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Friday, October 08, 2010

It Gets Better

This is going to be a difficult thread to address and I will try to be clear about why I think it is important.

There has been a heightened awareness in the last month or so over bullying at school over students being, seeming or being perceived as gay. It has been heartbreaking to hear what has been done to young people and their reactions (suicides).

The most visible case has been at Rutgers University where a freshman, Tyler Clementi, was videotaped, twice, by his roommate in an intimate encounter with another male in his dorm room. The taping streamed live on the Internet. Tyler learned of this, contacted an RA but ultimately, for whatever reason, killed himself by jumping off a bridge.

Interestingly, I wouldn't call that episode bullying. It's just a breathtaking lack of kindness/sensitivity and total lack of decency on the part of his roommate (and his woman friend) and a huge amount of cruelty and meanness to have done this to Tyler. Many have felt the perpetrators should be strung up but no, they need to be prosecuted for the actual crimes they committed (videotaping someone without permission and invasion of privacy - they may also be charged with a bias crime because of remarks the roommate made about the taping). I'm pretty sure that society can take care of making sure they know what they did was wrong (kicking them out of Rutgers, not being able to get in another decent school, difficulty finding a job based on their beyond poor judgment, etc.). They don't need to go to jail forever.

BUT, the good news is that Dan Savage, a writer over at The Stranger, started the It Gets Better project. People from all walks, famous and not-so-famous talk about how hard life was for them in middle/high school as a gay person and how it does get better. (Happily, this generally applies to nearly ALL high school kids who don't like their high school lives. It does get better after high school.)

I know some of you may not like this discussion. It may be a personal or religious reason. But the fact is that some kids are getting abused at school because they are perceived as gay (whether they are or not - one of the It Gets Better videos is a straight guy who got harassed because he was perceived as gay in high school). No kid should be worried about going to school because of bullying. (I myself found it quite shocking to hear middle school students saying "that's so gay" for something they found bad or unfavorable.)

If you know a student who is struggling with these issues and needs support, please let them know about this project and that there are people out there who understand their struggle.

11 comments:

Unknown said...

Amen. Dan's project is really wonderful. I haven't had much time, but I've watched a handful of the videos, and I hope the target audience finds them as wonderfully moving as I did.

Anonymous said...

Students in my kids' middle school were suspended (or ejected) for gay bullying. It happens right here in Seattle. Seems that the schools are pretty on top of it.

MS Parent.

hschinske said...

I don't know why one wouldn't call that incident bullying, except perhaps that it's too mild a term. I'd call it a form of sexual assault, among other things. See http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/09/but-hes-such-nice-guy.html (note: strong language).

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just meant it was beyond the pale of bullying behavior.

Anonymous said...

The Trevor Project is an excellent resource for teens, or anyone who is having trouble coping with bullying due to sexual orientation, perceived or otherwise.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

momz said...

My son spent one year at Washington Middle School. He was staring off into space one day, apparently in the direction of another boy in the library. This boy said, 'Why are you staring at me, what are you, gay?' and then spent the next week shoving him in the hallway.

It was the last week of school, and I didn't know about it until later, and we didn't go back to Washington the next year, and my son didn't know the kid, or the kid's name, so I had no way to even report it.

I'm just sharing this to say, yes, I think this is a daily thing, and that situation made me supremely sad. My son is soft spoken and thoughtful, and I have been asked by other adults if I think he is gay. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

When one sees the downright nastiness directed at RANDOM kids during middle and high school, it's easy to understand how exponentially worse it would be for G/L/T kids. The movie "You Again" has a fantasy ending where a bully gets her due and finally apologizes. Unfortunately, that is unlikely in real life. One expert said,"You don't have to like every kid, but you must honor their humanity." Since it is not possible for many adults to honor the humanity of people with different politics, religion, socioeconomic status, etc., bullying will continue to be a really tough problem in the schools. Garfield High School called every student's home last week to say that froshing would be dealt with severely, and I was quite impressed. The schools should come down really hard on all bullying. Eventually, in the workplace, people have to work with someone who is outside their comfort zone, so it's important to learn in school. To momz, I am sorry about what your son went through at Washington.

Garfield Mom

hschinske said...

I have actually had two apologies from people I was in middle school with who had treated me badly. It does happen.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I got this link via school email from Lisa Love who coordinates all the Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) for SPS. It is the Make it Better Now project to empower us make change now so kids don't have to wait until after they graduate to be happy and safe.

http://makeitbetterproject.org/

Melissa Westbrook said...

One comment from a 12-year old really touched my heart. He said, "Hey you, don't kill yourself. You might be my future significant other!"

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