As a child growing up I knew I was different not just because I was a chubby, funny, flamboyant or sang a lot. When I went to school the other children used to call me gay, homo, faggot, shit stabber, bender, queer, sissy. Even some of the teachers would make comments about my lack of masculinity all be it in a more subtle way. Who told them I was gay? Not me! Certainly not me but it nevertheless made me a target for abuse both verbal and physical.
The level of abuse I received was intolerable and I did tell my Mother who went to the school and stood up to the teachers who she felt quite rightly should be protecting me. To an extent they did but teachers cannot be present every moment you are in school. In the showers I was terrorized and accused of all measure of things from looking at my peers to other levels of ridiculousness. I had more excuses than I don’t know what for not wanting to take gym class. My Mothers appearances at school only fueled the bully’s fire to call me a Mommy’s boy.
These things clearly added to my behavioral & emotional issues and the experience of being bullied really changed me. It was a difficult enough challenge of growing and changing without the added pressure of being a gay teen and having to hide that fact from my peers and my family. When anyone remotely effeminate came on the TV all of the gay jokes would begin and I could say nothing. I would scream inside and wonder why there was such an attitude towards being gay. It wasn’t something I could challenge, change, discuss or even admit to. Thankfully I survived and it did get better and believe me it will for you too!
Hearing about the teenagers who have recently committed suicide I really do weep with despair. Over 20 yrs have passed and have we not moved forward and grown as a society to the point where we can live and let live? For anyone to endure homophobic bullying & violence is unconscionable let alone a child. I honestly do believe children learn what they live because hate is not a behavior that just appears it is something is learned. We are never gonna accept and love everybody but surely we need to learn respect and tolerance. The place this begins is at home and children need to be nurtured and taught from a perspective of respect. Homophobic parents breed homophobic children.
Some children have an uncanny knack for weeding out vulnerabilities in their peers and I am convinced that if your parents try to teach you a different route this really is a good foundation for not needing to seek validation by treating other people badly. I think bullying is a clear sign that something is not right at home as violence breeds violence.
Surely we have duty to our children and young people to offer them guidance and advice on how to deal with the things they may encounter in life that they maybe don’t understand or have no experience of. Inclusion of homosexuality in sex education would be a start. Homophobia is no more acceptable than any form of discrimination and is a social disease that we cannot allow to continue. Society has to take a lot of the blame for this indifference. With all of the current issues pertaining to gay rights being unsettled I am sure this adds validation to the ideology that gay people are of secondary importance and promotes homophobia?
My heart breaks to think that certain politicians can block the way to equality with no solid reasoning without realizing that a by product of their homophobia is trickling down and now school children are paying the price for this. Yes we do need to legislate against this kind of discrimination but the buck needs to start and stop with the legislature. Whilst our country allows us to be discriminated against the message sent is that it is acceptable to treat gay people badly.
Whilst I am usually a harsh critic of Perez Hilton I have salute him for his response to this tragic spate of senseless suicides. He has used his platform to highlight the fact that it does get better. Encouraging people to make videos and upload them to Youtube to talk about the fact that suicide is not the answer. Perez has had an overwhelming response.
Celebrities, individuals, gay and straight alike have responded positively and it is amazing to see the community come together like this. You can see the videos here:http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject Perez reported that over 200,000 people have stopped following him on Twitter since he started covering this issue. I say that they where no great loss of this is there response.
It isn’t just children who are feeling the surge of this tidal way of hate as recently a young man at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi (18) killed himself as a result of his roommates using a webcam to transmit live scenes of him having sex with another man. They even tried to do the same thing unsuccessfully the day before he jumped to his death from The George Washington Bridge in New York. His body was identified on Thursday after being found in the river the day before.
This was a senseless tragic loss of a young man with his whole life ahead of him. As for possible federal charges, a Justice Department official says that's not likely at this point. The federal hate crime law would not apply, the official says, because it requires proof of intent to cause violence to the victim. Whichever way you look at it his roommates have blood on their hands but I pray that this spate of deaths will serve as a deterrent to this kind of mindless abuse in the future.
The U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented on the Recent Deaths he said "This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.
"This is a moment where every one of us - parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience - needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it's students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop."
His statement fully reflects the way I feel and we need to effect change as a matter of urgency. These deaths must really make everyone stop and think about their actions and the things they say and do to one other. It is imperative that as a nation we step up to the plate and respond to this wake up call to stamp out bullying, harassment and discrimination on a national level. Our leaders need to lead by example and put aside these petty ridiculous objections to equality or we will have a bigger epidemic on our hands.
Equality is a right and discriminatory practices only change by educating those who allow their bigotry to overtake their common sense. To harass or bully someone for any reason is not acceptable whether that is in the schoolyard, on the internet, in the senate or on the sidewalk. If you are being bullied or harassed tell someone about the things you are experiencing. Chances are the person treating you this way is also doing the same thing to others. It does get easier and bullies are damaged people who need to back off and deal with their own issues. Please don’t despair here are some sources of help:
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ 1-866-4-U TREVOR
Peace and Luv, Xan x
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Xander Gibb has written for many publications and writes with an unapologetic response to the world around.