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 rest...at 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.