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With the tragic death of Iowa teen Kenneth James Weishuhn, the subject of gay-teen bullying and suicide has come back to the forefront—if it ever, in fact, left.
As the statistics mount, many are saying things like It Gets Better, the Trevor Project and even in-school anti-bullying programs are not enough. But if that’s true, what should we be doing?
Is it a question of more interventions from parents, teachers and administrators? Stiffer penalties for bullies?
Or are all the news reports, vigils and celebrity statements in effect glamorizing suicide? Should we be giving gay youth some tough love?.
What’s your take on it? Share with the group in the comments section.
Photo: The Weinstein Company
The only way to do it is to criminalize it. Give schools the power to punish even out of school bullying that starts at school, such as social media and cell phone harassment and threats. Make it a criminal offense, and enforce it. Attach hate crime charges to it. It should not take a suicide for the problem to get attention every time. Also, make the parents of the bullies accountable. Let’s face it, nobody is born with hatred and intolerance. This stuff starts at home. Arrest the parents of the bullies if they refuse to put a stop to it. Toughen it up. Now, how to accomplish this is a different matter altogether..
I agree that punishing bullying is a necessary decision, simply because laws against harassment and assault exist outside of schools.
But in addition for fighting for anti-bullying laws, I think it’s also important to volunteer to advocacy organizations (if they exist) near you. I remember when I was in high school, there was an external support group for LGBT kids. I think what really leads anyone to suicide is a feeling of all-encompassing loneliness, and being a mentor for youth and sharing your experiences and what you’ve learned are vital in the community.
Charge parents of bullies with child abuse. People always ask “what about the kids?” when LGBT issues come u, as if no children are LGBT. Yea what about the kids… LGBT or perceived LGBT kids! Formally Ccarging the parents of these bullies with child abuse could change the tone of the conversation.
@Shannon1981: Completely agreed. When out-of-school bullying starts to interrupt the educatuional process while in-school.. The school absolutely has the authority and SHOULD most certainly take appropriate action to remedy the situation. Parents of the aggressors MUST be held accountable for the actions of their minor children! If your kid skips school, Mom & Dad are responsible. If Your kid throws a party with drugsd or booze at home, Mom & Dad are responsible Up to and including jail time and stiff fines. Mom & Dad need to be held accountable for their kids behavior at ALL times! They are, afterall, a ward of theirs.
Im going to do some relating here for a moment to further justify why I feel this.. so bear with me please.
As much as I can at-times somewhat understand why people no-doubtedly have something to say about how these kids who do kill themselves need to toughen up, I respectfully must disagree because there are times where you could rather die then have to go back to school, or home, to face the torment day in and day out.
I was harassed and assaulted in school for 12 FULL years. 1st grade through Senior year. You would be surprised at the damage a group of 6 years olds are able to inflict on a peer that will follow them for the rest of their lives. You also dont know what that tormented kid puts up with at home that may or may not exascerbate the situation.
Long story short.. I completely understand where these sad kids are coming from, because i lived it my entire childhood both in school and at home. No, I didnt attempt suicide, but I would be a bold faced liar if I said that I never thought about it, and think about it I did.. A LOT! I didn’t, almost couldn’t, want to be around anyone because I got it from all sides, and even the people in school whom I thought were friends would say things about me when I wasnt around.. some didnt even wait that long..
I learned to deal with it. I was by myself in just about anything I did. Sports and extracirricular activities were non-existant because the same tormentors in school were there. Family time was almost non-existant because the torment was there too.
I suppose in the end I learned to develope thicker skin where things just didnt get to me as I got older, and thankfully I did make some friends. But the damage is still there, I assure you. I sympathize to the highest extent with what these kids deal with, and I can only imagine it’s gotten worse with the advent of the internet and wide-spread use of social media. I wouldn’t ever wish growing up today on my worst enemy.
Not a day goes by that Im not reminded of my youth in one way or another.. and the stories of these rediculed kids driven to suicide sincerely breaks my heart everytime I hear of it.
Bullying/cyber-bullying needs to be added to MS-JB Hate Crimes Act, and parents ought to be the ones charges by actions of their minor children. The costs of countless LGBT-youth’s lives MUST come to an end.
I think we need to push more schools to have GSA clubs and other support clubs in school. it’s a pretty tough environment for some schools when you consider places like Tennessee trying to pass Don’t Say Gay bills. LGBT activists need to start pushing back against laws like this and getting protection for kids in school. These kids need to see others like themselves or at least some supporters. Activists need to get groups like the PTA on their side because they’re the planners & the fundraisers of a lot of the activities for kids & teens. Do fundraisers to get more books & DVDs in the library that are LGBT friendly & have literature & pamphlets on coping for kids or get them to get behind gay friendly proms & parties.
