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Archive for the ‘Youth Issues’

Bully Attacks Attendees at Anti-Bullying Rally

April 04, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

Flour Bluff School District came under fire last year when its Superintendent refused to allow a Gay Straight Alliance to form on campus. After significant pressure and national media attention, the District tentatively allowed the group to form.  This year, the failures of the administration are again coming into the spotlight.

Teddy Molina, a 16 year old student at Flour Bluff High School, took his own life this past weekend after enduring the wrath of a gang of football players known as “The Wolfpack.”   Although Flour Bluff administrators deny knowledge of The Wolfpack, students have indicated that teachers are certainly aware of the gang and have even asked them to remove their Wolfpack t-shirts in the past.

Teddy was familiar with the Wolfpack.  After being tormented by the group, Teddy turned to his parents.  They withdrew him from Flour Bluff High School shortly before his untimely death.  Some students have stated that the Wolfpack threatened to invade Teddy’s home and harm his mother and sister if “He didn’t do something about himself.”

Of course, none of the accusations can currently be proven, but there is one thing that is clear – Flour Bluff, like many school districts, has a bully problem.

In fact, at an anti-bullying rally this afternoon, things turned violent. One of the students, alleged to be  member of The Wolfpack gang, jumped from the SUV driven by his father and began attacking rally attendees, including family members of Teddy and other students. The gang member’s father, Tommy Martin, accused rally attendees of throwing rocks at them as they passed by.

Video of attack.

Koby Ozias, a District Lead for GetEQUAL TX,  was present. According to Koby, the rally had been going for approximately 2 hours prior to the attack. Several students had noted that members of The Wolfpack gang had been driving by and flipping off the crowd, but no other incidents had occurred.  When the attackers hit children, several rally attendees fought back, while others attempted to seperate the grieving family from the assailants.

After the attack, police demanded the rally attendees leave the site. Although attendees complied, they hope to plan another event for tomorrow.

HRC on the Record, Part 1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity.

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay, Youth Issues

Human Rights Campaign LogoIt’s no secret that I’ve been critical of some of the decisions made by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) and comments made by their spokespeople, but what should also be apparent is, like any organization, the HRC was developed with people power.  Like me, all of those people are fallible.  Mistakes can and do happen.  It took me a long time to recognize that for myself.  Sometimes, I speak for me, sometimes I speak for an organization – at no time is my speech necessarily correct.

About two months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Darrell Parsons.  Mr. Parsons is a member of the Board of Governors for HRC and Chair of the San Antonio Gala Planning Committee.  He suggested that I come to the Gala Planning meetings as media, putting on the record “the good, the bad and the ugly.”  It was an offer that a queer blogger and grassroots activist like me could not pass up.  For one, it would allow me to grow my understanding of the motivations of those involved with the HRC.  It would also provide me with a method to hold the organizational process publicly accountable when I witnessed them going astray.  While I saw the opportunity as a way to prove me wrong about some of my perceptions of HRC, I did not fully consider the very real possibility that I could be right.  What could my “report” mean for the community?  Will it build it up or further tear it down?  Would an “ugly” moment divide us more than any “good” moment could possibly pull us together?

After two committee meetings and finding budding friendships with many of those participating, I now find myself reluctantly upholding my responsibility to report “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Good.

One of the most obvious “good” scores was discussed in the preceding paragraphs.  It’s the fact that I was even invited to attend these meetings on the record.  This shows a willingness on the part of our local HRC chapter to be transparent to the community and to be held accountable publicly should they go astray.

Another “good” score was obtained by the HRC Gala committee developing a “Diversity and Outreach” sub-committee.  As an enormous fan of radical inclusiveness, I would be candidate number one to be on such a committee; however, my purpose with the group is as a reporter, not as a committee chair.  That position was filled by Kevin, who is also the faculty advisor for a college LGBT organization, “OUT.” While diversity should be a key factor of any organization rather than a sub-committee, this development at least shows that there is a willingness to try to solve the overall exclusion problem within the larger HRC organization – even if it is an afterthought.

The good didn’t stop there.  This year, the committee decided to offer a significantly reduced student rate of $75.00.  To further that, they have offered to allow members of the community to purchase a student ticket at that rate and have the ticket later donated to a worthy student.  They’ve also allowed for payment plans – HRC Gala, on lay-a-way.  The reason I put this in the “good” category isn’t because a $75.00 meal is affordable, but it is certainly a step in the right direction to bring less affluent members of our community to the table.

