Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Plight of Gay Youth

Today I wanted to take the time to address a very real problem that is finally receiving some notice, and it's long past time. Intolerance is at the highest point it's been in ages, and of course that has an effect on youth. They see intolerance from older people and in the world, and they think it's okay. The misuse of the term 'gay' to mean 'stupid' or 'bad' is as hurtful as any other epithet, but since it's gays, it's largely dismissed.

Because, you see, it's not trendy anymore like it was for a few minutes in the 90s. The American view of reality is distorted; you get 'reality' television that all of its viewers know isn't real, for example. That's not the be-all and end-all of things, but a vast amount of the American population, especially the younger part of that, is heavily influenced by what is trendy or popular.

There have been a huge amount of suicides amongst gay youth who were bullied. This is intolerable. But what's being done about it? The only thing I can find is a video movement called 'It Gets Better', to encourage gay youth and let them know that things improve, down the line.

But is this really true? I don't think so. I want to encourage them like anyone else, but if someone is depressed and upset enough to seriously consider ending his own life, it's not going to help him to basically be encouraged to put it off. If they're that unhappy, it's just delaying the inevitable because it really doesn't necessarily get better. Maybe if you're rich, or pretty, or you fall in with the right crowd; maybe if you're incredibly lucky, or you happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Basically you just get older and the struggles usually get less immediate and more frustrating. You grow into a world where you are a second-class citizen and actually having rights like everyone else is an everyday battle. You're accused of being everything from unnatural to evil. And gay culture isn't that much better -- in a lot of the popular gay culture, your existence might as well end at 30, or if -- god forbid -- you're black.

In the media, gay characters have slowly become included, although it's important to note, it isn't like the 90s, where apparent novelty meant that gay characters could feature on-screen and actually be fully-realised people. Now gay characters tend to be reduced to the status that most characters of colour did in the earlier half of the 20th century: the 'magical negro', a trope wherein the character is basically created to support a more 'acceptable' mainstream character by dispensing advice. And because of the American tendency to see things as media portray them, that's unimpressively where we are.

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry can cry about it all they want, but what have they done besides bemoan it? Them, Ellen, the least one MMA fighter presented his email address and offered to fly to the school of any bullied gay kid that wrote him, and talk to the bullies about why what they're doing is wrong and what they should do instead. We need more things like that.

If I had the money -- and believe me, I wish I had money -- I would establish a fund encouraging gay youth to hold their school system accountable, to tell them what they need to do and how to do it. One of the most important things here is for them to feel empowered, and they are going to have to start lodging formal complaints about their clearly lacking school systems and start initiating lawsuits against them. The educational system in the United States, as in pretty much the entire rest of the world, is a horrible mess.

This situation can only be improved by hitting them where it hurts, and that is by lodging formal complaints with the schools, the school boards, and going to media like newspapers and making a big stink about it. If necessary, the schools should be taken to court as well. While it is the responsibility of parents to raise their kids right (and chance would be a fine thing), the responsibility of stopping bullying amongst schoolchildren lies squarely with the schools and their personnel. If that isn't being done, they aren't doing their jobs. And when it gets to where children are taking their own lives rather than face another day of bullying, those personnel are being negligent in their duties.

I don't know if it would be helpful to take the bullies to court. It likely would just lead to lives of resentment because they probably are too stupid to understand that what they're doing is horrible and hurtful, or maybe they're just looking for any attention, which they never got from their parents. The parents aren't always responsible for their children turning out as bullies, though, I will admit. Is it a solution to bring the parents to court as well? I can't say. But it is unquestionably a failing on the part of the school systems and their personnel.

There are so many things that need to be improved in this country, and in this world. We need to empower our youth. And when we're talking about bullied gay youth, it's intolerable if they're not supported. They need to feel like they have options, and that they are being supported by something that can accomplish things. A fund to support and to inform gay youth about complaining and getting action from their school system needs to exist, especially now. One of the leading causes of despair is a feeling of futility and helplessness; this is especially strong when trapped in the grasp of the educational sytem. It's unfortunate, but we will need some serious funds for this sort of thing and someone who knows what he's doing to set it up.

