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And now, your moment of queer rage.

October 1, 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that in the last three weeks there have been four different gay teens who committed suicide as a reaction to intense and repeated anti-gay bullying. All four of them were young gay men, two of whom were thirteen years old, one of whom was fifteen years old and the most recent of them was eighteen years old. That is four lives snuffed out because they could not live with the various forms of abuse being directed at them by their peers. And while one of those boys was technically an adult, let’s be real, all of them were children. Children, okay? Don’t gloss over that point. You know, children, the one who people always hold up as the innocent victims who need to be saved from the savage and sinful influences of us homosexual perverts. I guess this is where religious fundamentalists would start telling us about how only some children are worth saving and the rest can burn in hell. And you can be sure many someones in many places are preaching that same vile, toxic bullshit right now. Fred Phelps is probably rallying his troops right this very second to go protest at their funerals. And I can hope that just this once Mr. Phelps ends up on the extremely bad side of a horribly grieving parent.

There are barely words to express how awful these recently publicized suicides are – horrible and unnecessary and heart-rending. I mostly write about pop culture on this blog and in the last decade we have seen an ever-increasing amount of LGBT representation in mainstream pop cultureĀ  – from TV to movies to music – and what seems like an ever-growing tolerance and even, shock of shocks, acceptance. And then reality comes crashing down in the form of four dead boys who should have lived to be ancient before they left this world and it becomes clear that no amount of Glee or Project Runway or The L Word or Brokeback Mountain can take away the very real pain of living in a world where you are fed messages again and again and again – from your family, from your peers, from your co-workers and teachers and religious leaders – that everything about you is sick and wrong and dirty and horrible. And for some of us those messages are just too loud and too painful to endure for one more moment.

When I was 17 I came out of the closet to most of my friends and family. Well, to be honest, I came out of the closet to a few close friends, told one “social friend” who blabbed it to the rest of my tiny high school and then my mom read a very personal letter from a friend who I had come out to and then confronted me. So, you know, the usual parade of shit. I was lucky in a lot of ways, my family accepted me with some minor-to-less minor speed bumps and my peers at school were cool with it for the most part. (I seemed to get teased more as a kid before I came out than after I came out. I also had transferred from public school to a little artsy/hippie school, which was not perfect, but it was already a bit of a misfit culture as opposed to the relentless jock/preppie nightmare that public school was, so it was a bit easier. ) But the faculty at my high school went ballistic and acted like I was a walking potential rapist and that every male on campus was in danger from my lascivious and unnatural ways. I had a teacher who I had admired and felt close to take me aside one day and tell me all about a faculty meeting that was held where they decided they needed to let me know I couldn’t bring a guy to the prom. Regardless of whether or not I had a boyfriend (which I didn’t, of course, this was New Hampshire and it was 1991), they just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to “push my sexuality on the other students”. Mind you, they weren’t pulling aside my friends who were in a heterosexual couple who would basically make out and dry hump on a chair in the student lounge on a daily basis because there’s no way they were forcing their sexuality on anyone, right?

And that is where the crux of this lies for me. I want all of you reading this, especially my heterosexual readers and extra especially my heterosexual readers who consider themselves allies to queer folks, to think very hard about what it is like to grow up and live in a world where your sexual preference is seen as abnormal. As an anomaly. As wrong. As chosen and chosen based on being full of sin and evil. I want you to think of what it would be like to grow up with no role models for how to live your life, how to express your sexuality. I want you to think about all of the movies and television shows you’ve watched in your life, of how many books you’ve read and the vast number of songs you’ve heard and how many other pieces of media you’ve consumed that reflect some version of heterosexuality back at you. And now I want you to imagine having about 97% of that never existing and having to live off of those crumbs of representation for the bulk of your life. Because let’s not kid ourselves that the increased presence of queer folks in pop culture constitutes the massive avalanche that all the anti-gay, Bible-thumping, hate-mongers would have us believe. But the truth is, I don’t think any of you can imagine what I’ve written because you’ve had the good fortune of growing up in a world that reinforces and celebrates and totally backs you up for being who you are. But I still want you to think about this when you very honestly lament the loss of these young men, because that is so much of what is at the heart of this – people who don’t know how to live in a world that so often tells them they are wrong for simply existing. Can you maybe understand why some of us may think death is the only option to escape that?