I tend to have the opposite view on some of the kids who are bullies in that I believe not all of them are homophobic or come from homophobic backgrounds. Some of these kids are just going along with the crowd with parents completely unaware their kids are bullies. The couple of truly hateful homophobic bullies like to have a pack of supporters around them to make themselves feel brave. Sometimes contacting the parents of the kids who’re just going along with it, helps to break up that pack putting an end to the mob mentality.
If the school can’t stop outside activities like hate websites, then the parents need to take charge. That one facebook page was probably in violation of Facebook policies & probably could have been taken down if you complained to them. Also if your child is threatened in any way & you’re not getting any results, don’t be afraid to involve the police.
Parents need to really watch for signs of depression from their kids & probably should assume a bullied child is a depressed one. They need to help them cope even if it involves seeing outside professionals.
To help kids, including the ones that aren’t supported at home, we need to inundate the schools with information on places that help troubled kids like the Trevor Project. Make sure a booklet or information on where to get help is included in every welcome to high school packet.
Children, parents and administrators need to be taught what to do because everyone is clueless.
1. Teach children to report any incidence of bullying to parents and admins.
2. Parents need to get involved in the school. If your child is bullied, get in their face, go to the PTA meetings, write complaints, report admins, be pro-active.
3. Identify the bullies. Contact their parents. Get on their case.
4. A lot of bullying starts on the bus. Make it a habit to drive your child to, and from school frequently. Or wait for them at the bus. Let them see that you care about your kid. And let the bullies know someone is watching them.
5. If the school isn’t doing something about bullying, call the cops. Make a report.
6. Teach children self-defense. Take some martial arts classes.
@Anonymous Please: I was 7 years old the first time someone screamed the word “queer” at me. So yes, I understand. I was harassed ad nauseum from the time I started school until graduation. It never stopped. Couple that with ex gay therapy and a virulently homophobic home environment…and well..yeah.I understand the desire to die.
@mc: I also think GLSEN needs to completely inundate every school in the nation with their materials and safe schools projects,and also, they need to do a big, thorough vetting on all teachers, administrators, and school board members re: anti gay views, and, if it is determined that said views cannot be checked at the door, do not hire them. Bigots have no place influencing children.
There’s not much we can do. The kids are surrounded by bigotted parents, teachers, and bullies. So all of the suggestions above are useless, the usual fantasies of the left. We can’t just wave a magic wand and force parents and teachers to obey our orders.
The one thing we can do – put out a strong warning not to come out until they’re safe from the bigots – will not be done. Too many in the heartless gay community want to use kids as pawns in the fight for equality, no matter how many are crushed. This pretending to care is just a distraction from the community’s real motives.
The Pink Agendist
@WillBFair: What are the community’s real motives?
@WillBFair: No magic wands are needed, just these things called enforceable laws, lawsuits and penalties. Burying heads in the sand waiting for that magical moment when it’s “safe” is completely untenable. Like abstinence only education, forcing kids to be closetted is also a magical fantasy land. You think kids and teens want to be closetted? Nope. Doesn’t work. You can bury your head in the sand while the rest of us try to tackle the problems.
Despite the fact that discrimination, harassment, and even physical abuse, are often part of LGBT students’ daily lives at school, there is no federal statute that explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would do just that.
SNDA would would provide LGBT students, and those perceived to be, with explicit federal protections by establishing a comprehensive prohibition against discrimination and harassment in all public elementary and secondary schools across the country based on a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also protect students who associate with LGBT people, including students with LGBT parents and friends.
Nearly fifty years of civil rights history clearly demonstrate that laws similar to the proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act are effective in preventing discrimination and harassment from occurring in the first place by prompting schools to take proactive steps to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students who are in their care.
It’s time for the White House to fully endorse this legislation and for Congress to pass it. The need could not be clearer.
@The Pink Agendist: I thinks it’s somewhat obvious that if kids are exposed to diversity (and kids are free to be who they are) early on, they grow up to be more accepting/tolerant of diversity as adults. You can be cynical and think that it’s treating kids as pawn, but honestly, everyone is a pawn in something.
Maybe a real and long-lasting cultural shift is needed here similar to the cultural shift we’re now seeing regarding the way gay people and gay rights are beginning to be seen by the culture as a whole?
The culture within society and schools needs to demonstrate again and again that bullies are COWARDLY SCUM. We need to be pro-active in showing these vermin for what they are and what they ultimately do to their victims. The whole school needs to be told that the lowest of the low within their midst are those who pick on other kids and those who make fun of or physically, mentally and emotionally intimidate kids who are often no trouble themselves and are just trying to get on with their work and their lives.
