U.K. Teen, Korean Actor Kill Themselves After Coming Out

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 10, 2008

In England, a gay teen apparently committed suicide subsequent to receiving harassing phone calls after he came out. And in Korea, an actor whose career had suffered after he came out also evidently took his own life.

In both cases, the young men seem to have taken their own lives by hanging themselves.

The Manchester Evening News reported that 18-year-old Lee Simpson apparently hung himself after receiving a number of harassing phone calls by anonymous persons.

Lee's father, John Simpson, attributed the young man's suicide to the calls, saying, he had been receiving them "just before he died."

Said John Simpson, "I never expected him to do what he did but those calls definitely didn't help him.

"I think they pushed him over the edge."

Simpson recounted that he had heard the calls himself, and characterized them as "abusive."

Said the bereaved father, "I took most of the anonymous calls. They were [taunting] and abusive.

"I would just [hang up] on them."

Continued John Simpson, "I didn't want Lee to know because I knew it would upset him, but he answered some of the calls.

"When he answered one, he went crazy at the person on the other end of the phone."

Added John Simpson, "Lee was very open about his sexuality. It didn't bother me and it didn't bother anyone who knew him, but it's not like that in the outside world."

Lee Simpson had come out to his friends and family in a letter he wrote last year. His apparent suicide took place last spring. An investigation deemed his death a suicide.

The young man's sexuality was one element that may have been troubling him; another was that he had been prescribed hormone therapy to promote his masculine development, the article said.

Said the young man's father, "He had no problem telling us he was gay, but I feel he had trouble with the issue himself."

Added Mr. Simpson, "He was also quite religious and possibly that may have conflicted with his sexuality."

Also, "Lee had quite a high-pitched voice and long hair," Mr. Simpson said. "He was quite feminine in his appearance, which I think bothered him."

Two suicide notes were found, one reading, "I cannot do it anymore," the Manchester Evening News reported.

Lee's elder brother, David, was quoted as saying, "We were very close, and he hadn't mentioned any difficulties in his life, and to me was acting normally."

However, the coroner, Nigel Meadows, was cited as saying that after Lee's mother died four years ago, the young man had spoken of suicide.

Said Meadows, "It seems he was not unduly troubled by the calls, certainly not outwardly, and was planning for the future."

Added the coroner, "He had shown no signs of harming himself, but it's possible he could have been struggling with some inner turmoil."

In a similar incident, a Korean actor who came out only to see his career plummet was also found hanged, evidently by his own hand, according to an Oct. 8 article in the Korea Times.

Kim Ji-who was found dead at his home in Seoul, Korea, Oct. 6. Authorities said his death was a suicide, and said a note had been found.

The note read, "I'm lonely and in a difficult situation."

Added the note, "Please cremate my body.''

Said the police, "Given the note and testimony from his family members, we believe he apparently committed suicide."

The police also commented that Ji-who's suicide was a result of societal anti-gay prejudice and, in part, a result of the difficulty openly gay entertainers have maintaining successful careers.

The article recounted that after Ji-who came out, his management contract was not renewed and scheduled appearances on fashion shows and TV series were canceled.

Also, members of the public posted anti-gay messages on the actor's blog.

The actor's mother told police that her son "underwent many professional and personal difficulties following his coming out."

Aide Hong Seok-chun, who is also gay, was quoted as saying of his employer, "Like me, he suffered from numerous discriminations [sic] against him."

Ji-who was the fourth celebrity in a month to kill himself, the article said, referencing the earlier apparent suicide of Jang Chae-won, a transsexual, as well as those of Ahn Jae-hwan and Choi Jin-sil, an actor and actress, respectively.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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