Note: I can’t sleep, I’m upset. After watching the news with my kids tonight, I needed to write this now, and not Friday. So, I will not post until Monday, despite what I wrote on The Middle, just 7 hour ago.
That’s right, call me a Fag. Call me Gay, Homo, Queer. There are lots of words, and they can get much uglier. They are just words, but words that kill, and words that need to change. Frankly, I’d be proud to stand up to those words and maybe we all should.
I could not sleep tonight because my thoughts keep going to the image of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14 year old boy that committed suicide this week, due in large part to anti-gay bullying. Fourteen years old; merely a baby, and yet he felt, in those last moments: that life was so bad, that death was the answer. While there is always a way to deflect the blame and take it off of the issue of anti-gay attitudes, this boy felt that being dead was better than being called Gay/Fag/Homo, every day. That is sick; and I feel sick about it.
In an interview with CNN tonight, his older sister told Anderson Cooper that she just hoped other kids would seek help, would reach out and find something other than suicide to solve their problems. She implored other teens to step up and do the right thing: reach out to someone who you know is hurting, who you know is being bullied. My heart broke, to see that girl say these words, shock still settled in her eyes, her face imploring people to do, what we should all do in the first place: be compassionate humans, who care for one another. In an appearance by the venerable Thich Naht Hahn recently, in Vancouver, I was deeply moved to hear him speak to the pain teens feel, that leads them to commit suicide. They are so unable to see the impermanence of the moment: that this moment will pass, and the next, and that the pain we feel in these moments eventually passes with the moments. Jamey’s sister delivered this same message, in the shadow of her own loss.
This is not the first young person to kill themselves because of anti-gay bullying. The list is shamefully long and horrifying, in that it speaks to a problem that we all see in the news, we read about, and perhaps we discuss, but how often do we truly stand up and say: enough! I am ashamed that I have felt this same helpless sadness each time one of these stories breaks; each time I discuss it with my own children; each time I hear whisperings of it in my own community; but then do not do more to take action. Would I be complacent if it was my own sons or daughter? I hope not, I believe I wouldn’t, but why then do I, we, turn our heads when it is someone else’s child? Do we turn away, unconsciously hoping it isn’t contagious? Or, is it the “there but for the grace…” attitude, that makes us quickly close the door and keep this out?
Even an anonymous child like Jamey Rodemeyer (<see Jamey’s video), who I’d never heard of until today, should know that we care enough to look at this and stand up against the cruelty that lead him to take his life. Now that his beautiful face is seared in my brain, what should I do to help stop one more Jamey from feeling that this is an answer? All you have to do is watch the videos of him, look at the pictures: how is he any different than our own children, in his innocent wonder and sweet beauty? I was struck by how lovely he was and how much he reminded me of my own children, in various shots: holding some sea creature, in wonder; hugging his mom on the beach; hamming it up with a funny hat; sitting for his school picture. He is my son, my daughter. The only difference is place and circumstance. Even that is a tenuous thing. When a teen in our community committed suicide 2.5 years ago, and many spoke quietly of the bullying she experienced (even upon her death), we were paralyzed to do more than grieve and wait for the pain to pass. I think of her parents and sibling often, and know that their pain will never end.
When I think back to my own days in Jr. High and High School, I remember being vaguely aware that some of my classmates might be gay. It was a different time for sure, when AIDS and gay activism was really just beginning, or coming out of its own closet. Yet, we knew who was “different” who might be “that way.” Why didn’t it bother me? I sensed that a few people I knew, some I was friends with, might be, but I don’t remember worrying about it or feeling threatened by it. If they were teased, I was unaware of it; and for that I am now sorry. I suppose, then, so many of us were in our own worlds, working out our own issues, as many teens today must still feel. However, we didn’t have Facebook and MySpace and Google, and all the other sites that I am woefully un-hip to. Middle Man laughs at my lack of tech savvy, but some days, I wonder if I’m not better off. We were better off then, I believe, in that the bullies couldn’t enter your home, couldn’t enter your bedroom, your phone, your every waking activity. If you were bullied at school, you went home and they were not there, even if the anxiety and fear followed you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying what people went through then. I have certainly heard in the years since, that people I knew in my youth were in fact harassed, and they could probably call me on the carpet here because that description is probably a sugar coated version of what they might have felt. However, I strongly believe that the age of constant connection, plugged in and turned on, 24/7 access to communication via cell phones and the internet, has made this problem that much worse. As Jamey’s mother, Tracy Rodemeyer said (paraphrasing:), in another time, Jamey might have had a break from school bullying, over the summer, but the bullies just followed him home, via the internet.
