Monday, October 04, 2010

Make it a better place

Kids can be cruel. This is nothing new. Human can be cruel, period. Bullies have been around since the beginning of time. But that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate them. What has happened in the past month with five high-profile suicides of gay teens is as tragic as it is unacceptable. This must stop. No young person should feel like ending his or her life is the only option. Ever.

The statistics on GLBT youth harassment could not be more stark or sobering:
  • 9 out of 10 LGBT kids get harassed at school.
  • LGBT kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.
  • A third — A THIRD – of all LGBT kids have attempted suicide.

The suicides of these five young men make me sad beyond words. How can we live in a world where this keeps happening? Thankfully there is a lot of justifiable public outcry right now about bullying. The unfettered harassment of GLBT youth must be addressed in schools across the country. Curriculum must be created, bills must be passed. But this isn’t just a classroom issue. GLBT bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sure, kids have always picked on other kids they think are “different.” Yet we live in a country that still allows for the wholesale discrimination against GLBT people.

Gays and lesbians are not allowed to legally marry. Gays and lesbians are not allowed to openly serve in the military. Gays and lesbians are not protected from being fired for their sexual orientation across all 50 states. None of these rights and protections exist on a federal level.

So, then, why are we so surprised when teens pick on gay kids? When a government says it is OK to discriminate against gay people, kids think it's OK to hate them. All politics are personal, and nothing is more personal than being treated like a second-class citizen.

So this, this is why Prop. 8, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, etc. all matter so much. While on the surface they may seem like they’re about a single issue — marriage, military service, employment — they’re a gauge of what we as a people believe is important to protect. They’re the legal harbingers of our overall acceptance and, ultimately, full equality.

And they’re also why it is so very important to vote come November. Will the repeal of DADT or Prop. 8 end GLBT bullying overnight? No, of course not. Are they are an important step to creating a culture of tolerance? You'd better fucking believe it.

Whatever disappointments we might have in this administration, in this congress (and, believe me, there are many), think long and hard about the alternative. We’re up against an extreme opposition that hates us. I am so fucking disappointed that President Obama hasn't been more proactive on DADT and Prop. 8 and all the rest. But if you think not voting is a way of showing him, then I hope you enjoy that bullet hole in your own foot. Change comes slowly and painfully and is never perfect. But sitting idly by will ensure it never happens. It won’t make life better for you and me, and it won’t make life easier for the gay teen getting picked on every day at school.

When something like this makes the headlines, we often feel helpless. How can we reach out to these kids? How can we tell them they aren’t alone? How can we encourage them to hold on? Things like the It Gets Better Project are wonderful. Things like The Trevor Project are essential. But we can, and we must, help in other ways, too. That means calling out homophobia when we see it, whether by the teen on the street or the pop starlet on the stage who uses “so gay” as a put down. That means electing people who, at the very least, don’t think we’re an abomination. That means continuing to push our leaders to give us the same basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. That means reaching out if you see an LGBT kid struggling.

They say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. But that simply isn’t true. Words can do as much damage as a fist and, as we’ve sadly seen these last few weeks, sometimes even more. While the bullies of the world, be they in the school hallways or the political pulpit, will continue using words as weapons, we can use them as a shield.

If you need help, feel alone, want someone to talk to, call The Trevor Lifeline toll-free any time of day or night: 866-488-7386.

Believe me when I say this, things do get better. Kids can be cruel, but you are not alone. We are with you. We are doing everything we can to make sure it gets better. We want you to be alongside us when it does.

21 comments:

danamitey said...

We just had a double suicide here in Ontario this past week. Two teenage girls.

This is so crazy!

theragamuffins3 said...

Well Said!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.

I feel like, in recent years, a lot of people have come to believe that "that's so gay" is just a benign phrase (South Park, etc.). Hopefully recent events will cause people to reexamine their thinking.

TaylorBoi said...

Suicide shouldn't have to be an option ever. Only, best, worst or otherwise, it just shouldn't have to be seen as an option. It shouldn't come to that. People shouldn't feel so trapped.
I say this not as someone disparaging the people who have made that decision but as someone who did and lived and found out it does get better. I wish more people had a chance to find out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you DS. You continue to speak my thoughts, but so better than I ever could. I had a young cousin who had everything - looks, popularity, a promising hockey - and he committed suicide at 17. It affected me greatly, because I was suicidal as a teenager, knowing I was different and being scared to death.

Dar Williams' song "After All" said it best:
"When I chose to live / There was no joy, it's just a line I crossed / It wasn't worth the pain my death would cost / But I was not lost or found"

It's all a journey we're on . . . and it makes me so sad that these kids didn't think they could do it.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, DS, bravo!

KateSF said...

Oh, Ms. Dorothy Snarker. I so enjoy your pop culture commentary, and the lovely women on your blog. And then you go and top yourself ten times over with your beautiful entry today, so moving and so true. I have been so saddened by all these recent suicides. How is it that, in 2010, a child thinks that ending his or her life is better than being gay? We have a lot of work to do. Your posting today should be on every Op Ed page and in every school newspaper in the country.

Kathryn said...

Important work, DS--well done. I also think it's crucial for people like us and prominent public figures, including Ellen, to use stronger language and start naming this explicitly as homophobia, which is related to misogyny, racism, and hate crimes; and to clearly acknowledge that despite the recent rash of suicides, this is a longtime ongoing problem that should be dealt with using stronger frameworks.

