Thursday, September 30, 2010

The cheap lives of our LGBT youth

One could argue (and the perpetrators likely will) that it was a joke, a prank, to use the camera in a strategically-placed laptop to view and/or broadcast on the web video of a new college roommate being intimate with a same-sex lover. Just as it was fun for students to tease and taunt a 13 year old boy about being a fag, or to simulate sex acts in front of the class with another young gay teen. No big deal, just a little harmless teasing.

But that attitude dismisses the pain that these actions caused the targets of their homophobia, heterosexism, and disdain. This pain drove the subjects of each of these actions to suicide. Four suicides by gay young men, covered in the news, in less than one month.

Tyler Clementi, 18 years old
Seth Walsh, 13 years old

And these are only the ones we know about.

Suicide is highly suggestive, and the LGBT community and our allies need to interrupt this cycle. One online response has emerged, noted in a Salon article:
After the death of Billy Lucas, columnist and author Dan Savage decided enough was enough and launched the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel of messages of encouragement and survival aimed at gay and lesbian youth. As he explained in his "Savage Love" column, "Gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay -- or from ever coming out -- by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models. Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids."
I watched about 10 videos on the "It Gets Better Project," and I was moved, encouraged, and reminded of the pain that so many LGBT people have faced in our lives. It is challenging to be queer in our society, and those challenges cause us pain that is difficult for some to overcome. It would certainly be better if people would recognize that their pranks, their teasing, is costly--and the cost is just too high.

I was struck by a quote from local police who investigated the taunting of middle schooler Seth Asher, having interviewed many of the kids who had engaged in the taunting and determined that there was no "crime" with which to charge the youth.
"Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears," Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. "They had never expected an outcome such as this."

He said the students told investigators they wish they had put a stop to the bullying and not participated in it.
What a very expensive lesson to learn...too expensive. We don't have any more children and youth to give to meanness, hate, and violence.The lives of LGBT youth are not cheap; in fact, our lives, like the lives of all people, are precious. We need to identify ways to interrupt this kind of behavior--in schools, in dorms, in workplaces, in homes, and throughout our communities.

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