Lawrence King. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. Nick Kelo. Billy Lucas. All children from different parts of the country and different walks of life. The only thing they have in common is that they were all bullied for allegedly being gay, and all four of them are now, unfortunately, deceased. Many more that remain unnamed here have suffered the same fate – some were murdered, while others killed themselves – because of homophobia in America and abroad.
As a human being, I just can’t tolerate that there are children who are taking their own lives because of the taunting of other children. I can’t even begin to comprehend the kind of hatred it would take for a child to bring a gun to school and murder another child because he’s gay, like in the case of Lawrence ‘Larry’ King.
This doesn’t have anything to do with my sexuality. This has nothing to do with politics. You don’t have to be gay or even agree with homosexuality to be appalled by the fact that people all over the world are being emotionally and physically harmed because of their sexual orientation. One child’s suicide is one too many, and this doesn’t just affect gay children – homophobia in our school systems has resulted in the tragic suicides of straight children as well, tired of the constant accusations of being gay. Don’t ignore this because it’s a ‘gay problem,’ and you’re not gay or don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. This is an American problem. This is an everywhere problem.
The problem is hate, and the solution starts with us.
The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) is sponsoring the National Day of Silence, a day on which Americans take some sort of vow of silence intended to echo the silence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people who are afraid to ‘come out’ for fear of verbal or physical abuse. By being silent, we are effectively speaking out against bullying and other forms of harassment in our schools and places of work. We are letting our gay peers, whether open or closeted, know that we support them. And sometimes, that’s all it takes.
This year, the Day of Silence is taking place on April 15th, 2011. This event has been going on since 1996 and is largely a student-coordinated endeavor – it exists mainly in the elementary, middle, and high school systems, as well as on college campuses across the United States. The GLSEN has provided handy note cards for any participants to give to people who ask ‘Hey, why aren’t you talking?’ as well as advice for coordinating an event in your area and communicating your intention to protest in a polite and positive manner with your school administration. A handy FAQ on the Day of Silence can be found here.
Even if you don’t want to participate in the Day of Silence or are unable, you can help combat anti-gay bullying in easy, everyday ways. Homophobia is something that’s deeply ingrained in our society, and has dug itself into the flesh of this country so deeply, half the time we don’t even realize it’s there. Jokes about that guy and his skinny jeans, or that butch chick with the shaggy haircut, or even phrases like ‘That’s so gay’ are homophobic – things we don’t even think about when we say them. I say them myself, without thinking that in a roundabout way, they could hurt someone.
Just because you and your friend support gay rights doesn’t make phrases like ‘That’s gay’ acceptable. I don’t intend to offend or hurt anyone when I say it (and I do catch myself saying it) and maybe the person I’m talking to isn’t offended. But when you use the term ‘gay’ to describe something lame or stupid, what message does that send to those who ARE paying attention?
If we want to make the world a safer place for all sexual orientations, we can’t skip the small stuff. Think B4 You Speak is a website that hopes to raise awareness about how the little comments we make in passing could be hurtful or encourage others to think about gay people in a hurtful way. You can say ‘But gay means happy!’ or ‘It’s not offensive, it’s just a phrase,’ all you want, but in the end calling something stupid ‘gay’ IS wrong, and you know it. Making up an excuse so you don’t have to put in an effort to stop saying it isn’t cute, or clever. It’s lazy and absurd. I’m calling myself out for being both lazy and absurd, and I won’t say it anymore.
As a matter of fact, if you ever catch me calling something stupid or lame ‘gay,’ call me out on it. I’ll owe you a dollar.
I hope that you realize how important an issue this is. Please do your part to help our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered friends feel more safe and welcome in school at at work. I’ll be participating in the Day of Silence this year – hope to see (but not hear) you there!