I would like to hear others' thoughts about this as well. These are just my personal thoughts on the matter. I would like to encourage everyone, of course, to encourage and to support gay youth, to be there for them, and to encourage them to take action if they are being bullied or being discriminated against. It is never too early to teach social activism, and when you belong to a highly-discriminated-against minority, it is more of an essential life skill. Gay youth need to learn not to accept discrimination or poor treatment, and what they need to do to stop it. They need to learn that the kind of behaviour being allowed by their school system is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Intolerance has cost us so many lives that might have been brilliant leaders and breathtaking artists, people who could have shaped this world into something better. Matthew Shepard is one of countless youths whose lives have been cut short because of irresponsible parenting, ignorance, intolerance, and the predominant American mindset of 'if it isn't trendy, it isn't worth anything'.

Let's try to get out of that mindset. And let's try to be a little more there, and a little more accessible, for gay youth who need that encouragement.


  1. I have been following this on other blogs and it is not only the shame of our civilization, but of our people. By this time we should all be ready to stand and challange such terrible behavior but where are the loudest voices? The churches telling our youth that God hates Gays, that they should be beaten back into Heterosexuals and making a joke of those poor souls who ended a life untried because it was so painful to make it through school they simply could not face it. I know how that feels. I was one. Whether or not they thought I was Gay, I was the butt of every joke, every evil word and any physical attack to work out frustrations or to build status among their friends. I was pantsed, spat on, beaten, and held up against a wall to be pissed on. The funny or sad thing was, the worst of the bullies actually liked me but couldn't say it. He was not a bad soul, just misguided. He had good parents who would have skinned him had they known. Worse the parents were killed in our final year. It was horrible.
    There are no easy answers, or one size fits all ideas. We must be there to listen and HEAR the cries for help. We must be willing to become unpopular to help them. When my son told his middle school class that his Dad was Gay, he was immediately ostracized and bullied... not just nastily but viciously. Their parents were telling them Gays were evil and against god and nature. Their pastors were repeating such obscenities. And their friends encouraged it because basically even good kids become ugly when in a mod where they find any kind of acceptance. We cannot just look to others to help. Parents must learn to put aside hate and encourage acceptance, even in the face of something they personally disagree with. These are humans and young ones who have no experiences or understanding of life. Take on the adults if you must but leave the kids alone. Quit spreading hate. Demand the schools do their damn jobs, or sue them. I finally did that. And it got marginally better. Had his mother done the same it would have served as a notice... do this to another kid and all hell will break loose in your bank account.
    But mostly we have to listen. If you hear your kids talking crap, stop them and tell them its wrong. Be consistent, and do it yourself. The best way to deal with this is to start at home.

    I will admit I have no hope this will clear up. Ive seen it for decades from one group to the next, and the amazing thing is NO ONE LEARNED A THING FROM IT. Especially kids who were bullied... they seem to be the worst offenders as parents. We have to be willing to say enough.
    And offer ourselves to those who suffer by making ourselves available on the internet to give advice and when necessary, call for help. One saved child is worth it. Take the fight to the sources of this hate. Do not back down. Join the Gay support groups and legal funds to help. Just do SOMETHING.

  2. Well-said and I hope people will take this to heart!

  3. Bullying is just not okay period. I understand and agree that attacks on gay people are frequent and violent because they're easy targets. I would just like to add that it doesn't matter who you are, being treated in that manner is absolutely unacceptable. I have to try to keep my emotions in check on this topic because of what I had to endure when I was younger. Am I gay? No. Was I bullied? Fuuuuuuck yes. I was THE target in middle school. I'm still not entirely sure why, but everyone went out of their way to make me as miserable as possible, and I don't just mean the kids. Now, I'm not saying this to downplay the plight of gay youth - just the opposite. Since I know EXACTLY what it's like to be treated that way (short of physical violence in MOST cases (I HAVE been hit before) - I'm pretty sure deep down they were afraid I would snap and break them into pieces. I was and still am physically stronger than most people - but I have a ridiculously soft heart), I have nothing but contempt for the bullies and agree that everything must be done to stop them. I believe that an example needs to be made of bullies. Criminals are punished to the full extent of the law, and that needs to be mirrored in schools. If a student is being abusive, they need to be suspended or expelled, depending on the severity of what they did. If a teacher is being abusive, they need to be fired, sued, and have criminal charged brought upon them. I have NO patience for these idiots. Pchan of all people will tell you that I don't use harsh language lightly, or lightly condemn anyone. That said, these people are the scum of the Earth, and if they don't get taught a lesson right away, they are just going to get worse, and other people won't be afraid to follow suit.