We need to cultivate a culture where the majority of schoolchildren and teachers learn to hold bullies beneath contempt and that it is up to all of them as a whole to look out for each other and protect each other.
Then more and more will begin to stand up to them, I think.
You cannot allow school administrators to monitor off-school, off-campus, non-school sponsored activities. For such occurrences state/federal hate crime laws could be used.
Schools are only responsible for students when they’re on school property or school-sanctioned events. To do otherwise is to open another can of worms.
The Pink Agendist
@erasure25: I agree… My question was to No. 9 · WillBFair who’s insinuating there’s some dark agenda somewhere.
@jamesnimmo: I think this is a gray area. There has been instances where students have been disciplined for derogatory facebook comments made about their teachers, for risque photos & for texting even with all this not happening in the actual school.
My son played sports and had to sign off on random drug/steroid testing. He could be disciplined for drinking, arrests, fights even if they happened off campus. They also had a strong anti bullying policy for the sports teams with incidents getting you instantly kicked off the team with the inability to play any other sport for the semester or the year. I’m not sure of the legalities but it does seem schools selectively discipline some off campus activities.
There was no Gay club or GSA at my High School, but I did attended something similar at a LGBT center seven years ago. I can honestly tell you I stopped attending after 3 meetings. The only thing everyone there had in common was their sexual orientation of LGBT. So I stuck with my straight friends at school instead. I met my first real gay friend in college.
Us adults in the gay community should try to create more events that are teen friendly, and not an underwear pridefest or gay club/bar scene shit. I’m talking about sports, clubs with common interests like reading, etc. One can only hope parents don’t think we are recruiting their kids though.
the other Greg
Parents often don’t care about anti-gay bullying, or worse they’re actual participants. Teachers are overworked and generally have no way of noticing. Administrators usually just play off one set of bitchy parents against another, and if the gay kid’s parents don’t complain in the first place, the gay kid isn’t noticed. Or worse, the administrators have an anti-gay agenda of their own. I have to agree with WillBFair that the well-meaning naivete on display here is amazing.
@jamesnimmo: You make an often-ignored point. When I recall my own situation, a great deal of the bullying (maybe about half of it) took place OFF-campus (and I never rode the bus, after the first and ONLY time! – walked miles to avoid it). Maybe it would simply be easier to engage the police forces rather than rely on the useless hostile school administrators in some jurisdictions.
Ideally I’d let gay kids skip Middle School Concentration Camp and High School Concentration Camp, and learn everything they want to learn (if anything!) in the public, grown-up libraries, and be tested periodically by gay volunteers in case they want to go to college (or join the military where, ironically, I felt safer than I did in middle school). Call this just another “Gaytopia” idea on Queerty. 🙂
@The Pink Agendist: The motive is in the preceding sentence:
Too many in the heartless gay community want to use kids as pawns in the fight for equality, no matter how many are crushed.
The Pink Agendist
@WillBFair: You haven’t explained HOW. HOW are young people being used as pawns?
I’m torn on the idea of anti-bullying laws. I think they’re well-intentioned, but they’re unrealistic. You’re making rules about what people can say and can’t say. That’s clearly unconstitutional. I agree that its not fair when kids are subjected to threats, slurs, and physical abuse. But you can’t censor them either. Queerty commenters act like they’re above bullying, but I’ve seen a lot of you say some pretty malicious things. Nonetheless, you are free to say what you want without consequence. So are these kids.
I’m also a little bit disturbed that we’re blaming suicide exclusively on bullies and not focusing on the fact that people CHOOSE to commit suicide. We need to remember that not every child’s death is a result of overwhelming aggression from bullies. Some kids are mentally ill and need help. If a child kills himself just because a a fellow student calls him a queer, do we put the bully in prison? Just for an insult? Why are we not focusing enough on how children respond to such comments? Children shouldn’t have to deal with bullying, but its inevitable, and it continues into adult life. Better they figure out how to navigate it so they can deal with their feelings in a mature way. Eventually bullying will affect them less.
Best thing is to come out to your family but do not come out until after high school. For one; the bullying thing, 2; the sexual libido of a teenager (gay or straight) can be voracious, it would add to the frustration and further cause of abuse. 3rd, if bullied whether out or not, the bully(ies) have to be reprimanded by all their superiors. Its really up to the straight parents/supervisors to educate school children of all ages about the repercussions of the bullying and the effects it has on ones psyche and conscience. Bullying doesn’t stop when you finish high school though, it continues through your adulthood and working environment, it doesn’t really get better, you just get used to it and grow thick skin and a wicked, sarcastic wit about you.
Effective anti-bullying programs are not centered solely on punishment, but on building a culture in the schools where none of the students will tolerate any of their peers being bullied. Bullying is NOT inevitable, and people should not have to wait until they are out of high school to come out. I was bullied years before I even came out to myself, because the teachers and school administration allowed a toxic, mean culture inside the school; they were ignorant scum for doing so.
Having been a bully as a child rather than a victim I can tell you that a lot of the above solutions-increased teacher enforcement, nationalized GSA’s, even Hate Crime Status-are useless. Kids are creative, and a lot of the most insiduous kinds of bullying is the untraceable kind. What we should really be doing is to push to change mindset of the bullies. And with regards to LGBT youth the best way is to just get social acceptance on a nationwide scale as soon as possible. Every part of the movement helps another part.
Maybe teach kids about Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde, Crazy Horse, Bayard Rustin and Alexander the Great in schools while actually mentioning their sexual orientations?
Criminalize bullying in schools. Sue the bullies, their parents, and the school. When $$$ get involved you will notice equality flourish.
Max that would be a good thing to teach kids about LGBT people of the past but we’d have to call Alexander the Great and Oscar Wilde as bisexual since that’s what they were.
I agree with Noel, I knew all about my sexuality in highschool but the only people who knew were my mom and a few close friends but I didn’t tell the entire school or anyone else.
I was bullied and harassed enough in school and coming out to the entire highschool would not have helped things and it may have made things worse.
Like RedMeat I also went to an LGBT center, bisexual groups, and LGBT groups when I was in highschool and in college and the only thing we had in common was that everyone was LGBT and people just went to the groups before they were of age and could get into bars and drink.
The change that needs to happen, and the change that is reasonable to expect could happen soon, is in the educational system.
I was just reading this afternoon about a 12-year-old NJ boy who was paralyzed when a known bully of several other students that he had contacted the school over punched him in the stomach. Days later, a blood clot caused by the punch traveled to his spine and with a shout of pain he was paralyzed from the waist down and it is expected that he will never walk again.
The parents chose to litigate and the school district has just settled with him for $4.2 million. There was also an undisclosed settlement with the bully’s family.
Changes need to happen, and while nothing can bring back a young boy’s mobility or his very life, it is when a school district, community, entity, family or individual is forced to face up to their abusiveness or negligence and acknowledge their responsibility for the damages accrued by the victim that other families and entities start to see that they could actually be held accountable if their “boys will be boys” attitude results in a tragedy. It is the real and continued instance of school districts and families being held accountable that will force school districts and families to take a more active approach in preventing this sort of abuse in the first place, and in dealing with it before it turns to tragedy in the second place.
It is not enough to tell someone to “toughen up” or to blame the victim or the family of the victim, because several of the gay suicides came from supportive homes and had access to gay help groups outside of school. We can’t go into someone’s home and change the travesty their cherry-picked faith or callous ideology makes of their lives. But we can go into someone’s school district and demand they own up to, and correct, their failures.
And by correcting failures, that doesn’t mean simply giving lip service or enacting a policy on paper—which is only half the battle and something many school districts have barely begun to understand, especially in relation to LGBT students—it means persistently being sure that teachers and administrators are actively carrying out the policy in general and as relates to student and family complaints in particular. People who care about this issue need to work to get policies to acknowledge their LGBT students problems just as it was important in the 1960s and 1970s to acknowledge the problems of newly desegregated schools. And then we need to establish regional branches of national advocacy groups that will help individual kids follow up on real problems that are not being adequately handled at the local level, before a tragedy occurs. We need to publicize these advocacy groups and do outreach to youth, both LGBT youth and non-LGBT youth. Because this is something that is bigger than the LGBT community.
There is nothing to indicate that the NJ boy in the story is gay, though as we ought to know, there are homophobic elements in the bullying of most students, whether the victim is gay or perceived to be gay or not. To put it another way, if KKK or neo-Nazi epithets were regularly used by bullies regardless of the identity of the objects of their bullying, it wouldn’t be something WASPs left up to blacks or Jewish people to solve on their own—though black and Jewish associations would no doubt be mobilized and leading the charge at the scene and in the media.
I don’t know if this link will work, but please visit and “like” and retweet this story there or wherever else it appears (the story is national, from the AP, and local paper is The Bergen Record) to spread the word not only that bullying can result in tragedy but that when it does, action must be taken not as revenge or retribution, or even as remuneration, but as a message that families must not sit idly by while school districts enable unsafe educational environments and turn a blind eye to known instances of violence or threats of violence.
