Response to a Clueless Commenter About Gay Bullying

Earlier today, I came across a story on CNN about bullying…  a kind of story that is far too common and equally as heart-breaking as any other…  But something unexpected happened as I read through the comments:

“I don’t get why this is such a big deal.  These kids just need to get thicker skin and the media needs to stop giving these stories so much attention.  It is all your fault (referring to CNN) that these kids kill themselves.  You put shame out there and make them aware of it, then they kill themselves.  It’s that or they must have terrible family or parents.  It’s not like they are the only ones being bullied.”

Now, I have heard this before…  but never really responded, but something about this today made me type back.  My response:

It is interesting.  Whenever bullying is brought up, one type of bullying almost immediately comes up:  gay bullying.  Now, I am happy about that because it means that people are aware and talking about it.  Conversation is a wonderful thing, even we disagree.  That said, I want to address the bullying comment and how it really impacts people, how it is more than just “bullying,” and how it doesn’t end at school.

I really don’t like that “bully” is the word so closely associated with this very real problem.  These kids are not being bullies.  They are committing hate crimes in school.  Think of an adult.  If a man in his 20’s or 30’s comes up to me on the street and pushes me into a wall and yells derogatory words, that is a hate crime.  It is assault and battery, and it is illegal.  It is a traumatic event that seems to be less common in adulthood than in childhood, which makes sense as we are, as children, still figuring out what is right and wrong.  Now certainly, I am not suggesting that we treat children that commit hate crimes as severely as an adult.  I find that to be over-reactive and inappropriate.  However, I think that if we can disassociate these attacks from bullying, then maybe people will take them more seriously.  Gay-bashing in school is a special, and more damaging, kind of “bullying” than say a fat kid, or a nerd, or an autistic person.  Those kinds of bullying typically stay at school.  They rarely accompany a kid home or to church.

…for many, there really is no support because the “bullying” never ends.

That is the difference in impact as being “bullied” for being gay does not end at youth and it does not end at school.  In our world, while things are getting better, gay children are bombarded with concepts that being gay is unnatural, that people will hate them for being gay, that their parents will disown them, that their church will judge and shame them.  And this does not come from a school-yard shouting match or scuffle.  It comes from many facets of life that are far beyond just school.  It can come from parents, preachers, community leaders, T.V., radio, the Internet, etc…  This is why it has so much more impact.  Because for many, there really is no support because the “bullying” never ends.

When an overweight kid gets bullied, he can talk to someone about it.  He will get support, if a kid of color, or handicap, or certain appearance gets bullied, there can be support as they will be able to talk to someone about it.  How can a gay child go home and talk to their parents about being attacked for being gay when the child is afraid of telling his parent(s) that he/she is gay.  There is no support there.  In a lot of schools, discussing gay is taboo and typically triggers a negative reaction.  So guidance counselors are not available.  Teachers, coaches, religious figures, etc are, to a child yet to have come out, off limits.  And how can that kid feel comfortable talking to friends, when the child fears recourse?  Then, on top of that, getting upset or crying is surely to cause even more “bullying” as the attacking children will use that as reinforcement to “gayness” (for boys, at least – cause boys aren’t supposed to cry.  That’s gay.).

Regarding parents or family, sometimes they will be the most supportive people in the world, but, speaking from experience, there is still way too much fear to talk.  For me, it took years to work up the courage to talk openly about it.  And society, church, law, and media continued to talk about the sins of being gay or the penalties for being gay like being kicked out or sent to camps to “cure” gay.  The reality that I saw was terrifying.  I got lucky, my parents didn’t bat an eye.  It is a non-issue.  It is not even something that I would say is “supportive.”  For us, it just is.  There is no difference from my life before coming out and after.  That is how it should be.  It should not matter one bit.  Again…  I got lucky.  Some kids aren’t that lucky.

