“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” Harvey Milk
I woke up this morning before the sun and quickly ran through my ritual skimming of various feeds. I know this early morning search is a bit obsessive, but I like to have chunks of thought to mull over as I start my day and make my way to school. I have a sickness you see, I always like to have my mind engaged with something.
This morning unfortunately I was left with a chunk that may have been too big to swallow and I have been dealing with it all day. A friend posted this article as her Facebook Status and the opening sentence has been haunting me all day:
For the third time this month, a kid who was harassed by anti-gay bullies has taken his own life.Stories like the one above make sense in places like Iran or Saudi Arabia, but it is shameful that they occur in a country that masquerades as the beacon of liberalism and democracy. How can a nation that prides itself on being the most modern, forward thinking model of freedom be so cruel to its own children? I know the answer to that, so don’t waste your breath. America for all its rhetoric is far from being what we liberals hope it to be. We are more like Iran and Saudi Arabia than any of us will admit. I think the majority of America has more in common with the Taliban than one would think. We are a nation of terrified, ignorant, homophobic racist brutes. Lost, misdirected and tangled in self-inflicted webs of ignorance and fear, we lash out at anyone and everyone who is a bit different than us.
But I didn’t want this post to be a tirade against the hatefulness of your average American. Shining light on hate has never done much good. As a teacher, I deal with kids, and since this story is about kids, I want the post to be for kids:
Dear lonely child,
While it may feel like you are absolutely alone and have few choices, please know that there are thousands of people who have fought and are fighting for your freedom as we speak. Do not lose hope. I know it is not moving fast enough, but change is coming. Changing a culture is like moving a mountain, but you cannot give up. You are living in a time when you have more options than any person in our position has ever had. There are people who love you and understand you. There are people who will not only accept you, but love you for who you are. These people may not be your church, your teachers, your friends, or even your family, but we are out here and we are waiting for you to make it out alive. I am not saying you merely need to wait it out, until you are old enough to escape. That would be cruel. But you need to find hope and strength in the knowledge that outside your prison walls, there are armies of people both gay and straight who are working to liberate you and allow you to live in the world with dignity and pride. In the meantime, seek out groups that can help you now. Be brave and have faith in the work of others before you. Have faith in the notion of fairness and justice. Have faith in love and goodness, even when mired in hatred and ignorance. We are all watching this rash of suicides on the news, with shock and sadness, but please do not become another statistic. Stand up and be heard for who you are not who you are expected to be. I know it is easy for me to sit in the comfort of my own home, as an adult and fill you with hot air, but the sadness I feel can only urge me to action, and yours must too. Fill your mind with vapors of freedom and align yourself with every other outcast you can find and take back your life. Most people are weak and looking for people to follow. Be that person. Take back the power from those who have horded for years. There are more of us then them, if we stop hiding in the shadows, and allowing them to fill our live with hate, we will be able to live our lives as they were meant to be lived. We are here and we love you. Never forget that.
The following is a note for the rest of us.
It’s never okay to bully others. Never under any circumstance should you use the timidity of another person to make yourself feel better, gain credibility with a crowd, or consolidate your own power. A bully is the biggest coward the world has ever known. They are small-minded people who do not have the patience or courage to truly understand themselves, so they lash out at everything and everyone that scares them and who is different from them. Bullies are scared of everything so they blindly attack. Nothing shows your insecurity more clearly than mistreating those smaller or weaker than you. When you are scared and confused do not lash out at those who are different than you just to fit. When you see someone being mistreated it is your duty as a human being to stand up for fairness and truth. There should be no fear in justice. Remember the herd will eat you alive if given a chance. So strike out and mark your own ground. You cannot stand by and laugh with your friends when they say this or that is gay as if being gay is a bad thing. Challenge people when they use words like faggot or homo. There is nothing wrong with being gay, just like there is nothing wrong with being black, a girl, Jewish, skinny, fat, whatever label the crowd is attacking this year. It is hard enough finding out who you are without worrying if the person you end up being is accepted or ridiculed. Are you worried you will not have any friends if you don’t join in? Make friends with the bullied and you will never have a closer friend.
Note for teachers:
We must stand up to homophobia where ever and whenever we ever see it. To every teacher who is afraid to stop at the group of boys who are uncomfortably calling each other gay, there is the blood of a dead gay child on your hands. We must speak to kids about homosexuality. There must be proactive efforts to help these kids feel wanted and loved and understood. We must expose homophobia for what it is. It is not a phase, or a case of boys will be boys. It is not harmless or cute. It is hateful and unfair. We cannot stand by and allow children to be terrorized to the point where they are killing themselves. We as adults who know better must stand up and be heard. How long will we allow these cycles of discrimination continue? How many more kids will have to die before we realize that homosexuality is not a choice or a disease but a very normal healthy beautiful part of who we are as human being? To ignore the children who are struggling with the weight of the world’s hate on their own is criminal?
Homosexuals can and are fighting for their rights, but they need the support of the straight community as well. This is not their battle alone. Everyone who believes in equality, fairness, justice and freedom must stand up and be heard. We will not stand by and allow the bullies of the world win!
I hope that you will comment and offer your support for everyone who is afraid to speak out. Please do not turn this post into a venue to spew hateful message of homophobia. I will erase anonymous comments that do so. This is a post about hope and faith in the goodness of human beings to overcome our own ignorance and intolerance.