“NJ bully’s paralyzing punch nets $4.2M settlement”
Thanks, Dan Avery, for channeling the emotional and intellectual and visceral responses we all have at these stories into something specifically about finding solutions. Tears and prayers and supportive statements and commiseration are not enough and we must not simply dissipate our reaction to this unending string of tragedies on threads about specific losses of life or liberty. This may be the most important post I’ve ever read on this blog, and I hope we can not only articulate some good ideas but mobilize some action around them and build on what develops here.
It gets better is just a bullshit PR campaign, nothing more. Telling kids both LGBT and hetero to put up with bullying until they leave school is not constructive advice. It’s cruel. School boards, school administrators, teachers, etc, need to have zero tolerance policy for bullying. It’s not uncommon for teachers to bully unpopular kids themselves. That’s where the changes need to be made… The reason “It Gets Better” caught on with politicians and celebrities is because it’s great PR and it requires absolutely NOTHING from them in the way of real action. Dan Savage the creator of IGB and an all around bi got, ra_cist, bipho_be, and transp_hobe was an idiot for telling jr. highschool and highschool kids to come out en masse knowing full well that there are tons of students and even teachers who are bullies against LGBT youth and that coming out in highschool or even jr. HS may make things worse for students.
Those of us in Seattle and other areas of the Pacific Northwest know that Dan Savage is an opportunistic parasite who will not hesitate to throw you under the bus if you don’t fit into his vision of right wing Log-cabin-lite politics. The It Gets Better campaign does nothing to empower queer youth. In fact, we are seeing a whole generation of LGBT kids make these videos and then kill themselves, while Dan Savage tells them to pull themselves to up by their bootstraps and he profits off the dead by hawking his self-help books. what we need is action and strategy, a battle plan to help LGBT kids survive, and deal directly with the homophobes (for example, how to file a complaint and lawsuit against your school district) and not snake oil charms like the It Gets Better media sham.
Dan Savage only started the it gets better project not to actually help LGBT youth all while practicing his right wing bigotry and hypocrisy of being transph_obic, biph_obic, and ra_cist; but to self promote and get a reality TV show on MTV. This is a prime example of what WillBFair said when he said how yes there are people who want to use LGBT youth as pawns.
LGBT youth are not watching the it gets better videos and we’ve seen LGBT youth who actually made videos who kill themselves.
Normally I avoid dumping a wall of text into a comment thread because no one reads it but I have some decent material on this so I’ll throw this up for the editors at least:
I was in high school during the 90’s when the violence levels at school started to cross a certain line. Cops started getting called to the school. Metal detectors went up in some of the downtown schools, and at the time that was new. Things just got more serious. I think what I observed at the time would still apply. Maybe it’s all the same only worse.
The way I remember it is that all the kids knew their parents didn’t know each other so they were living in their own little micro-cosm where they could do whatever they want. And on top of that they knew their parents didn’t WANT to know each other. I don’t want to get into a whole other can of worms, but I think the amount of TV people were watching increased at some point and the amount of community interaction just tapered off to the point where taking to other parents in your neighbourhood became some socially awkward thing that nobody does any more.
So the first thing they could do is force the parents to get together and meet each other at the beginning of the year. Maybe join a Face-Book group for parents. That way the kids can say…’my dad has met your dad and can contact your dad at any time.’
Secondly, and this has been touched on a bit, is that the teachers feel as detached to the students as neighbours on the same street do to each other now. As the behaviour in the schools crossed a line the teachers just started to seem SPOOKED. Like it wasn’t their place to say anything ’cause they where intimidated too. Again like the students where in their own little world. So because the teachers aren’t enforcing rules and the parents aren’t enforcing rules the students are left to work things out amongst themselves…and it’s like Lord of the Flies. They could do a remake of that movie set in modern times and instead of setting it on a distant island they could just set it behind the school. Because that’s how strong the detachment is between the faculty and the students.
So the second thing they could do is recognize this is a ‘rule of law’ problem and give the students the authority to police themselves if the teachers and parents can’t get their shit together. Let the students decide what the rules should be, who should monitor the problem, and what the penalties should be.
Finally, stop calling it ‘bullying’. I think their is a huge generation gap with what that word means between people who where in school pre and post 90’s. I don’t think older officials get how serious the violence is. It isn’t wedgies and spit balls that drive some one to suicide. It’s relentless degradation from A COLLECTIVE of students getting off on the rush of group-power they feel by dehumanizing a victim together. I could go on but I’ll just wrap it up by saying:
It’s not ‘Bullies’…it’s an undercurrent of fascism. Start calling it what it is.
