I wanted to wait a little while to post about the rash of gay suicides because of all the media attention that was suddenly focused on them that obscured so many of the details in their stories.  So now that it’s “over” and most of the world has forgotten about Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas, I want to return to the real problem associated with gay bullying, and it has little to do with bullying at all.

I will admit that in a way, I used the gay suicides media blitz for my own benefit.  Capitalizing on the sudden outpouring of support that world gave to these teens, I submitted a proposal to my local high school aimed at creating a more tolerant and thoughtful student population through a 18 week Gender and Sexuality studies elective for juniors and seniors.  While the response was positive (my curriculum will be recommended the next time the Social Studies dept. undergoes curriculum review, probably in 2013), many people in the school’s administration cited ongoing anti-bullying campaigns as a way of helping promote tolerance of LGBT students.

This strikes me as slightly laughable.  Though my high school has one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying programs in the state, it didn’t stop my peers from tearing down GSA posters and putting up homophobic slogans in their place, nor stop them from complaining to the principle of “gay propaganda” during Gay History Month announcements.  Our anti-bullying program never once mentioned LGBT students as a population not to pick on, and so, it seems, they’ve been exempt from protection.

So many problems, including the suicides of these young boys in the past months, stem from this silence.  The Nation’s correspondent Richard Kim wrote an amazing piece about this phenomenon– how “gay bullying” isn’t a villain contained by the school yard, but one that’s fed by our insecurities in talking about LGBT issues.  And the response to these suicides shouldn’t be a push to punish the students who precipitated them by bullying, but to tackle the society-wide silence which allows them to bully.

“When faced with something so painful and complicated as gay teen suicide, it’s easier to go down the familiar path, to invoke the wrath of law and order, to create scapegoats out of child bullies who ape the denials and anxieties of adults, to blame it on technology or to pare down homophobia into a social menace called “anti-gay bullying” and then confine it to the borders of the schoolyard.”

Harry Potter Stands Up for Gay Rights, Won't You?

Harry Potter Stands Up for Gay Rights, Won't You?

As if I hadn’t said it enough, the problem is so easily solved by TALKING.  Gay intolerance seems like an insurmountable problem until you break it down into component parts.  Even if your child is bullied at school, told by the media that he/she/ze is inadequate or moral wrong, if you- just you, the parent- can reach out, say it’s OK, be a pillar of support at all times, then suddenly there’s a ray of  hope in the world for that child.  This is exactly the kind of issue where just one person can save a life.  If you are a student, reach out.  If you are a parent, reach out.  If you are a teacher, administrator, store clerk, employer, day-care worker, REACH OUT.

Gay teen suicides may come in rashes, but they don’t disappear.  If a child identifies as LGBT, they are 400% more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime.  Even when the news isn’t covering it, it’s happening.  Don’t turn a blind eye.

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