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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘lgbt teens

The Importance of Gay Role Models

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve strongly held that the world would benefit greatly from every LGBT person coming out of the closet.  Such an action would serve two very positive purposes:  1.)  it would show the world, a world that tends to minimize those of us who are LGBT, that we are solid, contributing citizens of our society who needs, and deserves, to be recognized as such; and, 2.) it could potentially save young lives by providing some of the struggling, young LGBT youth positive, strong, and gay role models.

This week, former NFL player Wade Davis announced he is gay.  Granted, Davis never played a single down on an NFL field.  That was because of injuries, not due to lack of talent.  And, certainly not from a lack of effort.  He tells a story of what it was like to be gay, open only to himself, in an NFL locker room.  Imagine the impact that an openly gay athlete would have on a growing-but-struggling LGBT teen boy.  The message that boy would get would be “you’re fine just the way you are, you can do whatever it is in life you want to do, and I’m proof that it truly will get better.”  That’s potentially life-saving.  How many of these young LGBT teens have given up hope and taken their lives because of a sense of hopelessness?  Their vision of the world is tainted by the extreme bullying they received constantly because of who they are.  They’re told, in one form or another, that their life is a non-factor.  Or, as one recent anti-gay group put it on their website, “It Gets Worse”!  Even more troubling, they don’t have many role models to look to and say, “that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Imagine how many young, LGBT girls Ellen DeGeneres has positively impacted.
We’re living in a very unique time right now.  The march towards equality for the LGBT community may be slow, sometimes seemingly snail-paced, but it’s steady.  Why else do you think we’re witnessing unprecedented lashing out from the other side?  To them, they’re fighting for their moral (?) lives.  And, they fully understand that the fight is much harder than they ever imagined it would be.  For us, the members of the LGBT community and our supporters, we’re also fighting for our lives.  We’re fighting for the right to just exist happily without having to deal with “them” imposing their misguided and often ridiculous “morality” on us.
We’re also fighting for our youth.  With 9 out of 10 LGBT teen reporting having been bullied at school, 90%!!!, and with the suicide rate amongst LGBT teens skyrocketing, we’re fighting fiercely to end that trend.  We end that trend by making them realize that they do have a place in this world.  We end it by letting them know, not by mere words but by example as well, that it really, truly will get better.  We end it by showing them role models of people who, like them, grew up gay, knew it early on in life, dealt with the ridiculously mindnumbing abuse that we sometimes must endure, yet made it through and are now living happy, productive, and promising lives.
To get to that point, however, we need more and more people, like Wade Davis, to step forward and be that example.  I’m not naive.  I fully understand that, in some cases, coming out of the closet would amount to professional suicide.  Imagine, a LeBron James coming out!  Or, a Bill O’Reilly.  Or…pick a name.  You get my point.  However, it’s that very culture, that unforgiving mindset that we’re working tirelessly to interrupt and, eventually, change.  It’s going to take a lot more work.  It’s going to take more people, like Wade Davis, stepping up and coming out as who they really are.  In some cases, I understand that that’s a hard thing to do.  I get it.  But, it’s so incredibly important.  Our LGBT youth are counting on us, the LGBT adults, our friends and families, and our supporters.  In too many cases, lives are depending on it.
I can’t think of any better reason than that.
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Playing Politics with Teens’ Lives

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An unidentified 15-year-old girl has succumbed to bullying in Livingston County, KY.  Her suicide brought the number of teens in Livingston County who have committed suicide to 3 in the past 5 months.  Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers recently struck down a bill that would’ve strengthened the anti-bullying laws there and could’ve saved her life.

Parents in Kentucky are picketing for zero-tolerance for bullying.  I applaud them.  I also think it’s time to get very serious with our political machine and let them know that their politics are costing lives.  I can’t put it any clearer than that.

