Outrage at intolerance

My friend, Ms Chili, has a powerful blog today, An Open Letter to the Universe, exclaiming her outrage at the suicide of yet another young gay person who has felt too exposed, too besieged, too rejected, too harassed, and too alone to continue on with their life. The recent spate of suicides should shake us all up:

–Tyler Clemente, 18, a student at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week after his sexual encounter with another man was filmed by his roommate and posted on YouTube. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/nyregion/30suicide.html

–Seth Walsh, a 13 year old Californian, bullied for being perceived as gay, died last Tuesday after nine days in the hospital on life support following a suicide attempt.

–Asher Brown, also thirteen, killed himself using his father’s gun, after coming out to his parents that very morning. He was the target of sustained anti-gay bullying at his school in Texas.

–Billy Lucas, 15 years old, from Indiana, took his life a couple of weeks ago after, his peers reported, several years of anti-gay bullying.

Dan Savage, who writes the column Savage Love, and his partner Terry Miller have launched the campaign It Gets Better. Savage writes:

Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body…. I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But 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.

And so, It Gets Better is encouraging gay people to post their stories to help hold and encourage, support and sustain young gay youth. The site, presently filled with over 400 short videos, is  http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject

Here is one called “Boy on a Bridge:”

If you are interested in participating, upload your video to YouTube and then send the URL to mail@savagelove.net. Dan and Terry will review the videos and post them to their FAVORITES section.

As an educator, I am exposed on a daily basis to students who are hurtful to others. I work to be as vigilant as I can to address unkind and abusive language and behavior. As middle school students jockey for social status, they sometimes are blind to the consequences of their words. In the worse case scenarios, some students intentionally reflect incredibly biased and intolerant attitudes toward difference. More important than my job to help kids learn to read and write better, more important than my responsibility to help them learn about historical issues and concepts, is my job to help them become a solid community that is compassionate for each and every member, that is tolerant of difference, and that is empowered to activate those values in the larger society.

We all need to be outraged at intolerance.

This entry was posted in compassion, LGBTQ, Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Outrage at intolerance

  1. Mrs. Chili says:

    I am literally weeping right now…..

  2. Michael says:

    Moving and powerful comments. Your thoughts on what your most important job as a teacher is … is right on! Your students are lucky to have you caring about them.

  3. It isn’t just the intolerance that leads to suicide, but also the intolerance that leads to hate crime, which I just heard are up in NYC this year over last, where this recent hate crime has caused outrage. NY mayor condemns hate crime against gay teen

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