And while it may be very well-intentioned to tell the kids It Gets Better, is that enough? Is that even true? I mean, I am all for giving people hope just like Harvey wanted to, but there’s a difference between hope for the far-flung future and hope for the now. And what about giving these kids and outlet for all of the bottled up rage and anger and frustration they feel? Or is that too icky and difficult to face? Because, trust me, it’s there. After having peers hassle me in the hallways in grade school, push me down the stairs and into lockers; after having my 5th grade teacher (who was such a closeted lesbian it wasn’t even funny) mock me in front of the entire class for being in plays instead of participating in sports; after the faculty watching me like a hawk and having meetings about me and after my step-sister telling me I “dress like a faggot” and after having a football player-sized guy gay bash me and my best friend in a Burger King when I was 17, I didn’t just need hope. I needed a punching bag or a concrete wall and a box full of cheap glassware. And that is what no one wants to talk about – how bullying and abuse and gay bashing places violence in our lives and inside of our souls. And that is the kind of damage that lasts longer than any of us may think. And don’t think for a second that those of us who don’t die didn’t suffer – we just managed to stay on this planet and continue to fight for our right to live on it. That’s the real tragedy here – that these kids didn’t think they deserved their place among us anymore. And I can only hope the people who pushed them to that point really understand the full depth of what they’ve done. And I hope they suffer with the knowledge of that for quite a long time.

Postscript: I had to add this one video from a young woman who posted her take on It Gets Better. Her words are so honest and amazing and I seriously have so much love in my heart for her saying what she says. Not platitudes, no sugar coating, just real and difficult and true.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 10:46 am

    This completely breaks my heart. It’s hard enough to be yourself in this world without being “bullied” Seems to me like lately, kids take it to a whole new level, like that 15 year old boy who was ignited in gasoline and set on fire, or the girl who was beaten to within an inch of her life by a group of teenaged girls. What causes people so young to be so hateful????

    If only the kids who killed themselves had found the strength to reach out–we would have all had their backs!!!! It is a very distressing idea that the younger generations might be just as homophobic as past generations. Adults need to think veeeeerrrryyyyy carefully about the messages they are giving their children with policies that denying gays fundamental rights such as the right to marry, serve openly in the military or adopt children. What message does that send to kids? That gays are “different” and don’t deserve the same treatment. It is major, major BULLSHIT.

  2. October 1, 2010 10:50 am

    p.s.– shout-out to my fav fictional gay teens–the young man playing the nephew on Ugly Betty, and cutie-pie Curt on Glee (who I would have followed around like a lovesick puppy dog in high school!)

  3. October 1, 2010 1:18 pm

    My heart keeps breaking every time I see another soul lost to the fuckery of others. This week has kept my stomach churning.

    And that is where the crux of this lies for me. I want all of you reading this, especially my heterosexual readers and extra especially my heterosexual readers who consider themselves allies to queer folks, to think very hard about what it is like to grow up and live in a world where your sexual preference is seen as abnormal. As an anomaly. As wrong. As chosen and chosen based on being full of sin and evil. I want you to think of what it would be like to grow up with no role models for how to live your life, how to express your sexuality.

    Testify! Growing up being told your sexuality is deviant, or told your sexuality is tolerable only if you’re showboating or when it’s sanitized and portrayed by Kevin Kline is demoralizing. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for speaking to “allies”. Being queer but largely invisible (and acknowledging the het privilege afforded by the invisibility) means there are so many people who don’t realize they know and LOVE queer folks. We are your bffs, your sisters, your moms, your aunties and even your romantic partners. Our people are killing themselves because of shame, bullying and intolerance.

    Again, thank you for this. Much love to you.

  4. Audra permalink
    November 28, 2010 1:18 pm

    You know.. I hesitate to write because of fear of not being understood, so perhaps anyone reading this will relate to at least that part of what I am saying.

    My name is Audra and I am a heterosexual Christian. I write to apologize for sins done in the name of Christ, who was more gracious and loving than any of His followers are or can be. There isn’t a human born who isn’t sinful and messed up. For people pretending to be perfect in the name of Christ.. I apologize. I have been there, thinking that somehow my actions made me better than others. But the Truth, the reality that is and should be the basis of true Christianity is the admittance that HOLY CRAP… I, working my hardest and trying my best, am a screwed up jerk and only by the grace of one who truly loved and truly could look at any sinner with complete compassion, can I love others without the purpose being to serve myself. The top two commandments for Christians.. love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.. and the other one that is like it, love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.

    I am terribly sorry for those who have been sinned against by people proclaiming Christ (which might be every single person reading this and even myself). I am also sorry for my own crappiness towards anyone, homosexual or heterosexual. Please don’t ever fall into judging Christ by His followers, because we’re all “broken vessels” a.k.a. screwed up people in need of a savior, but I pray that God will convict those claiming Christ to truly live out not just tolerance, but LOVE for everyone.


    • November 29, 2010 6:02 pm

      Audra, I think you make some really great points even they don’t dovetail 100% with my personal beliefs. Thanks for reminding us all that there are great Christians out there and the ones getting all the attention with their hate don’t represent the whole.

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