Tag Archive: tolerance

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.


The Hate Queen Returns…sorta.

For those of you who are not familiar with the slimy, gay-hating past of Anita Bryant, here’s a quick history lesson.

Anita Bryant started out as a singer, TV personality, and the spokeswoman for Florida Orange juice.  Good for her.  Later in her career, however, she developed some strange version of a moral conscience and decided to dedicate her life to god by becoming involved with politics and headlining for the “moral majority” (an evangelical Christian campaign started by Jerry Falwell).  POINT BEING, during her crusade, in her home state of Florida, the Dade County Board of Supervisors created a law which protected the rights of LGBT people from discrimination in housing, hiring, and a variety of other areas.  Cue Anita Bryant’s outrage.  She launches a giant campaign to get this bill overturned, which she does, then goes a step further by invading California through her political network to create PROPOSITION 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative.  The Briggs Initiative would forcibly fire all LGBT teachers and make it impossible for openly gay people, or in some interpretations of the law, anyone who even supported LGBT rights, to be hired as an educator.  Prop 6 failed epically in the 1978 referendum, and Anita Bryant sunk into obscurity.  Thank god.

This lovely piece of unbiased journalism from Gossip Boy notes that Anita has resurfaced to the speakers track, albeit on a much, much lower radar to continue spreading hate.  However, to note her co-speakers and the legitimacy of the events where she will speak (which is to say, racists and homophobes; non-existent), it seems as if her hate messages are not reaching nearly as far anymore.  I’m not going to cite this article as a definitive piece of evidence to support my belief that America is slowly but surely rejecting homophobia and those who promote it, but it does put a little sparkle in the argument.  Additionally, the total shame of Anita Bryant’s legacy comes to the fore in this article, as Gossip Boy notes that there is actually A WARRANT FOR ARREST on her person in Oklahoma for writing a hot check.  Makes it hard to believe she was once the spokesperson for upstanding Christians everywhere, huh?

One of our lovely readers forwarded me this link to The Daily Beast’s list of the US’s top 20 Gay Cities. Never mind that their only criteria for a gay city is number of same-sex couples per thousand households and all 20 cities hover between 7.6 and 5% gay, with San Francisco being the notable outlier at 12%.  But the article attached does have some interesting information about median incomes and overall satisfaction with living environment relative to a sizable gay population (if you consider 5% sizable…)

The article also brings to light an interesting question: how does the “gay friendly” factor affect your choice of where to live?  Granted, for a lot of people, the question of where to live has more to do with your potential job opportunities than the relative gayness of the metro population, but it can be an important thing to take into consideration.

So what makes a good gay city?  Besides gay people and tolerant straight ones, here’s your checklist:

  • Urban environment- cities have more liberal populations and more resources because of the population density
  • Nightlife- gay bars and nightclubs are probably the most fun and interesting way to meet people from the LGBT community and offer a stress-free environment for expressing yourself; also great for picking up someone cute on a Friday night
  • A gay senator, representative, mayor, or other official- anti-gay legislation pops up in the least likely of places, as evidenced by Prop 8 and Prop 1 in California and Maine respectively.  A high-level city or state official looking out for the needs of the LGBT population is the best insurance against having your rights taken away
  • Thriving BDSM, kink, or other sex-oriented community- although not directly connected to LGBT people all the time, kink communities are the most likely to be supportive and accepting of gay people and the events hosted by these communities often bring together like-minded people; in addition, their social network is just fun to get involved with, gay or straight.
  • An art scene- again, the artistic community is generally very open-minded and attracts LGBT people and their various supporters; an art scene enhances the culture of a city as well as keeping it open, accessible, and fun for the gay crowd

You’d be surprised how large a difference a gay-positive atmosphere makes in terms of comfort in a city.  Personally, I never felt uncomfortable living out in my hometown of Pittsburgh, but the switch to Washington DC was none-the-less mindblowingly different.  Something about all of these factors creates a different feel in the air- it’s more comfortable, more normal to be gay in your everyday life in these places.  So while I’ll never suggest this be the first criterion in your search for a place to work or a college town, you might consider how an urban environment (especially these top 20 cities) would affect your lifestyle.

%d bloggers like this: