This week the news has been buzzing with accounts of the completed suicides of four gay or gay perceived teens. How many more of our children have to die like this before we stand up to our own prejudices and say ENOUGH!? The suicide rate among GLBT teens has long been known to be at least four times the rate among their straight counterparts but this fact has been not only dismissed but twisted by those with a right wing agenda to illustrate their belief that being suicidal is part and parcel of being GLBT. It is not. This is one place in the GLBT world where straight allies can make such a huge difference. Be supportive. Be willing to stand up when others use hateful, hurtful words and to step in when violence is being committed against ANYONE. Be willing to confront the bigotry and ignorance and in doing so bear the burdens of our GLBT brothers and sisters as Christ would have us to do.
And another thing...stop holding up the myth that being bullied builds character. I have heard this countless times in regards to homeschooling my daughter...that by doing so I am sheltering her from having to deal with the reality of bullies. Newsflash! Bullies exist outside the walls of brick and mortar schools. The mythology that surviving bullying is somehow uniquely character building is part of what enables this nonsense to continue. It completely negates the negative impact, the long term scars, that even "survivors" bear. It totally marginalizes the experience of these kids that are telling us, with their last desperate acts, that YES WORDS CAN HURT ME!
Bullying is NEVER ok. It is never a positive thing. That it has been allowed to be spun as such makes it particularly insidious when trying to have it taken seriously as a problem. Asher Brown's parents tried in vain to get help for their son. Seth Walsh transferred into independent study to escape it but the damage had been done. Billy Lucas was actually told by his bullies to "go hang himself" and was suspended for fighting back. The hate and hurtful words actually followed him beyond the grave when a memorial page set up in his memory was bombardedwith homophobic messages. These children and others like them who are being bullied about their weight, or their looks, or their IQ, or whatever their "differences" may be are suffering. They may be suffering in silence or their pleas for help may be falling on deaf ears that believe that bullying is just a normal childhood rite of passage and "kids will be kids". We MUST listen. We must hear what is being said and what is NOT being said and we MUST teach our children better than this.
We must start with our own beliefs and biases. We must make, in the words of AA, a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and be sure that the words our children a hurling at each other are not the ones they are hearing from their parents and their religious or political leaders. We must open our mouths when those role models say something horrific and not let that stand.
We must stop this.
Our CHILDREN are DYING.