Following the suicide of a 13-year-old due to bullying in October 2011, a 14-year-old girl testified before the House in an effort to get the bill passed that would provide greater protection for all students.  Sadly, however, Rep. Sam Waide (R) had this to say about why the bill was struck down:

House Republicans …blocked passage of the law on grounds it would place “gay rights in our schools,”

I’m of reasonable intelligence, with better-than-average reading comprehension skills.  What they said was that it’s more important to uphold their own anti-gay beliefs than it is to pass measures that will save lives!  HOW is that possible?  How is it that we’re allowing our political “leaders” to place their beliefs over human lives?  And, this isn’t exclusive to Kentucky.

  • Stacey Campfield, Tennessee, is still trying to pass legislation in Tennessee essentially disregards the existence of LGBT teens.  Worse, he wants to pass legislation that will sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.
  • There’s legislation in place right now, awaiting passage, in several other states that will also sanction the bullying of LGBT teens.  To clarify, the language of these bills basically says that it’s ok to bully an LGBT teen as long as it’s done for “religious, political, or philosophical reasons.”
  • And, we can never forget the disaster of Anoka-Hennepin.  The culture of hatred and intolerance towards the LGBT community there created by Michele Bachmann and her religious, ultra-conservative followers created what amounted to an outbreak of LGBT teen suicide in her district.

These are just a few of the extreme cases that we know about.  Whereas these three instances are bad enough, (and, make no mistake:  they are atrocious!), you can rest assured that there are more around the country.

Recently, one member of the facebook blog page voiced his concern that I was “bashing” the Republican Party on the page in the blog posts.  I’m all about equality for all members of our society.  One party tends to be for equality for all people; one party tends to want certain groups of people to, well, disappear.  Do your own math.  It really isn’t that hard to figure out.  That’s not bashing; that’s just reality.  And, trying to spin it any other way is as reckless and dangerous as their actions.  Period.

When protecting one’s political and/or religious beliefs become more important than protecting the lives of the people they were elected (read: hired) to protect, especially when said people are teens, it’s time for them to find new occupations.  Clearly, they don’t understand their job description of public servant.

Meanwhile we, the concerned and compassionate citizens, can afford to wait no longer.  Far, far too many lives are being lost, friends and families being destroyed, to continue to sit back and let this continue.  It doesn’t matter if “they” agree or disagree with one’s sexual orientation.  When “they” are willing to pass legislation that is proven will cause great harm to or, in this case, block legislation that will protect all of their citizens rather than just the ones “they” approve of, it’s time for “them” to go.  It’s that simple.  A life is a life, gay or straight.  They don’t get to play God and choose who gets to live and who doesn’t.  And, while on that subject, the argument of “it’s against God’s will…”?  Yeah, save that.  In that same Bible that “they” use to bash people, it also says that only God can judge.  If a person’s sexual orientation is truly against God’s will, let them and God deal with it on Judgement Day.

Supporting Diversity Role Models

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This is getting good.  Lately, there’s been more “good news” stories to write about than the heavy alternate.  I like that.

In the U.K., there’s an organization called Diversity Role Models.  Their mission is to do just that:  provide role models for LGBT teens in an effort to help combat bullying and avoid attempted suicides.

The movement is growing worldwide!!  I wrote earlier about the Monster March Against Bullying that’s set to occur here in the U.S. in October.  And, there’s more coming all the time.  Power in numbers.  Our numbers are growing worldwide, and this is a prime example.

From June 29th through July 20th, Andrew Makin will bike through England, Wales, and Scotland – over 700 miles!! – to raise money for Diversity Role Models.  It’s a cause everyone can get behind.

“Why Does It Matter?”:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Two thirds of them suffer bullying at school. They often don’t have an adult to talk to at home or at school. We all know bullied students can’t focus on learning and achievement.

But it’s not just LGB and T young people. Straight students are terrified of being called ‘gay’. Girls drop out of sport and boys hide artistic talent to conform to gender roles and avoid being labelled gay or lesbian.

And what about the young people who have LGB or T family members? Do they feel safe talking about their loved ones openly?