Then, you get into adulthood and things start to get even more complicated… more violent.  In my life, I have been exposed to way too much violence targeted at gay people, but have only been personally attacked once.  A few years back, I was standing alone in front of a community center that had a rainbow flag above it, so it was assumed to be associated with the LGBT community, when a group of guys in a pickup decided it would be a good idea to throw beer bottles at me, almost hitting me.  Luckily they didn’t.  There are many more stories like this.  People are killed, beaten, and driven to suicide like kids I have met while collaborating with a non-profit that support homeless youth.  They come in with no light in their eyes and a feeling that the world is not a safe place.  Many have attempted suicide.  They have nothing.

…kids kill themselves because that is the only way out of a world that hates them.  Ignores them.  Attacks them.  And vilifies them.

There is a world out there that many do not see, and I am glad that they do not have to see the hate that I witness far too often.

Wow… this got long-winded.

But the long and the short of it is that I hope that what I have typed will help some readers gain insight into why “gay bullying” is so much more damaging than other types.  When your perspective of the world is hate of your existence, and you have nowhere to turn and no one to talk to, the loneliness and pain can be too much to bear…  so kids kill themselves because that is the only way out of a world that hates them.  Ignores them.  Attacks them.  And vilifies them.

 

Our Shared Truth

How do we as a society move away from letting small phrases or single adjectives determine a specific definition of a single person?

I’m gay.  I’m black.  I’m a woman.  I’m white.  I’m Christian.  I’m Muslim.  And on and on and on.  These two words used to describe so many represent several realities.  It is a battle cry of a person who no longer wishes to live in fear by someone else’s definition of morality.  It is an affirmation that a person is born to be nothing more and nothing less that who they are – and that one does not deserve life behind a veil of pretense they belong to some other existence.  It is a target for those that take a belief to such an extreme that it justifies action which often comes in the form of violence, legislation, or judgment. But those two words are not where it starts and ends.  It is just a part of our combined human challenge to answer to this:  How do we as a society move away from letting small phrases or single adjectives determine a specific definition of a single person?

This leads to the result of the reality that adjectives or other means of classification is the true barrier to freedom – the freedom to exist in the way one is meant to exist.  This concept transcends religion.  It transcends government and race and gender and sexual orientation, etc…  Almost all conflicts (perhaps excluding conflicts over resources) are philosophical in nature.  They are often wars for a religion, wars against a religion, wars against forced existence and compliance that is based only on the belief of the one, or the few, in power, or wars in which ideologies pit one culture against another.  These differences are not something that warrants a fight.  These differences represent the gift from nature, the universe, or some deity to exist free from bondage.  To have the free will to experience life safely as they see fit – to exist as a person, not a label.  Each person deserves respect.  Each person deserves the freedom to live honestly.  Each person deserves a world where one does not have to peek in a rear view mirror for safety while simultaneously worrying about the road ahead and what reward or punishment one’s honesty will yield.  This leads to something that too many take for granted:  the only thing in life we are guaranteed is this moment.  The next millisecond is not guaranteed.  Is it really worth spending what could potentially the last moment of existence in fear, in conflict, or in judgment?

No.

It is not possible to live life freely when one side judges the other.

