On the night of Sunday, Sept. 22, Channing Smith, 16, saw that private, sexually explicit messages between himself and a male classmate had been posted to Instagram and Snapchat. Within hours, Channing was dead, having taken his own life. His family says the cyberbullying is to blame; the Tennessee high school junior hadn't come out as bisexual or publicly identified as a member of the LGBTQ community. The messages that were posted "were graphic ... and there was no room for Channing to be able to claim it was a misunderstanding," his older brother, Joshua Smith, tells BuzzFeed News. Channing called a few friends around 10pm in a panic. At 4am, his father got up and noticed his light was still on; he walked into the bedroom and found his son's body. More on the tragedy:
- Final Instagram post: "I'm gonna get off social media for awhile. I really hate how I can't trust anyone because those I did were so fake. Bye," Channing posted on Instagram Sunday, according to the Washington Post; it was his last post on the social media site before his death.
- Cause of death: In a Facebook post about the tragedy, Joshua Smith says his brother fatally shot himself. In a subsequent post titled "Being gay shouldn't be a death sentence," he added, "Parents... please have difficult conversations with your kids. I know I did. My wife and I told my son that if he turns out to be gay we would love him no matter what. Kids need to know that there’s nothing on this earth that separate them from the love of the Father or from their earthly parents. We are called to love and support."