Friday, October 15, 2010

You Big Bully

Before reading this entry, I hope people will take the 12 minutes that it takes to watch this moving video.

It was made by Ft. Worth city councilman Joel Burns, reaching out to GLBT teens who are being bullied, to let them know that however bad it is, it will get better. My simple explanation does not give you the power of this message and you must watch it...especially the part that he dares not read -- still -- because he doesn't want his parents to know, all these years later.

A lot of people in the GLBT community are making videos like this, in the wake of the rash of teen suicides by kids who have just had it and can't take it any more. Tim Gunn also has a very moving video where he describes his suicide attempt at age 17.

Burns lists four other teens, bullied for being gay or who are perceived to be gay, who committed suicide in the past month.

- Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head with his father's gun after years of bullying for being gay.

- Though not self-identified as gay, Billy Lucas, 15. of Indiana, was perceived to be gay, and harassed daily. He hung himself in grandmother's barn.

- Justin Aaberg, 15, of Minnesota, hung himself in his room. His body was found by his mother.

- Seth Walsh, 13, was bullied from 4th grade through middle school. Bullies told him "the world doesnt need another queer" and told him to hang himself. He did.

While each of these tragic events is appalling, is it any wonder that high school bullies seem to see nothing wrong with torturing a student whom they think may be gay? Every day our government tells them, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, that gay people aren't as good as non-gay people. They can't serve in the military, they can't marry. They are "different." And bullies pounce on people they see as different.

The idea for this entry began to germinate when I read of the death of 15 year old Sladjana Vidovic of Mentor, Ohio, recently immigrated from Bosnia, who was bulled for two years. She jumped from bedroom window. At her funeral, her bullies laughed at her in her as she lay in her coffin.

A recent immigrant from Ireland, Phoebe Prince, 15, of Massachusetts, hung herself after being bullied for being different.

Where did kids learn that it's OK to bully someone who is "different"? Rodgers and Hammerstein nailed it years ago, in South Pacific

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

When little children learn from their parents that some people are not OK, whether because they are foreign-born, or gay, or because they worship in the wrong religious building, or they look funny or talk funny children grow up thinking they are better than those people and that it must be OK to give them a hard time about it.

When schools turn a blind eye to what is going on, kids have tacit approval to continue to harass and bully.

Shows like Glee seem to accept bullying as a normal thing. All those choir kids get routinely hit with cups of liquid and you never see the principal addressing the problem. Yes, it's a fictitional show, but in reading reports of the latest teen to be bullied to death you hear over and over again how school authorities did little to nothing to stop it, when parents report it, and seem to have turned a blind eye to what was going on under their very noses.

Steve wrote a song that tells the true story of a gay Arkansas high school student who was bullied, and what his mother did about it:

William was a boy in Arkansas
A little bit different
In redneck country
this was not very cool

So they called him a fag
And they called him a queer
They then jumped him on
the sidewalk after school

Tell me why does it take
five great big guys
To beat up one little queer
What do they fear? What do they fear?

William’s mom got in her car
And drove to the man in charge
He said "Boys will be boys
here in this school"

She said, "Where does it say
The victim gets the blame?"
She asked him if he
thought she was some fool

She said "Why does it take five great big guys
To beat up one little queer?
Why did you let five great big guys
Beat up on my only son?
What had he done?"

He said "It’s William’s fault
For walkin’ funny"
She said, “That’s gonna cost you money.”

So she sued the Board
And she won the case
And the judge got pissed
And the school disgraced

There were TV crews
Fayetteville made the news
Cause reporters will be reporters

And the boys will have to act like men
Or they’ll see the inside of the courtroom again

And bigots everywhere will start to fall
Cuz of one young boy and
A mother in Arkansas

One would hope that with all the reporting of the tragic deaths of young people in pain because of the words and actions of others, things might begin to improve. But when girls can stand at the coffin of a young woman whose death they caused, I despair of anything changing anytime soon.


Empress68 said...

That's an excellent post, and I know it will be seen. We are all different in some way, and some of us more than others. I have told of how I didn't have a close friend until I was in my teens (way too different from all the kids in grammar school).

I still call myself a "minority of one," and I consider myself so very fortunate that I could grow into who I am. Not to mention, away from who I am not.

And I'm so glad you used my favorite song to illustrate what we mean.

jon said...

It is strange that you bring up this issue today. There is also bullying in the workplace. My wife is involved in a situation where a fellow employee has bullied her.
The Kaka hit the fan today for the bully. They frown upon it in the work place. But the whole thing upset her so much that she is taking the day off. She is very stressed out. Ironically, it was not her that reported it.
It was her manager. Her manager saw what was going on and said the word "bullying" in an email to a higher up and things started going crazy from there.

I am not sure how this is going to be resolved.

Bev Sykes said...

I worked for awhile for a psychiatrist who did psychiatric evaluations on clients who suffered bullying at the workplace. Ironically, later on in his office I became the object of work place bullying, so I learned first-hand how destructive it could be. Fortunately, I left the job before it could do permanent damage. Your wife has my sympathies!