A less substantial “good” that deserves a mention is the social aspect of volunteering with the HRC.  There are many wonderfully charming and intelligent people volunteering their time to promote the organization. When asked, many stated that they chose to work with the HRC because they believe that we are all deserving of equality.  Whether we agree or disagree on the methods and inclusiveness of various organizations, we can agree that at the finish line, we will all celebrate the victories.

The Bad.

In the “good” section, I discussed the fact that the committee had a sub-committee devoted to “Diversity and Outreach.”  A bad moment was when Mr. Parsons found himself stumbling for a way to explain the committee’s function, stating its purpose was to reach out to those that might not be familiar with HRC and try to get them to come to the Gala event.  Examples of this outreach included approaching the black and Latino communities.  This was “bad” to me as it seemed to solidify the perception of the organization as being a predominantly white, upper class group that is completely out of touch with the remainder of our community. It’s possible that it would make it into the “ugly” section as it seemed to focus more on race than full diversity; however, diversity is often difficult to explain and starting with race is often the easiest path for people to get to the whole picture.

Another bad revolves around the issue of giving credit where credit is due.  I mentioned the Target debacle to Darrell Parsons and the recent interview in Billboard Magazine with Lady Gaga.  I noted that it seems like the company may be making an effort in the near future to make amends with the LGBT community and Mr. Parsons quickly noted that HRC pressured them into it.  While I would concur that HRC contributed to the pressure on Target with their petition campaign and removal of the company from their buyer’s guide, credit should also be given to grassroots organizers who took actions against the store – including, but certainly not limited to, a PFLAG mom who, on her own volition, returned a basket full of items purchased from Target and explained the rationale behind her return to management, and the group Queer Rising, who invaded Target stores in their “Target Ain’t People” campaign declaring, “Attention Target Shoppers” – know when you shop at Target, your money is going to fuel hate. Pressure on the company came from many avenues within our community without one direct action being planned by HRC directly.  No one organization or group deserves full credit for any progress made.

This isn’t the first time HRC has ignored or outright taken credit for grassroots’ efforts.  In fact, immediately following the National Equality March, HRC declared the event “big” and responsible for a “burst of momentum” in a fundraising email.  At no point did they mention that they fought against the National Equality March tooth, nail, fist and high heel all the way to D.C.

The Ugly.

Perhaps the thing that makes the “ugly” so very “ugly” was the fact that it directly affected one of the “good” items on my list, the reduced rate for student tickets.  I heralded the more reasonable rate on Facebook, noting that San Antonio is trying to bring more people to the table.  However, when a “Table Captain” and active member of the Steering Committee for HRC was asked about purchasing an entire table for students, the inquirer was quickly told that the problem with donating a table to students is that students won’t pay attention, won’t “bring anything to the table, will be drunk and won’t purchase silent action items.”

While this is ugly on its face for the “drunk” comment if for none other, it’s also terribly wrong.  I have worked closely with the students and LGBT Youth organizations on many occasions as a volunteer to help them out and as an organizer looking for them to help me out.  Each time, the students have brought a lot to my table, including: passion, energy, intelligence and hard work.  While it may be this person’s experience that students aren’t worthy of a place at the HRC Gala, I wholeheartedly disagree and would like to refer this individual to their Diversity and Outreach committee for further training.

It isn’t the official policy of the Human Rights Campaign to disregard the value of students.   According to Mr. Parsons, “Students are our future and bring a great deal to the table; which is why we have focused on supporting the student organizations over the past few years.”  But actions speak louder than words.  The San Antonio chapter of HRC has taken pro-student actions in the past, including assisting St. Mary’s University students in getting recognition for their GSA and speaking to the Alamo Community College District Board in support of a fully inclusive anti-discrimination policy; however, it is still “ugly” to call the students drunks and dismiss them for choosing to have a meal the next day instead of buying silent auction items.

Righting the Wrong.

I’ve always believed it’s never too late to right a wrong.  Hopefully, the Gala planning committee, and more particularly the offending “Table Captain,” will make it up to the students by donating a table to the local student groups, free of charge as the benefactor had originally intended to do, and with no obligation for the purchase of a silent auction item.  Of course, they may have to lock up the liquor cabinet before inviting all those pesky alcoholic students.

HRC on the Record: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity, Part 1.

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

March 01, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

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.