Jamey Rodemeyer (14); Eric Mohat (17); Carl Walker-Hoover (11); Justin Aaberg (15); Brandon Bitner (14); Tyler Clemente (18); Raymond Chase (19); Samantha Johnson (13); Jordan Yener (14)… the list is painfully long, and these are not all of the names. These are all kids who committed suicide recently due to anti-gay bullying, a term coined “Bullycide,” and virtually all of them felt plagued by the bullying, beyond school, in text messages and on-line harassment. This list grows even longer when you include kids who committed bullycide for non-gay related reasons. That list, interestingly, includes far more girls, who were called “whore, skank, slut, bitch, etc” until death seemed a better option, than those words. Watch the video clip Bullycide in America, it is very powerful; listen to the song; click on these links and read their stories.
^ Carl Walker-Hoover ^Samantha Johnson ^Eric Mohat
So I come back to the issue of being Gay. What if I did say: call me gay? Would those of you who know me change your views of me; would you treat me differently? How would my world change in regards to my relationships with the people I care about? I would still be me: reasons to like and dislike me abound and those would be the same. But would new people have fuel to throw and how would that look or feel? This thought keeps me awake tonight, as I grapple with how that young boy felt when he decided to take his life, just months after recording a video for the It Gets Better Project (click this link and check them out!). I’ve seen those videos, I’ve been touched by them, and yet I never took the pledge and I never really stepped up, until now.
I think of my classmates R, J, B, R, A, P, and the friends I’ve had who have been gay and lesbian and feel some shame that I haven’t done more. They are living this each day and I wonder if each time one of these stories hits the airways, they see themselves at that age and count their blessing that they made it through? Such a raw issue, that must hit very close to home when you’ve traveled that road. These tragedies hit the news and I cry as I watch them. I read the stories and then they fade away… until the next one. Tonight, it’s keeping me up, it has me wondering how many more and what we do to stop this. Many have suggested that legislation needs to be passed to make bullying a true criminal offense and I wonder how it hasn’t already been done. To hear Barbara Bachman (and truly, I am not picking political battles, but there she is, front and center today) say that this is “not a Federal issue,” I wonder how can it not be!
In a week where Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was finally repealed and Navy Lt. Gary Ross was finally free to marry his long time partner, Dan Swezy, in uniform, and gay and lesbian men and woman are now free to openly die for their country, (see Jon Stewart), we are faced with Jamey’s story as well. How truly bitter sweet. How painful for gay men and woman, to celebrate one hard won victory, to face such a painful loss. And, I do believe that Jamey’s death is a loss to all of us, but particularly to the gay community, who has seen one more kid die at the hands of “Gay! Fag! Homo! Queer!”
<— I snapped this today, as this story brewed in my head. Amen.
What if we all stood up and were called that? What if those words could lose their poison and be the mere words they should be? I would be proud to be called any one of those things, if that changed the picture. Until then, I am not sitting by and simply hitting “like” when my gay friends post tolerance based posts, that I agree with. I want to be the one making those posts and looking at what can be changed. I want to get off my ass and do more than care, from the safety of my bed, or this seat… tonight my bed didn’t feel so safe and for that I am vowing to make some changes. Until every person who loves someone is free to marry them and live whatever version of happily ever after they want; until all of our children who are figuring out their sexuality, feel safe to do so and look forward to a future that includes all the milestones and life choices that I had to choose from; until my gay friends feel safe to share their lives openly at work, in their communities, in this country; how can we continue to let each story fade and then act shocked when the next one comes?
I guess one night of missed sleep is a small sacrifice; tomorrow I will seek better solutions. How will I sleep tonight? How will you?
Speak up, share your thoughts on this and leave a comment. I can take it.
