Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
In the spring of 1972, I was a gawky twelve year old with big hair and polyester flood pants in eighth grade. I can remember sitting in the front row in English class, waiting for class to start. A few seats behind me sat a popular but sharp-tongued classmate I'll call "Jane," who had just taken up knitting (which was actually rather out of character for her, because it really wasn't considered "cool.") Jane was knitting on her desk in plain view of the rambunctious class.
A few rows away sat Jane's best friend, "Alice," who was watching curiously as Jane maneuvered the needles. Suddenly, loud enough for everyone in the class to stop and notice, Alice yelled out,
"Jane, you're knitting?! You're a bigger fag than Simmons!"
In mock horror, Jane retorted,
"I am NOT!!!"
The class broke into uproarious laughter. I sat still, turning red, staring at my desk. Again.
Even my teacher laughed.
Ah, school memories. I'd like to say that this was a one-time event, and an aberration in an otherwise warm, safe environment. But it wasn't. Two years earlier the school Principal had called half a dozen kids on the carpet for chasing me home after school every day, and waiting outside the school doors for the chance to beat me up. I was called "faggot" more than a hundred times before I ever knew what it even meant.
But once I found out what that meant, I 'knew' that I couldn't be one of those people. Those people were weird. Sinful abominations. Perverts. Unworthy of mention in polite society. Disease-Carriers. Pedophiles. At least that was the message that came through loud and clear.
I learned new routes home from school to avoid getting roughed up. Eventually I headed out on my own and got married as I was supposed to. But in spite of living an apparently straight adult life, I never stopped struggling and wondering, and dealing with my personal, ill defined frustrations. It took me until I reached my 40's to come to terms with myself.
But I was one of the lucky ones. I was blessed with an ornery fighting spirit, like my dad, that wouldn't let me throw in the towel. Recently, we have learned of others not so fortunate:
Asher Brown, 13, of Cypress, Texas, who shot himself in the head after being constantly bullied, accused of being gay, and on whom mock sex acts were performed in gym class.
Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, California, who hanged himself after repeated taunts for being gay.
Justin Aaberg, 15, of Anoka, Minnesota, who tried unsuccessfully to kill himself in January, but succeeded in June, after constant anti-gay harassment at school. School officials had decided not to intervene in the bullying because they were wary of 'conservative protests.'
Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana, who hung himself after enduring sexuality-based taunts for years.
Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, New Jersey, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after being outed on the web after being secretly videotaped engaged in sex with another male.
Raymond Chase, 19, of Monticello, New York, who hung himself in his dorm room at Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, where a majority of gay students have reported harassment.
Caleb Nolt, 14, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who died yesterday after taking his own life. Schoolmates claim there is a long history of his being bullied for being gay at high school.
Eric Mohat, 17, of Mentor, Ohio, who was involved in theater and music, and was called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo" often in front of his class and teachers in class. When one bully said publicly in class, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you" - - he did.
Carl Walker-Hoover, 11 (YES, read that again - ELEVEN), of Springfield, Massachusetts, who hung himself after repeated gay taunting.
Cody Barker, 17, of Shiocton, WI, who had just started advocating for himself with the schools LGBT community.
How can anyone read this list of young people and not want to scream, or cry, or pound one's fist in anger? This is INTOLERABLE.
No doubt, there will be calls for anti-bullying programs. And let me be clear, I support anti-bullying programs.
But bullying is not the core cause of this rash of suicides among young gay men. Hatred is.
When Bishop Eddie "On The Down-Low" Long calls for Homosexuals to be executed, as he did in the 1990s (it's on tape, folks), he sends a message to society that gays are worthless criminals (who are only good enough to be 'used' on the side).
When "ex-gay" ministries and pseudo-psychologists insist that if you pray and try hard enough, you can 'change,' they send the message that gays are simply lost or damned or lazy.
When neither our Democratic Commander-in-Chief nor Senate Republicans have the collective cojones to suspend the Military's Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy, they send a message that gays are expendable.
When the so-called National Association for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Association insist that Marriage Equality will lead to legal incest and bestiality, they send a message that being gay is a dirty, scandalous, perverted existence.
When Politicians pander to social conservatives and use gays as a 'wedge issue' at the ballot box; when elected officials like Eugene Delgaudio of Virginia claims that wounded soldiers will come down with AIDS if they are in contact with gay soldiers, they send the message that gays are to be loathed, feared, and quarantined.
And when young people in our society hear adults repeating over and over that gays are worthless, expendable, dirty, scandalous, perverted and loathsome...they bully them.
And when young gays hear those same things, and struggle with taunts and hatred every day....
They kill themselves.
Yes, bullying must stop.
But more importantly, the hatred from Pulpits, and Government offices, and self-serving hate-mongering organizations MUST STOP.
And it WILL stop - but ONLY when ALL Americans join and DEMAND that it stop.