Lee Thompson Young: Black Men Face Gay Rumors Even in Death

By Nick Delmacy | Posted Aug 20 2013 | 19 Comments  

lee thompson young

In the hours after the news of actor Lee Thompson Young’s suicide, Cypher Avenue received a slight bump in site visits based off of one Google search string: Was Lee Thompson Young Gay?

Mind you, we have never even slightly speculated this notion in these pages in the past. The only other time we had mentioned Young was when we named him the second most talented and attractive actor of color to make the transition from child star to adult performer. But the mere fact that we were a gay/bisexual themed website dropped us into the Google search results.

Having said that, the other sites on the list were FULL of speculation.

This is the current state of the Black American man. Even in death he has to face gay rumors and gay whispers. We live in a gay witch-hunt society full of TMZ and black gossip sites full of women and gay men working hard to Out celebrity after celebrity. I would argue that MediaTakeOut.com is just as bad as The Rolling Stone, Uganda’s infamous newspaper that Outs African men: listing their photos, names and addresses.

Was the pressure of this “we’re gonna Out you” environment too much for Young, leading him to committing suicide? The problem with this is to even speculate is to fall in to the same trap that that Bossip.com is in: Disregarding facts for rumor. Besides being an attractive private person, Lee Thompson Young gave no reason for us to think that he killed himself because he was gay.

This is me whenever I see MediaTakeOut or Bossip spreading more thin rumors and details about yet another black man’s private sexuality:

What rubbed me the wrong way was not that people were falsely labeling Young of being gay. That would imply that I thought there was something “wrong” with the mere idea. No, what bothered me was the insinuation that the ONLY reason Young would have committed suicide was because he was gay.

Yes, that totally explains it, right? I mean, why else would a young, masculine, attractive, successful celebrity with so much future potential choose to end his own life? What could be so unbearable that would make this black man say there was no other way out? Homosexuality. Yeah, that works. God hates fags. So does Hip Hop. Gays kill themselves every day, right? It all makes sense now.

Wait, why is the fact that he was attractive matter? Well there’s clearly a perception of privilege in this country when it comes to good looking people. The better looking you are, the more opportunities, favors and courtesies you are seemingly afforded. This is not a position that I wholly agree with given that I know so many broke, unemployed and uneducated men and women who are absolutely beautiful. But I understand the rationale.

I also think its understandable that people want to know why…well, kind of…I’m actually not totally sure why so many people who hadn’t thought twice about Young since his Jett Jackson Disney Channel days seemed so angry and frustrated that they didn’t know why he committed suicide. However, that’s another discussion. But I do get it…life just works better when we have explanations for unexplainable things.

But the leap to “suicide due to latent homosexuality” seems like a 1980’s reach into the past.

When people look at us gay/bisexual men of color, do they really see suicidal time-bombs waiting to happen?

When people see single black heterosexual men, especially if they are attractive, do they really see closeted gay men on the brink of suicide?

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Don’t get me wrong; I do recognize that many black men who happen to be gay have at least had a passing suicidal thought or two at one point, especially in their younger years. However the percentage of black gay men who have been successful with even just attempting suicide is still very low, let alone actually killing themselves.

Lets look at some numbers. According to the 2010 census, there are roughly 42,000,000 Black or African Americans living in the country. That was Million. Now compare that number to the total Black American male suicides in 2009: 1,684. That’s not even filtering out the non-gay related suicides. That’s TOTAL.

So to say that black gay male suicide is epidemic is incorrect. According to the CDC, the suicide rate of African Americans is 60% lower than that of Caucasians. However, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than whites. I believe this figure leads us to the real reasons behind Lee Thompson Young’s death.

Black Men in America are just more depressed and face more psychological distress without treatment than their Caucasian counterparts. And not only because of insecurities about their sexuality. Poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 3 times more likely to report psychological distress. Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as Blacks. Added to that, there is a societal shaming that comes with black men seeking therapy so many avoid it at all costs.

What about Lee Thompson Young? He was single, young, masculine, attractive with good credit and could afford treatment and medication, so the explanation was that he was a closet homosexual that couldn’t live with being Outed as a gay man, right? RIGHT?!

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EOnline.com reported today that Lee Thompson Young had been suffering from depression for some time now:

The Rizzoli & Isles star, who was 29 at the time of his death, “didn’t drink or party,” says a source, adding, “He was the opposite. Lee loved to travel and was always the first to tell everyone to take a breath and enjoy the beauty of life.” He was always “gentle and unassuming,” despite his early success, and didn’t have the typical “look-at-me” attitude.

That said, those close to Young noticed things “really changed” a few years ago when he began practicing Yorùbá, an Africa-based religion which has a saying, “iku ya j’esin”, meaning “death is preferable to ignominy.” Some have questioned whether this means that suicide is an acceptable way to preserve personal or family honor in the face of public shame.

However, Yorùbá culture icon and Chief Priest of Osogbo, Araba Ifayemi Osundagbonu Elebuibon, told the National Mirror earlier this year that the religion “[does] not support suicide. Their belief is that if somebody commits suicide, they will be punished in the hereafter.”