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- Anderson Covers Suicide of Gay Buffalo ‘It Gets Better’ Teen Jamey Rodemeyer: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Lady Gaga Vows To Fight Bullying After 14-Year-Old Jamey Rodemeyer’s Suicide [VIDEO] (now100fm.radio.com)
- RIP Jamey Rodemeyer (wegotyourbackproject.wordpress.com)
- Anderson Cooper Addresses Jamey Rodemeyer’s Suicide (perezhilton.com)
- Gay teen bullying victim who recorded an “It Gets Better” video commits suicide (boingboing.net)
- This is For The Educators Who Allow Anti-Gay Bullying To Continue. (thirtyoneorten.wordpress.com)
- Teen contributor to ‘It Gets Better Project’ found dead (digitallife.today.com)
My God, this is a solemn, solid article. Damn good on you for bringing this to more awareness. I had not heard of one of those kids. A 14yo? A 14yo? Are you serious? It’s parents, it truly is – it’s the adults of now, that need to be educated, and to learn acceptance. My God, so much we go through, and that’s just another thing. God bless each and every child, person, anyone, with an ounce of difference, suffering.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and for taking the time to read my post. Yes, 14, but then, two of the kids are 11! I feel sick, as well, that this is possible. Honestly, I don’t know if I agree with the parent theory. So many of the parents in so many of these pieces, sought help for their kids but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Schools/ teachers/Administrators are so afraid of being sued, or called on the carpet, they do not take strong enough action against bullying. THAT, in my opinion is the real culprit. The parents are often the ultimate losers: left with emptiness and regret. Thanks again for reading and sharing!
I just clicked on all the links you had in your article. I am so overwhelmingly saddened. As a teen, I wanted to suicide and contemplated it long, long, long, such was my anguish, but to ACTUALLY DO IT, my God, these kids must have been torn to shreds inside. This article, I say again, is just solid.
Thank you again! Yes, torn to shreds seems like a solid description. Each story is similar and yet each loss so unique. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
You just come to the heart of the matter as you pour out your own heart. This brings tears to my eyes, again, as each time I read another story about a youth committing suicide. The timeliness is interesting – my nephew’s frat brother hacked his facebook account and posted “I’m gay.” I commented that I hoped his “bothers” knew that in our family calling someone gay would not be a put down. It worries me that they don’t know that, and I hope my nephew’s presence may educate them.
Today I saw a very disturbing wall chat on my own nephew’s wall, about being gay. Talk about timely. It is very powerful to see how prevalent and hurtful this all is. I am so grateful that there are educators like you out there Heidi! One child at a time… compassion and caring. Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts!
Excellent Dawn- bullying is a terrible part of our society that should be addressed- no matter the reason. It is just easier if someone is gay.
Thanks John, I could not agree more! Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.
Eloquently and beautifully written. As a mother of an 18-year-old, this simply broke my heart.
It should break all of our hearts… it is just unbearable! Hold your son close and let him know that everything does get better… thanks for reading.
Bullying… intolerance… prejudice… why are these stains still with us, year after year? I keep thinking that we, as humans, will outgrow it. It seems like the common denominator is hatred, caused by fear, caused by ignorance. Well, if ignorance is at the root of the problem, it would seem that education is a good place to start. Spreading the word, like this blog. Spreading the love! Being “different” does NOT actually hurt or threaten anyone, that I can see. My own son was bullied, violently, just for associating with someone who was THOUGHT to possibly be gay. And for what? Who would have been hurt by that?
It seems to get worse, not better Val and I am amazed that each time one of these stories breaks the news, we still do not make giant steps forward. How could we NOT be talking more about this, in schools, in homes, in our communities? So sorry your had to deal with it as well. I am astonished, year after year, that my kids still get anti-Semitic slurs hurled at them, or that open bullying still continues… despite anti-bullying “policies.” Thanks for sharing.
Val, I beleive these stains are still with us because we keep pushing GOD out of our homes, schools, government. He is listening like a gentleman and kindly leaving.The living Word of GOD, written over 2000 years ago still stands true today:
New International Version (NIV)
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
I want to be clear that the offensive and hurtful comment, left here by a former class mate does not represent my beliefs or those expressed in my post. It is EXACTLY these narrow minded and intolerant views that have led to the bullying and violence directed against gay and lesbians all over. In addition, I find it especially offensive that these views are directed to another classmate who specifically spoke to the pain she and her family experienced at the hand of bullying. I do not believe in removing comments, as I think everyone has a right to their opinions, but I will only allow this space to be used this once. I will not leave further comments up, in which faith is used to hurt others. It is deeply offensive and unacceptable to me.
Not my comment you are upset at. It is the word of GOD written over 2000 years ago. Same word that continues to teach LOVE.
BULLYING IS WRONG. But will continue because people will continue to deny GODs word.
“1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” How can you say these views are offensive?
It continues because people use “God’s word” to do whatever they want. People USE the Bible to justify bullying, just as you do here Joe. To say that bullying will continue because people continue to deny God’s word, only suggests that gays, denying God’s word (as YOU posted) bring it upon themselves, but it does not speak to those who go against the bible by bullying in the first place. I also find it very disturbing that the bible is used to condemn some things, but not others. Please do not post any further bible passages here. It is not the place for preaching. If you do, I will need to remove them, which is my sole right to do, on my site. FOR THE RECORD: I did not condemn the verse you quote here, but the ones you used in your prior comment, to justify bullying and condemn homosexuality, Romans: 24, 26, 28.