82nd Texas Legislative Session Welcomed with Anti-Bullying Demonstration

January 12, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Youth Issues

Queer Texas United Anti-Bully "Die In" - Austin, Texas, January 11, 2011

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 82nd Texas legislative session.  To welcome the new legislature, Queer Texas United organized a Homophobia and Transphobia Kills Die-In at the front gate of the Capitol Building in Austin.  The purpose of the Die-In was to support anti-bullying legislation.  The Texas Senate has introduced two bills with respect to bullying and cyberbullying for consideration this legislative session.  Presently, there are two anti-bullying bills in the Senate and one in the House.

Roughly fifty people attended the die-in.  On cue, we all fell to the ground while a litany of names were read aloud by organizers then repeated by participants.  Afterward, Representative Joe Farias of San Antonio spoke about the effect of bullying on his own family.  He recounted the horrible bullying his son experienced and how, upon approaching the school administration, he was met with reluctance and even denial instead of help with confronting the problem.

Rather profoundly, another demonstration was being held simultaneously in front of the Capitol Building.  This demonstration was an anti-death penalty rally.  Several participants of that demonstration joined in with the die-in participants.  Signs reading “Stop the Executions” mingled with signs reading “Homophobia Kills, Transphobia Kills.”  Bullying, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and lethal injection all have the same tragic end; life ceases.

At approximately 6:18 p.m. organizers for the execution rally announced that the prisoner who was to be executed had received a stay.  One woman screamed, “We got a stay!”  Perhaps somewhere out in this world a bullied youth received a stay, too.

Overview of introduced Texas Anti-Bullying Legislation:

Senate Bill 245, filed by Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, would amend the Texas Education Code to not only require policy and program development along with staff and parent training for the prevention and reporting of bullying, but also amend the current definition of bullying to include cyberbullying.  Further, S.B. 245 would require that a student who engages in bullying, at the request of a person with authority to act on behalf of a bullied student, to be transferred to another classroom or campus.  Previously, students victimized by bullying were forced to transfer to a new school or classroom themselves which clearly punished the victim rather than the offender.  House Bill 224, field by Representative Mark Strama, is markedly similar to Senate Bill 245.

Senate Bill 205, filed by Senator John Whitmire of Houston, would require school districts to develop a policy prohibiting bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation.  The current text of S.B. 205 does not provide for specific consequences for students who engage in bullying, but instead requires that the district develop a program for remedial action, including counseling for the bully and a referral to appropriate services or to the appropriate county or district attorney.

What you can do in Texas to get involved:

National Organization for Marriage Launches NOH8 Campaign???

January 02, 2011 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People, Youth Issues

The National Organization for Marriage, (NOM), learned a new strategy in 2010: steal the phrases used by the movement pushing to legalize marriage for same sex couples. It started with “Hate is Not A Family Value.” More recently, they have been offended by the FCKH8 videos, whose purpose is to counter the rhetoric  put forward by groups like NOM.

If you’ve seen them, you’ll notice that, yes, the F word is used and in one particular video,  it is used by children.

NOM has decided to use this as their next marketing campaign. Their slogan? NOH8. Perhaps, in their infinite ignorance, they have never heard of the NOH8 campaign started by Adam Bouska, where people have NOH8 printed on their cheeks, wear duct tape, and are photographed.  I can’t wait for the copyright infringement battle to begin. Better, I can’t wait for NOM to wear duct tape over their mouths. Permanently.

Setting aside their continued lack of originality and twisting of every word, methinks NOM doth protest too much. If you read their blog you would think that the children in these videos are taught to use the F word in every sentence, their parents are awful, and a lawyer should be called to check into child abuse.

NOM has conveniently ignored the true message in this video. That would mean acknowledging the logic, courage, and compassion in the message of equality for all families. Yesterday I checked YouTube. The video has almost 2 million hits and the “Likes” outweigh the “Dislikes” 10 to 1.

NOM as an organization is doing everything in its power, and bank account, to appeal to fear and hate. When asked to back up their position that marriage is between one man and woman, all they have now is “it is special.” When interviewed publicly, they have been forced to retreat from religious arguments that God made it so, marriage is for procreation, or it has been this way for 5,000 years since none of those requirements are present in the law now for heterosexuals.

They have attempted to claim that they do not hate gay people, that this is only about the special institution of marriage. Yet in their blog and their Facebook group, Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman, they continue to promote a misinterpreted Biblical view that homosexuals choose their sexual orientation, they are sexual deviants, pedophiles, and are out to convert all of our children to homosexuality.

