The "eulogy" vs "the facts"
Author's note: Although this blog will predominantly discuss events that are happening in Atlantic Canada's queer community, it will also, on occasion, deal with larger issues at hand.
It started with an email from a friend of mine.
“Donny done died.”
Donny was in his early 20s when he contracted HIV. He had a hard time dealing with his HIV status, as well as other issues, both mental and physical. Donny knew that, statistically speaking, he could live for quite a while. But he wondered whether he wanted to. And I wondered if I wanted to write about his death or not.
The jury is still out on whether journalists should discuss suicide in the media, specifically when it is the cause (or the decision that led to, if you want to be a stickler about it) of death. In a world where queer teen suicides are being more and more openly discussed, it becomes an ethical quandary for journos. It has been argued that to disclose death by suicide is to glamorize the death of an individual in a public spotlight, a tactic that, according to some, may lead others to follow in their footsteps. Do we write about what is happening and address the issue, or do we circumvent it and report “just the facts”?
Well, here are “the facts” in Donny’s death, according to a local Texas paper:
According to police officials, a Pontiac Solstice being driven by 32-year-old Franklin May was travelling eastbound on US 80 when his vehicle left the roadway near the exit ramp to southbound I-635. The vehicle became airborne, flew over an embankment and then struck the outer guardrail on southbound I-635. The vehicle crossed all lanes of southbound I-635 and struck the centre concrete divider. Debris from the vehicle struck two other vehicles that were travelling northbound on I-635.
May was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene by officials from the Dallas County Medical Examiner's office. May was the sole occupant of the vehicle and there were no other injuries reported as a result of the accident. Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the vehicle to leave the roadway. (The italics are mine)
Franklin (Donny) May wrote this on his Facebook wall the day before:
“I used to love you. Maybe coulda change the course of both or our lives. Now I drive into the support beans of an underpass.”
He said shit like that all the time.
This is the same guy who talked about snorting Valium off Chuck Liddell’s ass. The guy who lived unapologetically. A self-described “short, stout, loud-mouthed, hairy, scary, sweaty, horny, friendly little guy from the deep south,” Donny was amazing. It’s hard to eulogize someone who would write “DOOOD I have not had Valium in a while. Wow. I JUST LIT THE WRONG END OF A CIGARETTE! WHO WANTS TO GO SWIMMING?!?!?”” or “Note to self: next time you have $200 to burn, do NOT go to IKEA for moar furniturz. GET A FUCKING PASSPORT. Also: don't forget to douche.”
My friendship with Donny consisted of chat logs and late-night phone calls. He’d be blazing out on some highway in the middle of the southern US, talking about how he loved Condoleezza Rice because “she was such a cunt.” He was unapologetic for being a highly sexual person. For being what he would often describe as “a hot mess.” This is a guy who once said on his (now defunct) blog, “So HERE I AM, YA STUPID CUNTS. Random hookups with hot guys make me happy. Meaningful emotional bonds make me happy. Nachos make me happy, and good spellers make my dick hard.”
It’s hard to eulogize someone who would finish conversations with “plz douche kthxbye.” I am not here to glamorize the death of someone who took his own life. There is nothing glamorous in a news brief about someone you know who was ejected across the pavement. There is nothing glamorous when someone feels the need to “drive into the support beams of an underpass.” I am not angry with Donny, or his reasons, or his decisions. But I’m not happy. And I don’t know whether I did the right thing in discussing his death. But I did it because I believe that it is best to bring things to light, rather than be shushed and mystified.