This issue affects ALL young people. Someone needs to talk to them about diversity; it’s a difficult topic. We accept this challenge.

Says Diversity Role Models:

Not only does Diversity Role Models help the young, it is changing the standing of all LGBT people for the better. By educating schoolchildren, and challenging the remnants of homophobia in popular culture, it breaks down barriers by showing LGBT individuals as real people.

We are all too familiar with the effects of homophobic bullying as it pertains to LGBT teens.  We are, sadly, also too familiar with the reality that “the other side” still doesn’t get it and is more than willing to turn a blind eye or sweep it under the carpet.  Therefore, it is completely up to us, the LGBT community – both young and old – to take matter into our own hands and protect, and nurture, our LGBT teens.

Andrew Makin is doing his fair share in June.  We can all be a part of it, though, from wherever we are in the world.  We can learn more about Diversity Role Models on their webpage; and, we can donate to his fundraiser page for this summer’s bike ride across the U.K.

There are a lot of great causes out there today; however, being involved in turning the tide on homophobic bullying of LGBT teens, and homophobia in general!, and attacking the LGBT teen suicide rate ranks right at the top of the list for me.

We Need Voices, Voices, and MORE Voices!!!!

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In Maryland today, Gov. Martin O’Malley made history by signing into law the same-sex marriage bill.  It goes into effect January 1, 2013.  And, before it even has chance to go into effect, before the first same-sex couple has the chance to tie the knot, the opponents are already in high-gear to get the law repealed.

Over the weekend, 18-year-old Cody Rogers was savagely attacked in a homophobic rage.  The only provocation was that he was who he is:  a gay man.

Stacey Campfield is STILL trying to pass legislation that would effectively legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, putting more LGBT teens at risk.

In that same state, Tennessee, a school principal resigns under pressure after telling gay students that they’re going to Hell!  A SCHOOL PRINCIPAL!!!

Newt Gingrich makes the assinine statement that TEACHERS are to blame for same-sex marriages!!!

ENOUGH!!

Understand that that’s just the short list.  I could go on and on and on ad nauseum.  The point I’m making should be clear:  the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance (and, ignorance) is very far-reaching.  With all of this lack of acceptance, bigotry, and utter ignorance, it’s no wonder we’re seeing so many LGBT teen suicides; it’s no wonder that a Cody Rogers can’t go to a party without fear of being attacked simply because of who he is.  The hatred is being taught by lawmakers, teachers, religious leaders, and in some cases parents.

Just moments ago, I was talking to an 18-year-old LGBT man who is trying to make a difference.  He had a girl he was talking to who was being bullied and wanted help making it stop.  She told her mother.  Her mother didn’t listen.  She told her teacher.  (S)he didn’t listen.  NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION!!!  Yet, as soon as one of these young people take their life, there’s the redundant outcry of “THIS HAS TO END!!”  Damn right this has to end, but what are we doing to make that happen?

People are denying, or attempting to deny, the LGBT community everything from the right to marry the person they love to equal protection under the law.  To be sure, Cody Rogers’ attacker was charged with simple assault for the very brutal and savage beating that Cody endured.  Why?  Because, in Oklahoma, sexual orientation isn’t protected under their hate crime laws.  How is this even possible in this country in 2012!?  Do you want to know how?  I will tell you.  It is possible because we, as a community, allow it to happen.  Plain and simple.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying:  we, the LGBT community, and society as a whole, are making enormous strides in the right direction, which is equality for ALL.  At the same time, it is my opinion that more can be done.  Lots more.

What’s needed is we need to keep increasing our numbers in the battle to win equality, in the war against bullying, and in the attempt to end this plight of LGBT teen suicides.  Since the time I got actively involved, I’ve witnessed amazing growth in numbers, and I’ve seen some great things come from it.  We can never be complacent.  There’s always more to be done.  Why?  Because for every gain we achieve, “they” are lining up to take it away from us.