When has NOM stood up to protect any LGBT person? When the rash of suicides hit the mainstream media in September, they refused to support actions to stop bullying. If NOM were truly worried about what children are exposed to, they would pay attention to the statistics on bullying of youth and start a campaign to stop bullying and abusive behavior. Do they know that four out of five youth who are called homophobic slurs are actually straight?

Here are statistics on bullying for 2009 from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. As a mother, I am far more concerned about the real harm that is being done to our children every single day in our schools and communities. It is far more traumatic than the use of the F word in a video. A video that comes with a warning label, by the way.

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
  • The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.

I read Brian Brown’s Christmas letter on the NOM blog. He even included a photograph of his family with all of his children. One gay person who commented on the blog, trying to be calm and engage in productive discourse, stated that he disagreed with NOM but wished Brian’s family a Merry Christmas and commented that his children are beautiful. They are.

And so are the children of so many same sex couples that I know. I wonder what Brian would tell one of his children about the value of marriage and family, how special and important it is if that child turns out to be gay. Will he want his  child to have the same rights and happiness as his other children? Perhaps Brian would understand if he had to explain his prejudice to one of his own children. Or will he turn on his child, the same way that NOM has tried to dehumanize and marginalize all people attracted to someone of the same gender?

Note: Tune in for the debate between Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry and Maggie Gallagher, NOM; brought to you by The Economist. Starts January 3rd online.

Stupid Things People Say About Gays: GLSEN is to Blame for LGBT Suicides

October 13, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Stupid Things People Say About Gays, Youth Issues

Bryan Fischer, the host of the American [Heterosexual Only] Family Association’s [AFA] radio show, Focal Point, recently declared on an AFA blog post that GLSEN was to blame for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender suicides.  His theory, it seems, is that you can eliminate the high incidents of suicide in LGBT kids by eliminating LGBT kids.  In the posting, Mr. Fischer states:

It must be pointed out that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies either. Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out and declare a disordered sexual preference. Sexually confused youth are pressured into locking into a sexual identity far before they are mature enough to do so.

A lot of questions are raised by Mr. Fischer’s argument, the first being: “Who was the first homosexual recruiter?”  If homosexuals cannot reproduce and merely recruit, was it a straight person who first convinced someone to be a homosexual?  My guess is that it was Adam.  He had three sons and only one wife.  With such a shortage of women to put their seed into, perhaps Adam felt Eve needed a break from populating the world and suggested to Cain that he start blowing his brother to relieve his sexual frustrations.  Cain, then became the first homosexual recruiter and encouraged LGBT kids to come out.  Or perhaps it was one of the other male children.

Mr. Fischer further states that:

If criticism is bullying and harassment, then homosexual activists condemn themselves every day by the mean-spirited things they say about Christians and their views of homosexuality.

While I would concur that criticizing those that are Christian for their opinions would not necessarily constitute bullying, I must draw the line at forceful, obstructive, demeaning verbal abuse such as that experienced by LGBT youth.

For myself, I was harassed daily for my perceived (and ultimately actual) sexual orientation.  I had the word “fag” scrawled into the side of my car; I was chased home by kids throwing rocks and slurs at me; my friends were approached at their employment and harassed for hanging out with a fag; I was told by a teacher to, “act like a man;” I was spit on, laughed at and was terrified to go to school because the so-called Christian opinion was not that I was a sinner, it was that I was a worthless faggot.  All of this happened before my 18th birthday, most before I “came out.”  Never, in all the times I was approached with negative commentary about my sexual orientation in school was it to convince me that I was a sinner and needed to repent.  Instead, it was to intimidate me into submission, deny me my right of free passage or to just give me a sucker-punch.

In spite of Mr. Fischer’s efforts, it has gotten better.  Now, I’m called a fag only about 2 or 3 times per month instead of every day.  That’s better, but it’s still not good enough.

So, Mr. Fischer, I’m left with one more question, “How many times have gays knocked on your door to recruit you?”  I’ve certainly had a lot of your ilk try to recruit me through the love of Jesus Christ (which in my experience feels a lot more like spit in the face).

If you are considering taking your own life, please seek help.  Call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

Everything Mississippi Should Have Learned from Glee.

April 30, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Youth Issues

Ceara Sturgis denied photograph in High School Yearbook

Ceara Sturgis Class of 2010. Congratulations Ceara on your graduation from all of us at jaysays.com!

It’s starting to seem like the State of Mississippi has declared an outright war on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens.  This bully pulpit is evident in numerous decisions by school districts to exclude openly LGBT kids from school activities.

