The bullying of LGBT children has become a common theme of late, with state governments around the nation addressing this controversial topic. Just this past Friday, a 14-year old boy from Tennessee took his own life because of the constant harassment and degradation that allegedly went unaddressed by school officials. Countless others have taken their lives over the past few years, because of the torment that their fellow students inflict upon them because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.
In response too many of these tragic deaths, religious individuals across the nation have decided that instead of addressing the topic of LGBT bullying directly (aka. punishing the bully), it is the fault of those students who are LGBT that they are being bullied. These people assert that if those students would be “normal” (aka. straight), they would not be bullied. But because these children have ‘chosen’ to be gay, it comes along with the territory that they would be bullied for that ‘choice’. To these individuals, the increased rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse of LGBT teens is a direct consequence of their choice in sexual orientation. Because they believe that there is something inherently disordered about a homosexual sexual orientation or a differing gender identity, they ‘logically conclude’ that such a disorder has other consequences. A gay kid commits suicide, not because he is bullied because of his sexual orientation, but because he knows that there is something intrinsically wrong with him. That the tormenting words of the bullies are true, that he is a “fag” and that he somehow made the choice to be one.
The psychological torment associated with such a belief drives many LGBT children to depression and even suicide. When you are told that you have chosen something inherently disordered, yet do not even recall making that choice, you start to believe that there is something wrong with you; that you are “damaged goods”. To these children, there seems to be no hope, because no matter how hard they try, they cannot change the feelings and attractions that they have.
I know what the kids feel, because I have been there. From my first recollection of having a “crush” (I was six, so I don’t know if crush is the best word) on the tour guide at Disney world, I knew that I was different. Though I was homeschooled, and thus escaped much of the daily harassment that LGBT children go through, I was exposed to some through sports leagues. I was told I was a sissy, a girl, and made fun of for sitting with my legs crossed (and this was in a religious league). I have known the hopelessness of being told that something was ‘wrong’ with me, and that I was living in rebellion. I have tried to change my sexual orientation (8 months’ worth of trying), and could not make myself ‘normal’. I barely escaped with my life, some days just wanting to end it all because I could not live with myself, knowing that I was gay, yet trying to come to grips with the messages that were being flung at me by my religious community, my family, and my friends.
In my last post, I discussed the notion of power when it comes to rights, responsibilities, and protections of vulnerable minorities. The new tactic by religious leaders, state legislators, and religious individuals of blaming the victim for anti-gay bullying ties well into this power framework. If these individuals recognize that such bullying exists and that it must be addressed, their very conception of homosexuality and gender identity as ‘disordered’ and ‘sinful’ must also be addressed. No longer will it be appropriate to tell these children that they made the choice to be gay and that they must live with the consequences of such a disordered choice, for instead such children will need to be protected and validated. Such validation goes against the entire pyramid of Judeo-Christian superiority, where ‘traditional morals’ must be enforced even if such morals destroy the lives of countless children, families, and churches.
Thankfully, the American public is waking up to the fact that bullying, no matter if it is because of ones’ sexual orientation, weight, race, or creed, is wrong. They know that the fault for bullying lies not with the victim, but instead with the oppressor. And it is because of this that I know that the virulent rhetoric of fundamentalism, which blames the oppressed instead of the oppressor, is increasingly falling on deaf ears. But till such voices are finally regulated to the fringe, I must ask - how many children must we lose before the American people fully recognize that being bullied because of one’s sexual orientation is wrong?