Why was my last thought and opinion ommitted? I’m sorry, I assumed your blog was fair and balenced.
It was deleted Joe, as I said it would be. This BLOG IS fair and balanced but my comment box is not a place for you to preach. You have had two responses, saying THE SAME THING both times, and there is no need to continue this discussion. Please do not use this space to make bible postings; I will only delete them. Thanks for respecting that.
This just seriously made me fall into tears i basically had no idea about this little boy barilly a teenager and commited suicide because of bullying over his sexuallity people need 2 realise that god made all of us and he makes NO mistake(lady gaga) so why would he make you intentionally wrong think about that he loves all of us and we should love all
Im only 12 and im realizing that this world is a living shit im having nightmares about my bestfriend Comiting suicide over these people filled with hatred and its not right ive been called a fagot and had homo written on my locker because ive stood up for gay bulling and yes it hurts but when you realize that your helping someones lifeit just becomes into happines i will never ever discrimanate any1 and even though my dad might think that its just disgusting i dont care because im not him i think that its who they are and its just them
and yes IM 12 which means i dont fully understand the concept but its a huge problem thats going on in peoples everyday lives and its just heartbreaking to see a family member friend even a stranger go through when you no that half of the people that dont care can actually do something about it
Asia, I’m not sure how you found this blog, but I’m honored that you took the time to read it and write this response. I’m touched that my writing meant something to you. It is incredible that you have had the courage to stand up for what is right, and against bullying. I agree with you, that we should all accept each other, just the way we are and I believe that any loving God accepts that.
The world is NOT a living shit, but it sure can feel that way some times. However, what I do know is true, is that this moment and all that happens now, will pass. There is always hope for better times and what is so sad about Jayme Rodemeyer and other teens that commit suicide, is that they don’t understand that even really bad things will end and can get better. I’m sorry your friend is going through such a bad time. Writing on lockers, is just writing on lockers. Wipe it off and move beyond it. You’re right, it’s not right… so tell your school counselors and don’t let bullies win. Thanks for reading my blog and for sharing your thoughts. You are not alone. Show your friend the It Gets Better web site, it really helps! Hang in there! Check out this link: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
Very deep and well written. As a mother of a tween, it makes me wonder, what was it that those kids were lacking and missing in themselves, where the bulllying dug into them like a dagger, doing all the damage. What was it in these kids where they believed the cutting and stinging words of the bullies, over perhaps words from their friends and parents? It makes me so very sad to think that bullying can bring a person so far down that they can’t see the way out. And it also makes me so sad to see so many kids out there who feel so powerless and badly about themselves that they feel they have to make others around them feel like crap, too (to give themselves a false sense of power).
I tell my son that when people treat him badly or are mean to him, they do this because they want to feel powerful. They are not happy inside. I hope that by teaching him about people and their motives, it will help him in the future. But, I do also see in my son that when he becomes more than frustrated with life and school, and feels powerless to do anything about it, he turns it all inward. And that makes me sad. Some kids act out, my kid turns in.
Perhaps these kids who have committed suicide, came for a little while to teach us all that bullying needs to be addressed. It needs to not be stuffed under the table or shoved into a closet. It needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, for the benefit of ALL involved. The old paradigm isn’t working any longer and needs to go. Thank you for writing about this.
Thanks for taking the time to read it Mariner3mother. I’ve told my kids the same things, but there are a few VERY rough years, when what we say seems to have less impact (at times) than what they hear outside our homes. Very painful to think that kids that age believe that death would be better than living with what they are facing. The issue stirs me tremendously. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
really great post. the saddest thing is i don’t think if we know if these kids are gay or not at that age, they may not even know if they’re gay or not – the sad thing to me is that we let a sensitive kid get hassled relentlessly. it’s lame. and it needs to stop. too many adults just pass it off as ‘part of growing up’. when it really shouldn’t be. anyway, a sad issue. but, a great post.
I could not agree with you more… every word. I was feeling this so enormously when I wrote this post… and the sadness and frustration with our society and what so many kids face, lingers still. It’s not enough to say “It gets better;” we all need to do much better!
i so agree. ugh, well, good to know someone like you is out there. again, a great piece.
And again, thanks! I appreciate you taking the time… and sharing some thoughts. 🙂