We need voices, voices, and more voices.  Are you signing petitions when they come around?  Are you speaking out against the hatred and intolerance?  Are you supporting the Cody Rogerses of the world?  That’s what we need.  We need voices.  As the poisoned, culturally crippled faction try to undo everything we accomplish, we need to meet and at least double their numbers.  It would be a travesty of justice, not to mention just plain wrong, if “they” were to win in Maryland and get this new same-sex marriage law reverse even before the first couple gets to marry.  We can make sure that doesn’t happen.  As has been proven over the course of history, and as has been witnessed right here within the community of this very blog, there IS power in numbers.

Listen, we will win this battle.  I have no doubt about that whatsoever.  All around us, culture is changing.  People’s attitudes are changing.  Twenty-five years from now, there will be marriage equality from coast-to-coast and, most likely, around the world.  The social climate towards the LGBT community will have shifted to a point where gay and lesbian teens won’t feel such a sense of hopelessness that they feel they have to end their life.  That’s coming!  I have no doubt about that.  However, in the here and now, we still have plenty of work to do in order to get to that day.  I recall being a young man in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic there.  I remember watching friends die, literally, on a daily basis.  I became active with a group called ACT-UP.  My bosses were gay, yet they were very annoyed with me for being a part of such a group.  “You’re part of the problem!!!”  I assured them that they were the problem.  See, they had become complacent.  They owned their own successful business.  They had nice homes and enjoyed a fabulous lifestyle.  They had gotten their slice of the American pie, and they were satisfied.  The rest of the world be damned.  Sadly, within the next 6 months, all three of them had succumbed to the very scourge that I laid my body in the middle of the street for in effort to bring more attention to.

Don’t become complacent.  Stay connected; be involved.  We need your voice.

Is There Such Thing as TOO MUCH Emphasis on Teen Suicide?

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Incredible question, right?  Yet, I was recently told just that.  Actually, on one of the social networking pages that I was running, I was booted by the original owner of the page because I was putting too much emphasis on LGBT teen suicides.  TOO MUCH EMPHASIS!?

Research shows, clearly, that LGBT youth attempt suicide up to 4 times as often as their hetero counterparts.  We witness all-too-often another LGBT teen suicide in the news.  That says that there isn’t ENOUGH emphasis being put on the matter.

(as a side note, I was told by the owner of the page that “I’m all for gay-related issues…I have lots of gay friends.”  That’s akin, in my mind, to the old catch phrase “hey, I’m not racist.  I’ve got a black friend.”)

Just in the past month, we’ve seen in the news how certain politicians are attempting to pass bills that would make life even more difficult for LGBT students.  Stacey Campfield, (R) Tennessee, is determined to get his “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed in a district that already has an anti-bullying law in place that excludes discrimination because of sexual orientation.  The teen, and primarily LGBT teen suicide rate in Michele Bachmann’s district got so bad, a national publication thankfully ran a must-read article about it.  There are jurisdictions in this country that are still attempting to pass bills that would sanction the bullying of LGBT teens by adding the language that would permit the bullying if it’s done for “religious, philosophical, or political beliefs.”  That’s amazing in this day and age.  And, I can’t put enough emphasis on the issue of LGBT teen bullying and suicides.

To be fair and see things through her eyes, the owner of the page I was running points out that there’s many different forms of bullying:  bullying in the workplace and domestic violence.  That’s very true.  There IS an issue of bullying in the workplace.  And, domestic violence is very much a serious issue.  Bullying on all levels needs to be addressed.  We have a tendency to be a very mean-spirited people.  My only point, which I stand by, was that mixing all of them together in one place would be awkward, at best.  A community for ending domestic violence?  I’m on board.  Bullying in the workplace?  Sign me up.  Teen, and especially LGBT teen bullying and suicide.  I will die on the front line of that battle.  What rattled me, and rattles me still, was being told that I was putting too much emphasis on the issue.  There’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny; there’s no such thing as the Tooth Fairy; there’s no such thing as too much emphasis on LGBT bullying and suicides.