In response to the people calling for GLBT-only schools: It’s a nice thought, but bullying doesn’t exactly boil down to the “Gay Kids = Angels, Straight Kids = Pure Evil” situation it’s painted as sometimes.
For starters, there’s simply not enough openly gay teens to support a whole school in most areas. In my whole school, I’m the literally the only guy that’s out.
Second, I think you’ll find that most younger gays aren’t giddy at the idea of leaving all of their straight friends behind for another school, especially if those straight friends are the ones supporting them through their issues. Since I’m a jock and I only know two other gay guys, pretty much all my friends at school are straight guys. They’re the ones I play video games with after school, the ones I complain about my lack of a dating life to, the ones I message on Facebook when my depression (nothing to do with me being gay, just teenage mood swings that get pretty bad at times) is acting up and I need someone to talk me down. Even if I went to a school where I was getting bullied, I don’t think I’d leave them behind for another school where bullying could be just as bad, and I wouldn’t have a support net already.
Third, getting rid of straight kids hardly gets rid of bullying. I haven’t been bullied that much myself, but one of the gay guys I know has done more to me than any straight person at my school.
I certainly get what the idea is trying to go for, but “Gay = Good, Straight = Bad” is way too simplistic of a policy to deal with the complicated issue of bullying. Maybe a charter school where bullied kids in general could go when their current school just is not working? I’d love to hear from others on this. 🙂
Is it any wonder kids bully when adults do it? Celebrate government officials who protect human rights and punish government officials who violate human rights. That is the only way the LGBTA community sees progress in much of the world. For every civilized politician on the planet there’s one willing to violate other people’s human rights to advance their powermongering career. The atrocities of the world – genocide, kids suicides, etc. – don’t happen in a vacuum. It starts with whether a nation is upholding human rights or not, whether politicians and religious leaders and businesspeople pretending to be religious leaders are held truly accountable for the human rights violations they commit against millions of people.
@Ryan: You lament that it’s like Lord of the Flies in some schools, but then your proscription for that is, “Let the students decide what the rules should be, who should monitor the problem, and what the penalties should be.” That’s precisely the horrible lesson of that book.
Consider that some kids truly think (or want others to believe they think) that the problem in gay kids who are bullied is the fact that anyone is gay in the first place, and/or that sexuality should be kept private, which their heteronormative subconscious tells them straight people do. So if we were to empower kids to be both arbiters of what the rules should be and the policemen of those rules, in many situations we would end up with precisely the status quo, only in overdrive.
When Republicans talk about ending the Department of Education and taking away the rights of unions (such as teachers), they’re talking about ending the ability for the federal government or the people who chose the teaching profession to begin with to set any standards with regard to policy on student rights, on teachers’ rights, on bullying, on educating students about the rights and history of gays. Those are all left up to the local school boards, under the direction of the state board, sometimes at the whim of the legislature or the governor. And when those that push for comprehensive sex education and liberal history and civics lessons come up against equal and opposite force pushing for no sex education at all, and conservative values and creationism, the compromise they wind up with is to prevent teachers from saying anything at all about any of it.
It’s basically Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, teacher/student edition. And if we turned it over to tween and teen survival of the fittest and most forcefully held opinion it would be “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or Don’t be surprised when we kick your ass after school.” Even under the incredible discipline of the military that policy wound up being “You better not tell us about yourselves, but if someone else tells us about you, we’re going to ask you, and either you tell us or you lie in an official inquiry, so either way you’re screwed, and you’re the problem, not the guy who has the problem with you.”
The whole point of our country as a republic, not simply a pure democracy, was that the minority could justifiably avoid the tyranny of the majority. While I think most gays of all ages are aware the school-age opinion on homosexuality by and large has evolved leaps and bounds beyond where it was twenty years ago, the fact remains that this broader base of support still evidently doesn’t hold much influence in many quarters over the obsessions of a single bully and, where he can get them, his peer-pressured minions.
I mean, why don’t the good, supportive, open-minded, honorable kids already stand up for their peers? And the answer is that some do, some don’t, most are a little leery of making a hobby out of it lest people wonder if they’re gay too. And some of the good kids aren’t physically equipped to stand up against a bully or two or ten. And the problem is that bullies are bullies because of unresolved personal issues that lead to obsessive power plays—if they want to target you, they’ll hunt for the opportunity to get at you with a favorable audience or when nobody’s looking. Gays are always going to be the minority in random segments of the population such as a high school’s student body, and currently, at least, those intolerant of gay rights are the ones shouting the loudest and cowing the schools.
