I must depart from the usual levity in this blog to say I am beyond angry, again, from the news that another teenager was bullied to death in large part because his tormenters thought he was gay.
According to an article I saw in the Houston Chronicle, via the JoeMyGod blog, Asher Brown, 13, put a gun to his head after months and months of torture by his classmates. The anti-gay bullying against the kid was unrelenting.
Asher’s parents said they complained to the school repeatedly but they did nothing. The school says they have no record of any bullying against Asher, but frankly, I find that hard to believe. As Asher’s mother said, she did not hallucinate making calls to the school, and the comments section in the Chronicle article filled up with people with stories of bullying in that school.
I have to wonder if the school figured if it’s not in writing, and not on videotape, it didn’t happen. I need more details to know for sure whether the school is culpable, but I smell a rat. If administrators are to blame, I want criminal charges pressed against them.
But the important issue here is that gay kids, or kids who are perceived as gay, are continually being bullied in this nation to the point of suicide. Gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts
There’s a lot of blame to go around. Kids bully, that’s a fact. And they need to be punished. Asher’s anguished mom had this to say to them:
“I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”
But adults abdicate responsibility. Some parents make no effort to stop their kids from bullying. Some adults look the other way. Some school administrators think “good” publicity is more important than the lives, health and safety of their students. Some, but not all “religious” and social conservatives think it’s entirely proper to continually harangue against gay people, thereby setting a tone where some people think tormenting gay kids is fine and dandy.
I’m talking about YOU, Maggie Gallagher, Ann Coulter, Matt Barber, National Organization For Marriage and all the rest.
I had a rough go of it in junior high and part of high school for a variety of reasons. When you’re that age, you think that things will always be the same. Frankly, I didn’t think life was worth living, if the rest of my life was going to be that grim.
I hung in there, but some kids don’t. So bright, creative, promising kids like Asher kill themselves, because tyranny prevailed.
I think about all I would have missed had I been one of those suicides. I’ve got the best partner in the world, a ton of warm, generous, smart and funny friends, an interesting life. If I had a penny for each time I’ve laughed in the past two decades, I’d make Warren Buffett look like a pauper. Clearly, things got better for me, and they do for most kids who have a tough time as teenagers.
There are things you can do to stop these suicides. Last month, a teen who bullies perceived as gay killed himself in Indiana. Dan Savage, the noted gay sex columnist and expert on LGBT issues, said he wished he could have told the kid in Indiana beforehand that it gets better.
So he launched the It Gets Better Channel on YouTube. Savage and his husband, Terry, made a video aimed at vulnerable teenagers describing how their own lives were difficult in high school, but as adults they have a wonderful marriage, a great kid, super careers and a very satisfying life.
Savage encouraged others to make similar videos for the channel and a lot of people have done so. The best way to protect these kids is with a lot of voices, so the It Gets Better Channel is a terrific idea. Consider making your own video and submitting it. .
Most sch0ols have anti-bullying policies in place. Some schools mean business and do a good job at preventing bullying. Other schools have the policies as window dressing, for that “good” public relations I talked about earlier. They don’t enforce the rules.
Parents and other adults must go into their schools –you have that right — and see for yourself what the climate is. If it’s not satisfactory, insist that it change until it does. Don’t be afraid of raising a ruckus. The kid you save might be your own.
Finally, consider donating to or otherwise helping The Trevor Project, which helps gay kids and discourages suicide and encourages positive self images for the youths and their families.
I must close on a positive note. Some schools are doing things right. Watch how Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif. responded when the vile Westboro Baptist Church came to town last winter. The students in this school give me hope that at least some of the kids are alright.