Love Your Children (No Matter What)

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I just read a comment left on a previous blog entry, and it struck me that that was the perfect message to expound upon with this being Valentine’s Day.

I’m straight, I have 2 kids. I spoke to them about all aspects of sexuality at several stages in their lives. I assured them that if they were gay or straight, nothing would change my love for them, why would it?? Both of my kids are straight. My daughter had the opportunity to support a close friend of hers, who had a strict religious upbringing. He felt brave enough to come forward because of that support. He doesn’t have to hide who he is, and his parents actually get to know what a great kid they have!! You owe it to your children, to let them know early on that you will respect there choices. I would do anything to protect my children, and ensuring them they are loved and accepted is the ultimate gift you can give.

Strong message.  Unfortunately, as was the case with EricJames Borges, that doesn’t always happen.  Too often, parents allow their own prejudices, intolerance, and myopic views come between themselves and their teens who are struggling to be accepted just for who they are.  Just the other day, a teenager posted:

All parents should be aware that when they mock or curse gay people, they may be mocking or cursing their own child.

That is a message I’ve been stating for years.  I’m afraid that, especially in the so-called Bible Belt region, this plays out far too often.  The problem with that, of course, is that there will always be emotionally wounded teens left in its wake.  They’ve heard, probably for as long as they can remember, mommy and daddy rant about how sick or perverted or immoral or even “disgusting” gays and lesbians are.  And, of course, mommy and daddy never once took the time to recognize the fact that their own son or daughter could be one of the very people they’re ostracizing.  Meanwhile, with each word cutting through them like a dagger, the LGBT teen is slowly but surely being killed by the ones who gave them life.  The ones who are supposed to love them no matter what.  Of course, when I say “being killed”, I don’t necessarily mean literally.  There are certainly more cases than not where the child survives the verbal abuse handed to them by their parents.  However, emotionally, they are often good as dead.  If not completely flat-lined, they suffer multiple stab wounds by the verbal dagger swung their way by their parents and are left for dead.  In some cases, it takes years for them to recover from that.  Their self-esteem thrown to the ground and run over by a 50-car freight train.

The message in the comment left on the blog entry is about love.  Coincidentally, today, Valentine’s Day, is also supposed to be about the same topic.  Take time out today to show the people closest to you that you truly love them just as they are and with no strings attached.  You won’t even need a Hallmark card to do that!

Written by Ron Kemp

February 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Meet Brett: He Wants to Make a Difference

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I saw this video posted on my wall (actually, it was the Jamie Hubley wall, but that IS “my” home wall), and it didn’t really grab my attention.  Since the Jonah Mowry phenomena, there’s been a plethora of people, young and not-so-young alike, posting their videos, flash cards at the ready, in response to Jonah’s original video posted in the first week of December.  I’d grown weary of them, to be honest.  So, I overlooked this one.

However, Brett won out.  I gave in and watched.  And, I was moved.  Done in “Jonah Mowry” style, with flash cards, it really isn’t in response to Jonah, after all.  Rather, Brett decided to reach out to other LGBT teens who may be struggling with…whatever.  What a novel idea!!  I watched the video from beginning to end…twice!  The message is positive and very powerful.

Brett is gay, himself, but not yet openly so.  He’s been through what most gay teens have to endure:  the insecurities of the “what ifs”; the rejection; and, possibly even some bullying.  Luckily, though, he was accepted and loved just for who he is by his family and close friends.  That makes such a huge difference in a young LGBT life.  So, as a way of paying it forward, he’s reaching out to other LGBT teens to show them the same love and support he’s receiving.  You can’t beat that!

What I would love to see happen would be for his positive-message video to go viral in the same what that Jonah’s initial cry-for-help video did in early December.  That video has been viewed over 9 million times since I saw it for the first time.  Brett’s message is no less powerful.  And, just as the world responded to Jonah, so should they respond to Brett’s invitation to other struggling teens.  His message and open-armed invitation could help save some lives.