It is easy to think of the Crusades, WWII and the conflicts against Fascism and religious genocide, or the Cold War between ideologies of Democracy versus Communism – only a few examples of a larger list but the point is obvious.  We pay a lot of attention to these large-scale conflicts because it is effortless.  For most of us the apparent magnitude of events such as these creates something that is much easier to see; it allows us to feel as though opinions of such conflict make us contributors to something greater than ourselves.  The reality is, though, that the contribution one thinks they are making does nothing more than continue to delay a much more profound discovery.  Discovery requires analysis.  Not of something far away but of something that is very close.  What is closer to a person then themself?  If discovery is to truly occur, one must look closer.  One must look within.  And one must think about what their existence means to them – then acknowledge that what they feel inside is the same thing that every other person feels inside.  Then one must grant freedom through inaction and the realization that we are all truly meant to exist free from artificial ideals.  Ideals, an invention of man, are not real.  They do not exist in a soul or a heart.  They exist because somewhere along the journey of life, someone chose thought over heart then taught and morphed that though in into an imaginary truth that there is only one definite way of thinking representing “right” and any other way of thinking represents “wrong.”  This is an easy out.  It enables society to turn the world into black and white when in reality it is a beautiful and complex array of colors and life.  Here, too, we see the camouflaged insight that seeing something obvious is easier.  Following the real truth of existence means that you have to trust and believe in yourself – which is far more difficult than projecting analysis onto that which is external.  It is easy to say “those people are wrong.”  That allows you to ignore yourself and choose another on whom to focus.  Conversely, people find it is extremely difficult to say “those people, like me, have the right to exist as they are.” because that requires the true insight and analysis of oneself to see that in their heart one is neither wrong nor right.  It is not possible to live life freely when one side judges the other.  Freedom cannot exist when one is in the bondage of one’s own ideals.  Freedom cannot exist within the judgment of other ideals.  Freedom exists when we all realize that we are one.  We have a shared humanity and that humanity is the only truth.  Celebrations and designated times of recognition, like Black History Monty, Gay Pride Month, Memorial Day, Christmas, etc…  only fuel the thought that we are different.  We are not.

“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”  – John F. Kennedy

Look within.  Find truth.

Work History Part One : Deloitte

I started, after graduation, at Deloitte.  They courted me and several other students that graduated at the same time to staff up a new center that was being built here in Nashville.  It is a state-of-the art data processing center to support Deloitte’s eDiscovery and Litigation support business.  After being hired as an entry level “trained monkey” I quickly found myself climbing up to new levels and responsibilities.  My role there was not primarily software engineering…  it was more of an Operations role – you know… running the applications that process the data.  Being a new center, though, there were many growing pains and gaps in process, procedure, and tool sets.  Being proactive, I began writing methods and standards that I thought would be helpful for the teams of the center.  These methods would lead to higher efficiency, task automation, and better process definition.  I worked with a great team and we were able to accomplish a lot.  I also had the chance to write a valuable application (still in use today) to automate various processing tasks as well as reduce risk in processing by creating a controlled method of performing day-to-day tasks.  After we were able to successfully implement the procedures and the software, I had nothing to do aside from return to the operations team and go back to button pushing.  There was no way I was going to do that…  so I decided to leave to further my experience as an enterprise application developer.

My experience at Deloitte was mixed.  I have to say that I absolutely love the people that I met.  We all started at the same time.  We trained together, we grew together, and we learned about each other and the business together.  It was very much like an experience you have in school where everyone is a stranger on day one but by the end of the semester or the year you do not want to leave them.  They are with you day in and day out.  They struggle and celebrate with you and you become close.  But unfortunately the best part of the job was the people.  Being in a new center, the environment was volatile.  There were many points of contention.  We were new and it was difficult, but it got better and from what I hear it is continuing to get even better and better.

I learned a lot about being on the teams at Deloitte, but more so, I learned a lot about me.  There were several problems within myself that became obvious after starting work at Deloitte.  After all… it was my first “big boy” job.  All I knew about work prior to Deloitte was what I experienced at Walmart (where I worked for 8 years through High School and College).  It was different…  to say the least.  I may not have gotten the most technical experience I could have gotten there, but what I was able to learn was far, far more valuable.  I live the lessons learned every day; I am better because of it.

I still keep in contact with a few people in the offices at Deloitte, and I left on very good terms.  I am not closed to the idea of returning some day, but for now, that is not where my opportunities reside.

Change the World

Never DoubtThere is a saying, originally credited to Margaret Mead, that is powerful in it’s message.  I became acquainted with it in Nashville in Harmony.  Don, our director, ended every rehearsal this season with this quote.  It is inspirational and so true.  It inspired me to create this poster (that I will be printing on canvas soon for display in our lounge).

The quote reads:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

In each of us is the power to change to world.