The answer is in getting the school boards to untie the hands of the teachers. Its in looking at bullying not as simply a one-time confrontation or scold, nor as a reason for punishment, detention, suspension, but as a teachable moment, an opportunity to help the bully resolve his or her issues before they lead to sociopathy, abusive tendencies, and criminality as adults. And the answer is in recognizing that just as the military saw the wisdom in tackling this issue of accepting open service of gays, and just as various places including Kenneth James Weishuhn’s own Iowa State Supreme Court recognize that there is no constitutional reason to disenfranchise gays from full equality of opportunity and freedoms afforded to any citizen, and just as religions like Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Quakers have come to embrace not only openly gay congregants but openly gay clergy, we need to now teach children about why these things are just and lawful and found to be harmonious with the fabric of America, and in step with the teachings of Christ, and that it’s the intolerant bigots forcing people into hiding or living in denial that is what is un-American and spiritually inauthentic.
When all these many aspects of our society is taking all these official strides to fulfilling their foundational themes, and that adults have to accept it but adolescents do not, is not only absurd, it’s toxic, it’s self-defeating. Kids are not some alien life form, they’re the adults of tomorrow, and they need to be prepared for the world as it is and as it is becoming, which involves dealing with a very heterogeneous and free society. I find it the height of Orwellian absurdity when people say it’s the bullied kids who need to learn how to deal with a cruel world of bullies when in fact it’s the bullies who need to learn how to deal with whatever it is that makes them want to harm others and be the cruelness in that world. And school is the only place most of these kids could learn that, if only we recognized that and let the teachers and administrators pursue such a course of action.
@Anonymous Please: Your post breaks my heart. J was not bullied on school so I can’t imagine the torment you felt, but these stories that keep coming out make me wonder how many people that I knew were haunted or lost because of bullying and although I didn’t see it then, I hope they’re alright. The fact that you survived the pain you described makes me very glad that you and Shannon 1981 are here to tell the tale. You guys may not realize it, but by telling your stories, you are helping kids realize they can survive and thrive too. We here may not agree on everything on this site, but I think we can all agree that one more lost kid is too much. And everyone who can’t at least agree on that doesn’t have a soul, so f**m them. Stay strong.
The problem lies with society as a whole. As long as you can watch a political debate and see republicans and democrat go at each other, or hear parents talk negatively about minorities. Then bullying wont stop – bullying does not necessarily mean name calling.
Bullying is also stupidity and ignorance, so education would be nice too.
Since I heard of the Kevin James Weishuhn story I have been thinking a lot, because back when I was a teenager, I too was a bully, and a bit homophobic, because those around me was it too, and I was afraid that they’d know that I was gay. I can’t stop thinking, that if I had come out at 14 like K.J. then I would not have been alive today… of that I’m sure. I would not have friends or family that stood by me – K.J. had his family and his sister…
Bullying is wrong, but unless laws are made, and better education of school children, I don’t think anything will change.
S@Shannon1981: Shannon, I’ve read a lot of your posts here and while I seldom agree with you on non-related posts (I lean conservative), I appreciate your posts on this issue e and to see your post saying you understand the desire to die makes me sad. I know you don’t me from Adam, but the fact that you’re still here to tell the story of what you went through makes me happy. Know that by being here you’re doing a lot of good for kids who may be looking at this site and see they can survive their childhood like you have. Wishing you all the best.
All RESPECTFULL sexuality between consenting adults needs to be presented as natural, healthy and strong. Schools should not teach a preferred sexual choice, only that there are choices. Government should not marry anyone, only leagally certify two consenting adults. Marriage is a spiritual commitment. We need more diverse adult couples talking to kids in schools.
@Geoff B: Thanks. I know I rail gay conservatives a lot( I am about as far left as you could get, really), but I don’t hate anyone. I might come off harsh and aggressive, but I am really just a shy girl turned outspoken activist, having survived everything from ex gay therapy to homelessness to having eggs thrown at me to a brutal gay bashing.
I do know what its like,and I still visit that headspace regularly, unfortunately. Working on that..but I know what these kids are going through. This shit, even for the ones who survive, will stick for a lifetime. Sad, but true.
thanks again. The strong shall survive…I think on this issue, no matter political persuasion, we want more of our own to survive.
Bullies and Self-Defending Empowerment
There are three basic paths to dealing with bullies: Run; flatten some noses; form a herd. These are simple category headings. The real question is, ¿which is the right one to choose?
Run: ¿will they let you stop? You could run without moving, like George Carlin with his ‘funny in the barrio’ humor; when you are tired of running and can’t hit worth a dang, be funny. This one goes best with the third choice.