The Famous Jett Jackson star “took [his religion] to the next level and started wearing white all of the time,” says a source, adding, “This religion was everything to him.” Although he reportedly took a break from practicing Yorùbá, he recently returned to the religion. Just before his death, he visited a small village in Africa for something reportedly related to the religion.

As for Young’s family? A source notes that he was close with his mother and sister, but relatives were worried his close friends no longer lived in L.A., leaving him surrounded mostly by “industry types.”

According to Kevin Caruso at the non-profit suicide.org, untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide. And the potential causes of depression are numerous:

A divorce, separation, or breakup of a relationship, a serious illness, a terminal illness, chronic physical pain, Intense emotional pain, loss of hope, a loved one being victimized (child murder, child molestation, kidnapping, murder, rape, assault, etc.), sexual abuse, unresolved abuse (of any kind) from the past, feeling “trapped” in a situation perceived as negative, feeling that things will never “get better,” feeling helpless, serious legal problems such as criminal prosecution or incarceration, feeling “taken advantage of,” inability to deal with a perceived “humiliating” situation, inability to deal with a perceived “failure,” alcohol abuse, drug abuse, a horrible disappointment, feeling like one has not lived up to his or her high expectations or those of another, low self-esteem….Oh and a feeling of not being accepted by family, friends, or society because of their sexuality.

Way down at the bottom of the list.

Let’s not forget that, earlier this year, budding 22-year-old rapper “Freddy E” live tweeted his suicide to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. Some speculated it was prompted by a breakup with his ex-girlfriend but we may never truly know given that there are so many potential causes for his suicidal thoughts. He was only 22-years-old! He was single and arguably just as attractive with as much future potential as Lee Thompson Young. Was he also a latent homosexual?

And Soul Train creator, Don Cornelius committed suicide as well. Was he also a closet gay?

No, depression is serious and real for many different reasons.

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So as we mourn the loss of great young talent and be thankful we ever got to “meet” him in the first place, let’s not cloud his legacy with rumor and speculation. Instead, let’s learn from this moment and work towards being better at seeing the signs of depression in our friends and family members so that we can at least give them a shot at an alternative solution than taking their own life.

About the Author

Nick is a founder, editor and the pop culture expert at Cypher Avenue. Serving as the designer and webmaster of the site, he is the architect of The Cypher Avenue Matrix.

   
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19 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. serenityq2 | December 24th, 2013

    so hypocritical and stupid for a “gay” site to continue promoting that urban stupidity that its wrong to be gay. if you didnt believe it was wrong you wouldnt be “offended” if someone is called gay. you all need to buy yourselves some happiness

  2. quest for knowledge | August 25th, 2013
    +1

    Yea I totally agree with you on this one Nick. I also think that ever since the DL phenomenon hit the media and now that some folks understand that masculine gay/bisexual men do exist people are now quick to label dudes gay in so many different situations. It’s a shame that this is what people are thinking after the news breaks of his suicide.

    I feel like now it’s not uncommon to hear black females (especially those who are insecure and unhappy) loosely use this label on guys that they date or to call out celebrities on gossip websites. Every guy now whether they are famous or not has to deal with this mess. I think if anything it really shows how ignorant some people in our society are. Some folks may automatically perceive Lee Thompson Young to be gay due to the fact that he was attractive and was never seen dating a female out in public. Many people get caught up in stereotypes when really they need to move past them. It’s like poison to their minds, smh.

  3. C-Dotti | August 25th, 2013
    +1

    Would anyone be surprised if he was gay though? Imagine being gay, black and a celebrity. That might be cool for those flamboyant guys on Atlanta Housewives, but not a professional black actor.

  4. thinker | August 22nd, 2013
    +2

    I wish that more people would look at this tragedy and say if you are suffering or in some kind of emotional turmoil seek help. Really, we have to move from superficial relationships with one another and make sure that we listen and observe whats being said and unspoken. Your article says, he was a private person. Was he suffering in silence?

    As a custodian of the Yoruba tradition Ifa, suicide is against the core beliefs. I will say many come to the faith for various reasons. A significant portion come to find a spiritual remedy for problems/situations. We don’t know what attracted him to the faith or why he decided that suicide was his only solution. The fact remains that someone lost a son, a friend, a relative. My condolences go out his family and pray that they find comfort.

  5. Byron P. | August 21st, 2013
    +2

    Ok either way I think that whenever someone dies, whether by accident, natural causes, or suicide, the main focus should be celebrating their life, not speculating about it. Every time a celebrity dies it seems like there are just as many, if not more, bad things said about them as there are good. Nobody knows why he chose to take his life and we will most likely never know. Whether or not he was gay, we’ll never know either. Don’t even get me started on sites like mediatakeout. Half of the things that they post are lies and the other half are stories that they stole from other sites. I dont take anything they say seriously.
    Side bar: I agree that being gay is not one of the main reasons why people kill themselves. I could not find anything that mentioned that it was. It could be A reason some people do it but there are plenty of reasons.