There’s the obvious and well publicized case of Constance McMillen, an openly lesbian student at Itawamba Agricultural High School (“IAHS”), who, after receiving notice that same-sex couples would not be allowed at the school’s prom, requested permission from school officials to take a same-sex date.  School officials knew they couldn’t legally deny her request, but to prevent her from taking the date she wanted to (and from wearing a tux) they canceled the event all together.  The school eventually had two proms, sending Constance and a few other students to one and the rest of the students to another.

Of course, this wasn’t the first attack at IAHS against LGBT students and won’t likely be the last.  Prior to Constance there was Juin Baize, who was suspended for being biologically male but wearing make-up and woman’s clothing.

It seems it’s now Copiah County School District’s turn at the bully pulpit.  Graduating senior, Ceara Sturgis, not only had her photograph removed from the yearbook because of her choice to wear a tuxedo and sport a “male” hairstyle, but there was no mention of her in the yearbook.

That story line may sound a bit familiar to my fellow Gleeks?  In the Mattress episode of Glee, Rachel wanted the Glee Club photo included in the yearbook; however, Sue Sylvester objected stating that it would subject the student’s photos to graffiti and humiliation (her real purpose wasn’t so noble).  History had not been kind to the outcasts of the Glee Club as photographs were defaced with mean commentary by fellow students; essentially because the vast majority felt that the Glee Club was representative of the outcasts, the geeks, the nerds and the homos.  Unlike in Mississippi, however, the Glee photograph made it into the yearbook.

While no state is immune to bigotry, Mississippi has long since had a reputation for racism, homophobia and sexism that is virtually unchallengeable.  Through the “Christian Identity Movement,” many Mississippians have excused their hate in the guise of religion. Members of my own family from the state have preached the soullessness of the black man (the Curse of Ham), women’s servitude of man, and homophobia in the name of Biblical law.  While it must be stated that not all Mississippians feel the same, it certainly seems to be a prevalent and recurring issue.

Maybe it’s time we give Mississippi a little dose of Glee – Equality style.

Man Pays Prostitute to “Fix” his Gay Son… allegedly

December 23, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Featured, LGBT News, Youth Issues

Cure A Queer - Warning SignHow deep does homophobia have to go before society, at large, admits that it is a serious problem?  Police in Queensland, Australia are investigating a man who allegedly paid a prostitute to rape his 15 year old son because he thought his son was homosexual.  According to reports, the man took the boy to a motel, gave a female prostitute $50.0o and told his son that he wanted to see a used condom to evidence that he was getting what he was paying for.

But for the father allegedly making yet another brilliant parenting decision, the incident would have remained unreported.  Police were tipped off about the rape when the father called the Child Protection Investigation Unit to inquire as to why they hadn’t investigated his son for “abusing” his younger brother,  After he inquired, he advised the the officer that he had attempted to fix the problem himself by taking the boy to a prostitute.

Rockhampton Magistrates Court’s investigation determined that enough evidence existed to substantiate the allegations against the father to send him to trial for the rape of his son.

I’m Rubber and You’re Glue: Anti-Gay Harrassment in School

April 25, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay, Youth Issues

It’s never really mattered if you are gay or not, just the perception of homosexuality has been enough to cause peers to harass and bully you for your “faggot-ness.”  The unfortunate and untimely deaths of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11 year old 6th grader in Massachusetts, and Jaheem Herrera, and 11 year old 5th grader in Georgia, have brought to the media’s attention what LGBT activist have been saying for years, “We must protect our children.”

Both Carl and Jaheem were taunted and harassed with words such like, sissy or faggot by their peers.  Neither had identified their own sexual orientation.  However, according to a 2005 report by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and Harris Interactive, LGBT kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual contemporaries.  The Religious Reich makes all sorts of outrageous claims (as they often do) that this is caused by the child’s own self-loathing for his/her sexual or gender identity.  But where does that self-loathing stem from – perhaps from society telling these children that they are inferior, worthless and “sinners.”

When we are very young children everyone asks us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Most answers are things like, a doctor, a fireman, a chef, a teacher or an astronaut – children never respond, “I’m going to be disliked by my peers, taunted publically, discriminated against by my government, rejected by my family and somehow still find the strength to wake up every day and face these horrors again.”  No child dreams of that future, but that future comes anyway for many kids.  It came for Jaheem and Carl, in spite of the fact that neither publically self-identified as anything other than children, and regrettably they both felt the only way out was to take their own lives.