Flatten Some Noses: well, at least look like you could. Bullies tend to leave strong, powerful, and beautiful people alone, or try to join in. It never hurts to learn a martial art, a soft one like Tai Chi that lets you use their energies against them to knock themselves on their ass, um, -ets. Of course, the moment you join the fight, they feel they have the right to pommel your butt into the ground. So, look like you could win the fight, but avoid it unless a life is at risk. Then feed them to the Abode of Hades. Then be ready for retaliation. Then again, while you will end up looking fabulous in that Bruce Li of Fairyland physique, your friends and allies will improve your chances of not getting into that fight.
Form a Herd: There is strength in numbers, and safety in that. ¡But wait! there’s more; because most people (regardless of whom or why) who commit suicide in this society do so because they feel cornered and isolated. With friends – those you have personal, intimate, physical contact with – you have another way, and they can give you a hand taking it. Besides, with the human need for companionship, in a herd we are more likely to feel valued, and gain early warnings against that corner.
So, in the end the solution is simple: Form a herd, take up a martial art, and learn to laugh at the simpletons who can’t seem to get strong, and are limited to making you look pathetic.
I’m not gonna type up anything too huge, but I do have things to say about this. There will be typos and poorly-structured sentences, for which I apologize in advance. I also refer to some slur usage where was necessary for illustrative purposes, so of course scroll past if you don’t like to see that sort of thing!
I’m a 15-year-old queer high school student at a school with an unusually large GSM (Gender and Sexual Minority, for those not familiar with the term (which I like better)) population, and while discrimination against our SM students is not a huge issue (it’s so common that the people who speak against it are the ones considered a problem, thankfully), the GM population is not even something most students are aware of. The extent of their knowledge about trans* people of any stripe is, sadly, limited to the word “tr*nny”, and vague confusion that, whoa, trans* people EXIST in real life?! This problem results largely from a lack of awareness. While I in no way want to dismiss the problems faced by the SM students, I must say that it’s easier for people to have tolerance if not true acceptance towards these students by simple virtue that it takes a much more concerted effort to support a trans* student. Where most people are content to just sort of not think about the sexual orientation of others, people who are going through a gender transition have to be ACKNOWLEDGED: there are names and pronouns to learn, for instance. The fact that my friend Jamie, who is a transwoman, is forced to use the staff bathroom because using the female-designated one might make other students “uncomfortable”, or that her teachers use the correct name but not pronouns and call it ‘good enough’, or any of the things spat behind her back or to her face are said, is completely unrecognized–and she is rarely protected. As we make progress (vital progress, I might add) towards school protection and tolerance for our sexual minorities, it is important that we also step up and gain recognition for the gender minorities and trans* students in our schools. If we simply let kids know that, hey, being gay is fine, and so is being trans*/queer!, they will listen. Don’t let the T in LGBT and the G in GSM be forgotten, guys. There has to be an example for kids (younger children and teens alike) so that they can understand, or else ignorance and hate in that regard will continue–and it won’t get a front-page news spot, either.
It doesn’t matter if you come out.
They will find you anyways.
Agendas are irrelevant. Kids are *always* looking for other kids to bully, and if they can’t find someone that’s actually gay, they’ll slap that label on their favorite target anyways. And they’ll throw it on anyone they think looks or acts or otherwise seems the slightest bit “gay”, to them. Hell, they use the word before they even know what it actually *means*!
It doesn’t make you any less bullied if you aren’t gay, don’t know you’re gay yet, or haven’t come out yet. Wish it had! Honestly, I can’t imagine why *anyone* would ever willingly come out while still in school unless they were very good friends with someone much larger who already knew and could serve as a bodyguard.
We need people to stop *teaching hate*. Everywhere it’s taught.
We need teachers and administrators and parents – of the bullies and the bulled – to actually give a damn. Very few do.
We need people involved in this to not be so mind-numbingly stupid when it comes to determining who started incidents, because it *does* matter, and usually it’s the bullies that are far better liars. We need to stop believing the bullied kids when they say “I’m fine” simply because that’s much easier than having to pay attention and find out exactly how they’re *not* fine, and then deal with the problem.
This’ll happen sometime around when we eradicate world hunger, so in the meantime, I suggest self-defence lessons and some nice, big, open-minded friends. The latter, and switching schools to get them, saved me in high school.
@Shannon1981: I completely agree about vetting teachers and administrators. I can’t count how many teachers were obviously anti gay when I went to school and how many more messed around in the plausible deniability gray area in order to harass and make perceived gay kids lives miserable.
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