Monday, October 18, 2010

The Harassment of Gay Children and Teens

First, I wish to apologize for my lack of posting lately. I have been sick for awhile now with a so far unknown illness, and there are times when I am just not able to write everyday.

The past few weeks, I have seen a flood of heartbreaking stories about children and teenagers taking their own lives after being relentlessly bullied, often because they were (or perceived as being) gay. Every single news story has brought tears to my eyes.

Although I personally am straight, two of my  three best friends are gay. Growing up, I saw them struggle, not only with bullies at school, but with their own families. In middle school, my male friend (having come out only to me and my two other best friends) would continue "dating" girls so the popular kids wouldn't call him a "fag" or "homo" all the time. In high school, we stayed up with my female friend all night when she was devastated at her father's reaction to meeting her first serious girlfriend (she is getting married to this women in the spring, and I couldn't be happier for her).

Because I have seen firsthand what such hate can do, these stories don't just make me cry, they absolutely infuriate me. The adults who attend churches where homosexuality is condemned and who lecture their children on how homosexuality is evil,  and who then claim they are not to blame for these suicides because they never explicitly told their children to torment their gay peers, infuriate me. The people who protest laws meant to protect homosexual and transsexual children and teens from harassment, claiming they violate their rights of free speech and freedom of religion, infuriate me. And the teachers who do nothing or who blame the victim for being "different" (which I realize is probably a small minority of teachers, but I have encountered them), infuriate me.

Homosexuality is not a choice, just as heterosexuality is not a choice. It is something programmed into our DNA, just as is our skin-color, gender, and height. Your religious beliefs do not give you the right to torment someone into suicide for a characteristic they have no control over. It is especially sickening in Christians. Do they truly believe Jesus would have treated homosexuals so poorly, especially the children? Dan Savage (who started the It Gets Better Project) wrote about this as well, in extremely blunt words:

"The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. [...] And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time. [...]You don’t have to explicitly “encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we’re seeing the fruits of it: dead children."

Despite advances in the past couple decades, homosexuality in many areas of the US is not tolerated and homosexuals themselves are not welcome. A gay child growing up in such an environment is irreparably damaged. Their own parents teach them they are "wrong" and that God is angry with them. Are we really surprised that some of them have taken their own lives?

The central tenet of my beliefs is God is love. God loves everyone absolutely equally. Personally, I do not believe God hates, or even disapproves, of homosexuals. Why would God create gay people and then punish them for expressing their unchangeable homosexuality, when He places no such restraints on heterosexuals? It makes no sense.

We must change the attitudes of society. Children are dying by their own hands because they are so terrorized by a world that hates them for who they are. It's shameful and disgusting. We must change, or more children will die and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

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