~CMS said...

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. This year, with the recent wave of teen suicides and the spotlight on the struggles of young people who are only just beginning their own processes of self discovery, the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Project seems more important than ever. As leaders in the LGBT community, we must use our voices to reach into the hearts and minds of those in need of encouragement and comfort, and to offer hope to those who find themselves in despair because they are unable to live their lives openly and freely, without the worry that they will be ridiculed, excluded, or even harmed. With this in mind, Award Winning singer/songwriter Jen Foster is offering a free download of her brand new song “This Is Me” in the shop at http://www.jenfoster.com/onlinestore.aspx and on her Facebook pages in the Music Store Tab!! This song has been embraced by the HRC for this year’s National Coming Out Project, and will be featured on Jen’s upcoming album due out early next year.

We want this song to spread like wildfire and we need your help. Download the song, listen to it, share it with your family, friends, and anyone you know that needs to hear it and is willing to pass it along.

We must stand up together and let it be known that we support every individual in embracing the extraordinary person that they are becoming and that abuse, intolerance, and hate will not deter us from living our lives fully, openly, and with pride!

MizGarfield said...

Ms Snarker, well said. This reminds me (again) why I admire you so much. I too feel for those youngsters. My thoughts are with them all. And indeed, it will get better.

vrgriffith said...

Very powerful. But its not just at schools this happened to me and two friends on a job in 1993-1995.On of the guys ended up committing suicide.
These were adults watching and participating in this sort of behavior.

As for the Rutgers case, ppl are already making excuses:
It was a college "prank" gone horribly wrong.

Kids today don't know the difference between reality and entertainment.

Kids use social media to broadcast everything in their lives.

It makes me sick to my stomach.I found myself having nightmare the whole weekend.

Dharun Ravi should be charged with involuntary manslaughter,a sex crime and hate crime. I will truly be disgusted if HRC and othe LGBT@ "establishment" orgs allow this to get swept under the rug!

cocoro said...

yesterday my surprise was,
I was reading a board, other people's post
,teen killed peer. (it's not in us)

and they are under 14 year old, so
they will not charge about their action
just two years under supervision
but still do like as the ordinary activity,
go to school, play things, stay with family, so on.

so the dead kid's dad was so mad about the law,
because they killed a human whatever their age is.
I never knew that, age is that matter,

what they did was simple violence and the victim
was died by brain damage after all.

It was very, there were sometime, suddenly that
kind of violence happened and continued, so
I feel that they should study why, to solve it.

LGBT kids can find something to bully about straight
kids, so do and say, every person has something to bother. yeah, this is kind of temporary solution,and
I think D.S has better idea.

Thanks, today's posting!

Miss J said...

Reminds me of so many things I used to struggle with, barely made it out of my adolescence alive...please check out my blog by clicking my name (gave Ms. Snarker a little shout out) and check out my YoutTube vid for the It Gets Better Project here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeXF5ttVCSw

Amanda said...

Our LGBT group got laughed out of my highschool. I didn't dare come out of the closet until I got away from the midwest. It's no joke, I've seen gay teens in highschool get jumped by groups of "bros". I hope those in more conservative areas know where to find resources now... because there were none for me, and that was only 4 years ago...

I'm disgusted with humanity most of the time. They're kids, how does this happen.

Amanda

This is me... said...

These recent events have saddened me SO much. I cant imagine being bullied and in such a miserable place that taking my own life was the only option I saw available. I wish these kids could see past this time in their lives. I wish they could see what I saw this weekend. I spent the entire weekend at Rainbows Fest here in Phoenix in conjunction with the Aids Walk and the community there was amazing. No judgement, no bullying, no name calling. It was beautiful. It was so diverse and there were people from all walks of life there. I really wish that these kids who see no way out could attend this type of event and see what a great community they are a part of.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Dorothy.

Norma Desmond said...

Hate to say it after so beautifully worded a post, but you got a little typo in the third to last (I believe) paragraphs. 'Words' instead of 'worlds.'

But, yes, otherwise, I completely agree. And people need to know they're not alone. Those poor kids. I remember what being gay at that age was like. It was awful, it was lonely, it was scary. But it's so true... It gets so, SO much better.

Thanks for a beautiful post, lady.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, DS.
Your entry moved me, well worded and heartfelt. I'm in Europe, so all the best and fingers crossed for those decisions coming in November.

Christina said...

Please please please, check out the non-profit group I intern at: the YES Institute is a leader in communication and education about these topics and is working at the forefront with teachers, parents, students, clergy, medical professionals and law enforcement to help create dialogue and open up communication. Visit http://yesinstitute.org for more.

Anonymous said...

Brava!

Gabrielle said...

Thank you for posting this! I live in Mexico, I'm going through rough times myself, I get mocked way more inside my own family than in school; but I know it gets better and everyone should.
If you can live through accepting yourself, others will too, eventually.
Projects like "Trevor" and "It gets better" are great! I wish there was more of this in Mexico, here, even teachers tell us we wont get jobs for being, acting or looking "too gay".
On the plus side it gets you tougher skin...
Thanks again.. (L) your blog Ms Snarker (: