Another Gay Teen Suicide in Minnesota

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 18, 2011

Add to the depressing list of gay teens who have committed suicide over bullying Lance Lundsten, 18, of Milton, Minn. Openly gay, he was subjected to relentless taunting.

TV station KSAX reported that the news the high school student killed himself spread on social networking sites Monday, Jan. 17. The student at Jefferson High school was found around 10 p.m. on Saturday by police at the Lundsten home.

The police believe the death was a suicide.

"Bullying is a huge issue, particularly with the youth in our country now," Facilitator of the Diversity Resource Action Alliance Shari Maloney told the TV station. "I think because we're in central Minnesota, and we aren't as diverse as some of the larger Metropolitan areas are, someone who is different maybe draws more attention and it's not always positive."

The problem is apparently so bad that some students have an anti-bullying page on Facebook, the Jefferson Anti-Bully Coalition. Also on Facebook, there's a (closed) memorial page to Lundsten.

Minnesota has been a particular battle ground for anti-gay school bullying over the past year. One Minnesota school district caught in an emotional debate about how it treats gay students after a teenager's suicide earlier this year was widely criticized for tacitly allowing such behavior.

The board of the Anoka-Hennepin School District in suburban Minneapolis changed its anti-bullying and harassment policies after the criticism. Justin Aaberg, 15, of Andover, Minn., hanged himself in his room. His friends told his mother he had been a frequent victim of anti-gay bullying. Five other district students had also killed themselves in a one-year period.

Spurred by such incidents, the state's junior U.S. senator, Al Franken, has been pushing hard for a comprehensive anti-LGBT bullying bill. Franken was responding to statements like the one a high-school freshmen gave to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

When he discussed being openly gay and being relentlessly bullied for it, he simply shrugged. "Well, it's not right, but it's high school," he told the paper. "It's to be expected."

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).