Director of Equality Texas Defends Removal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity from Anti-Bullying Bill

Director of Equality Texas Defends Removal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity from Anti-Bullying Bill

March 1, 2011 Youth Issues 1

Anti-Bullying - Bullying Stops Here - well, almost...Texas has been spinning over a proposed “Anti-Bullying Bill” which was introduced in both the House and Senate.  The bill, which original provided for punishment of the bully rather than the victim and required the schools to report the type of bullying and “cause” of bullying (including sexual orientation and gender identity) only had a marginal chance of passing in a venue as conservative as Texas; however, it brought together many advocacy organizations and the momentum of LGBT activists was growing at an astounding rate.  With the bill we found that LGBT groups were no longer lobbying alone, but instead had the support of educators and student organizations to finally provide a symbol of hope to victims of bullying and perhaps, just perhaps, reduce the epidemic of youth suicides.

Sadly, the LGBT powers that be decided that the reporting requirement would kill the bill because of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity.  It’s important to note that neither classification was a “protected class” under the proposed legislation, but instead just a reporting requirement – i.e. check the box if the student was bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation.

While the bill will still be effective in punishing the bullies rather than the victims, we lose critical information by striping out the reporting provisions.  Thus, Asher Brown’s death would no longer be reported for what it truly was, but instead, just another youth suicide without confronting causation or motive.

The redrafted bill, supported by Equality Texas, also serves as a reminder that those LGBT folks in Texas just can’t win, so why bother trying.  Chuck Smith, Director of Equality Texas, stated, “At the end of the day, the reporting part is not important compared to the rest of the guts of the bill.”  On Facebook, he went on to say, “[The redrafted legislation] contains a boatload of anti-bullying policy that doesn’t exist in TX code and needs to.”  While I recognize that fact, Mr. Smith has failed to address the real issue.  Removing the reporting requirement sends a clear message to our community: you are still less than and you must accept that.

This is a tragic turn of events for any possibility of an LGBT victory in Texas – one small victory would have been enough to cause the crowds to scream, “Yes we can” instead of “Well, no reason to try because we can’t.”

Even though we know the road is long and the battles will take their toll, we should not submit.  But that is what we have done here.  We have submitted.  We find ourselves again waving the white flag and prostrating ourselves before “The Man.”

So what happens if the bill passes without the reporting requirement?  We lose our allies in the fight.  Teacher groups and student organizations that are not specifically advocating for LGBT issues will no longer be driven with the same passion that has driven this legislation thus far.  Yet again, the LGBT will stand alone.

This is a sad day for Texas.  It is the day that those advocating for us, sold us out.

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One Response

  1. Katy Stewart says:

    First, I would like to introduce myself as the chair of Transgender Education Network of Texas.
    Secondly, I would like to applaud the efforts of Chuck Smith of Equality Texas and those individuals and organizations that met as a safe schools coalition to look at the legislation pending.

    I believe that there is an impression that Chuck, myself, and others refrained from fighting passionately for a bill that “in the reporting requirement” left out gender identity and gender expression. That could not be further from the truth. There was much passion, much excellent testimony and consideration in the room that day.

    I welcome anyone with concerns to email me personally for my complete impression of the situation to have a more complete picture.

    Please note: All of us with the safe schools coalition will be taking the steps necessary if this bill gets passed to approach the Texas Education Association to petition for reporting requirements that include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

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