These children, as well as the countless others who become victims of bullycide, did not take their own lives, the Religious Reich and social neo-conservatives who think that somehow the sexuality of these children were relevant to their own lives, took their lives.  They murdered them by teaching that it is “ok” to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning people.  This is how they purport to protect our children.  To that, jaysays: there has got to be a better way.

Student Responds to the Laramie Project’s Burial in Oklahoma

April 11, 2009 By: jaysays Category: LGBT News, Youth Issues

News reports and blog commentary over the firing of Debra Taylor, an Ethics and Street Law teacher at Grandfield High School in Oklahoma, have been varied.  According to initial reports, Ms. Taylor was asked to resign after attempting to teach the play, “The Laramie Project,” to her senior class.   The reason initially provided was that the district could not allow the gay-related play to continue because of its homosexual tones.  However, in an interview District Superintendent, Ed Turlington, claimed that the reason the district asked the play to be removed from her lesson plan was because it contained vulgar language.  But what was the real reason?

Because Ms. Taylor and Mr. Turlington obviously have an economic or social interest in their stories, jaysays.com located one of Ms. Taylor’s students and requested his side of the story.  According to Mike (name changed to protect the innocent), a 17 year old senior at Grandfield High School, Ms. Taylor had been teaching the play for about a month without incident.  In fact, prior to teaching the story, Ms. Taylor was required to obtain approval for the play, and approval was given.

However, another teacher in the school, Mrs. Charlene Turlington (wife of the Superintendent) had heard Ms. Taylor was teaching a “gay” play and reported this to her husband, the Superintendent.

It is here I must note the absence of a proper chain of command.  There is a principal, A.J. Mays, at the school, which would ordinarily be the person to report these issues to, however, nepotism often prevails and the Superintendent was informed of the gay play by his wife.

It was then that Ms. Taylor had to stand before her students and advise them that the play was being cancelled.  Many of the students were angered by the play’s cancellation, including Mike. According to Mike, Mrs. Taylor advised him that the play was being cancelled because of reports that Mike was being picked on for his involvement in a “gay” play; an allegation which Mike denies.

Although the play had been cancelled, the battle line was drawn.  Within a couple of days of the cancellation, Mrs. Turlington approached Mike to obtain a script of the play.  She used her authority to manipulate and threaten Mike and made claims that he owed her because she did not report him for a previous small infraction of the school rules.  Mrs. Turlington’s tactics were unethical at the least.

On Mrs. Taylor’s last day at the school, the Superintendent, Mr. Turlington, came to Mike’s class to discuss the cancellation of the play.  He asked the class if they have any questions related to the cancellation.  Mike asked why the play was cancelled and Mr. Turlington responded, “… because people in this community aren’t comfortable with that subject.”

Mike inquired further and asked, “About the gay subject?”

The answer was a far cry from Mr. Turlington’s reports to main stream media.  He confirmed the play was cancelled because of the gay subject matter by answering the question, “Yes.”

Thus, again we see fear and hatred of gays running our school system and society; however, when people inquire, lies are told to protect those propagating the hatred from the deserved disciplinary actions.

According to Mike, none of Ms. Taylor’s students he had spoken with had any problem with doing the play and all of them were unhappy about the play’s cancellation.

Mrs. Taylor held a mock funeral for the play upon its cancellation.  She took the students outside and they each wrote a note, tied the note to a balloon and released the balloons.  Mike’s note read, in part:

Mr. Turlington is a homophobe.

There is a happy note to this story.  The result of the cancellation of the play has taught Mike, as he says, “more about ethics than I can dream of.”  Of course, he learned “ethics” from the lack of ethics shown by Mr. and Mrs. Turlington, not from the play or from Mrs. Taylor.  He also states he has received a ton of support and learned a valuable life lesson, “Don’t hate or discriminate anyone because they are black, white, tall, short, fat, skinny, disabled, gay or straight.  You should be an advocate for love, show compassion for those that are different and be tolerant of all in school and in life.”

In my communications with Mike, he ended his emails with this note, “Grandfield High School – Where Laramie can never be.”

To this, jaysays: Please continue to attempt to revoke students of their rights to learn about all aspects of the world.  In doing so, you are teaching them the importance of learning from all different view points.  Excellent job Mr. Turlington.  I commend you on showing your students how NOT to be bigots and how hurtful bigotry and discrimination can be.

Inquiries to the Superintendent were not answered.

Special thanks to MJ for her invaluable assistance, comments and guidance.