October 26, 2010 by D Stack
Over the past several weeks there has been a tragic wave of gay high school and college students taking their own lives, finding themselves forcefully outed and subjected to cruel bullying.
Being heterosexual, that is something I have never had to deal with. But I understand how horrible bullying can be. I’m 39 years old. I’ve dealt with mental health issues, the deaths of loved ones, sick children, unemployment, and other “real-world” issues. But thus far the worst year of my life was my first year in middle school as a 6th grader.
I liked elementary school just fine. But middle school was a special kind of hell. I was a chunky, geeky kid who apparently had a sign on him that read “torment me”. Every day brought taunts, from the fact I didn’t wear the right jeans to I didn’t have a cool place to hang out to I was a fat ugly blob. Spitballs flying toward my hair. Taunts on the bus. Teachers who decided not to notice. And every day brought this. To be honest the worst aspect of it were the friends from elementary school who decided turning on me would keep them safe.
The Columbine shootings were a horrible event. But I have to be honest – I can absolutely understand how kids could be pushed to the point of going on a murderous/suicidal shooting spree. Condone it? Absolutely not. But I can understand it.
Bullying for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gender high school and college students must be an even worse kind of hell. Not only do you have the “standard” hell of bullying, but a significant portion of the population holds the belief that you are a threat to marriage, you are so dangerous that you cannot allowed in the military, you can be “cured”.
New Jersey is examining it’s anti-bullying laws. Hopefully something will be done in this area. To use a bad word, what I really could have used though was some empathy. Teachers and classmates aware I (and many others) were being treated horribly. And caring about that.
What I’d love to see is many of the organizations that have been standing against gay marriage to take a stand – a strong stand – against the bullying of LGBT children. My own Catholic Church has constantly denounced gay marriage, a stand I believe is very misguide. But surely God does not want anyone, whether they be sinners or not (and are we not all sinners?) to be taunted into suicide?
I would be remiss I did not mention The Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide-hotline for gay and questioning youth. They’ve partnered with the It Gets Better Project, dedicated to giving messages of hope and inspiration LGBT youth. To quote their website and some of the statistics:
Many LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can’t imagine a future for themselves. So let’s show them what our lives are like, let’s show them what the future can hold in store for them.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.
- LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens.
- More than 1/3 of LGBT kids have attempted to commit suicide.
- LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.
- LGBT youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.
I obviously can’t speak directly with experience on that issue, having never been bullied or harassed for my sexuality. But I can say life does get better. I’ve gone to school, worked with, played D&D with, and argued with people of different sexual orientations than my own. And while their sexuality, like my own, is part of who they are, it’s never been of any real account in my interactions with them. It’s never made them a better or worse engineer or D&D player…
As for myself, my own life has gotten better. I wish I could say the wounds of those days don’t still hurt from time to time. I still remember them like they were yesterday. And I still can’t forgive those who bullied me – I do not have happy thoughts for them (though I am grateful for the friends I did have through those times). But my life is so much better than I could have imagined. I have a wonderful wife. Two daughters who mean the world to me. I’ve been successful in my career. Life has it’s problems. But it did get better. I’m glad I got through those days.