted the findings of the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s National Transgender Discrimination Survey on their website, but it took the transition of an extraordinarily famous celebrity’s son to get them to pay attention to that issue. They also had admirable coverage of the unfortunate suicides of Carl Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera, and “The Rachel Maddow Show” had what was far and away the best coverage of the Rekers saga. While I think AC360 and “The Rachel Maddow Show” stand out considerably when it comes to reporting on LGBT issues, at least by comparison, it falls far short of what it should be.

However, polling, ratings and focus groups do affect what makes it to print and what makes it to air. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–one of the biggest problems with American media is the American media consumer. Talk to your local outlets (especially if you’re in Utah) and talk to the national outlets, and ask them why you’re not hearing these stories. There is not an instant to be lost.

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  3. As one in Utah… I’d like to share my (long) opinion.

    At the candle light vigil for Todd last night. There WAS MEDIA there, one outlet that I saw, but they were there. We were so excited! For about 15 minutes. Until the Highway Patrol found them, pulled them out and made them move their truck because they were PARKED incorrectly.

    Really? They were not blocking traffic in anyway. They were not a hazard. They were not killing the grass. You can’t let that go for an hour officer? I cried as hard when I saw the media leaving as at any other time during the vigil. We were SO close….

    They never got a chance to interview anyone or do anything other than shoot some pictures/video. That’s not a story so I highly doubt it will make it on the news. That is thanks to the Highway Patrol… not the media.

    The fact that Todd committed suicide has been reported in both the Daily Herald and ABC 4. His name just has not been released so it doesn’t come up in a google search.

    This is the MOST read story on the Herald. They would update it if they had anything to update it with! I have to wonder if the police have released his name to the media or not?

    I am starting to wonder if the problem is not with the media… but with law enforcement not giving them any information to begin with. Law enforcement preventing them from having a story to tell in the first place. That certainly appears to be at least part of the problem here in Utah.

    I also want everyone to know that there is a growing memorial for Todd at Battle Creek Falls. Despite it not being officially reported anywhere, even on a blog that this is where he committed suicide.

    It is clear that he chose to die surrounded by peace and beauty… rather than the ugliness and hate he so often dealt with. It doesn’t get much more peaceful or beautiful than Battle Creek Falls.

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