    • Nick Delmacy | August 21st, 2013
      +2

      Agreed man, people coming out of the woodwork to speculate on his life when he probably could have used that same concern when he was still alive.

      • Byron P. | August 21st, 2013

        For sure man. I just find it hard to believe that a very attractive, moderately successful young black men with a bunch of fans would have killed himself because he was gay.

  6. Black Pegasus | August 21st, 2013
    +3

    @nick thank you for every single word of this article!
    I purposely avoided the gossip rags because I couldn’t bare to hear
    the ignorance that has been a mainstay among certain communities. As a teen, I remember when my mother took me to see a psychiatrist for treatment of my depression. Among the questions: 1. “do you have a sexual attraction to boys?” 2. “were you abused or molested by a relative?”

    As I sat there, I was wondering when the doctor was gonna ask me about my “depression” instead of trying to assume being gay was the ONLY reason a young black boy would want to harm himself. Thanks again for writing this Nick. And the added info about Lee’s religious beliefs are appreciated as well.

  7. ptseti | August 21st, 2013
    +2

    wonderful piece Nick….the only homage mankind pays to suicide is hypocrisy.

  8. Ocky Williams | August 20th, 2013
    +4

    This was excellent and much needed. Black folk and this Gay DL witch hunt is disgusting.

  9. Ocky Williams | August 20th, 2013
    +2

    Point Blank

    masculine, attractive, no kids, and discreet equals DL, hiding, devious or in a nutshell something must be wrong. You know masculine privilege. smh

    • Hannibal | August 20th, 2013
      +2

      Unfortunately that’s how a lot of people perceive it. Throw an unexplained suicide on top of it and it’s a powder keg of speculation. It’s not right but that’s what people cling to.

  10. Hannibal | August 20th, 2013

    I think it’s just natural for people to try to find answers. When someone who would seem to have no reason to kill themselves suddenly does and there’s no explanation or anything, people jump to things. Given that latent homosexuality is one of the biggest reasons people kill themselves I don’t think it’s just a large reach to even think about it passingly. And it’s not just limited to black men. When Rick Warren’s son killed himself people began blogging right away that a mega pastor drove his son to suicide. Not saying it’s right, but I think that’s just a natural tendency.

    Sidenote: Don Cornelius is dead? Where the heck have I been?

    • Nick Delmacy | August 20th, 2013

      “Given that latent homosexuality is one of the biggest reasons people kill themselves…”

      Did you read the article? Where is your evidence for this statement? Post links please.

      • Hannibal | August 20th, 2013

        I’m going to post a link but I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m just explaining why I think it is that people jump to that conclusion. I was a volunteer with the Trevor Project and gays(particularly teen males) are HIGHLY at risk for attempting suicide. I don’t know if that has anything to do with this case, but we can’t ignore the numbers and that’s what leads people to jump to conclusions. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447240/

        • Nick Delmacy | August 20th, 2013

          Well, your numbers are from a telephone survey in 1998 of ONLY gay men that didn’t even specify black gay men, which is who this article was about. Nor did it discuss successful suicides, which is what your statement insinuated: “Latent Homosexuality is one of the biggest reasons people kill themselves.”

          Even if you changed the statement to “attempt to kill themselves” it is still unsupported by evidence.

          • Hannibal | August 20th, 2013

            I was agreeing with the intent of your article, but here’s another link. http://dot429.com/articles/1185-suicide-prevention-month-includes-lgbt-statistics

            • Nick Delmacy | August 20th, 2013
              +2

              LOL you’re missing the point by posting links specifically on LGBT people instead of ALL people. Sounds like what you meant to say was: Homosexuality is one of the biggest reasons GAY people ATTEMPT to kill themselves.

              The problem with this is there is no indication that Lee Thompson Young is gay, at all…yet he is suspected of being gay merely because of his suicide.

              The article I wrote stated that there are MANY reasons the small amount of black men who commit suicide do it. Its dangerous to limit homosexuality as the cause for most suicide attempts. It may blind us to other symptoms of depression.

              • Jonah | August 22nd, 2013

                So, I think that this comment really gave me a better point of entry for your article. There is a certain frustration when homosexuality is the go to when someone commits suicide. I’m not sure if this was mentioned or not, but when Heath Ledger passed there wasn’t much speculation about him being gay… and he actually played a gay/DL dude on screen! There is indeed a lot of merit in the criticism of society’s preoccupation with the “Great Gay Suicide.”

                Yet, it’s VERY interesting though that people seem to realize that there may be a correlation between the social pressures put on homosexual African American men, depression, and subsequent suicide. It’s as if everyone is saying “Hey, we can see that we’re fucking you guys up mentally, even to the point of suicide… but we’d rather use your death to pander our needs for drama and gossip… good luck! – Sincerely, Society”

                With a new appreciation for the article, let me say thanks for the write!




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