“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
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This week I went to the Stated Meeting of the Faculty here at Brooklyn College, where I was handed a flyer that GLARE (GLBT Advocacy in Research and Education) had put together about the recent suicides that have happened all across the country of folks who were bullied in "due to perceived sexual orientation and/or gender non-conformity." GLARE is urging their peers to start talking about this epidemic in their classrooms, and I hope that we all can help fight against bigoted actions and those that seem to be so mixed up in fear, and without empathy for fellow people.
I'm sharing two pieces below, by friends, that I think are important.
Educators - You Betta Work!
by Milo Miller on Friday, October 1, 2010 at 2:46pm
I've been thinking a lot this week about the tragedies of the 4 young men who have committed suicide in the past few weeks after being bullied and harassed for being gay, or for being perceived as gay. And also for the young trans man who was denied the role of Homecoming King because he was a "woman" on official school records. And also the students last spring who were not allowed to go to their school formals with their partners of choice because they were same-sex couples. It saddens, angers, and frustrates me that this is still going on in 2010.
While I believe that lots of the blame should be placed on the student tormentors, a significant portion also lies with the institutions where these young people spend the majority of their days - the schools.
Educators: It is your job to see that every student has safe access to education. That's right… YOUR JOB. You signed up for it when you accepted the contract for the school year. As teachers, administrators, academic supper staff, bus drivers, and adults attached to a school/district you assume in loco parentis - "in the place of a parent" as part of your duties both in and out of the classroom. As such, it's your job to protect kids from being bullied and harassed, and see that they are provided with the best possible environment in which to learn, grow, and become productive members of society. If you can't do that, get a new job. If you believe that some students "deserve it" because they are too effeminate or too butch, or too black or latino or asian, or sexual or WHATEVER… get a new job.
If you feel like you can do your job, then listen when a student says they're being harassed. Take it to your supervisor. Appropriately punish the harasser. DO SOMETHING. Why? Because it's YOUR JOB. If you can, work with the victim's parents and relatives, but if not, then work with other adults in the kids lives who will help. These kids are valuable, and need to know it. Make them feel valued.
If you are getting resistance from the institution as a whole, fight back. Publicly if you can, but privately, too. Call school board members and seek advice. Run for the school board if need be. Gather allies among your fellow educators and approach it as a group. Create the change and growth that you ask of your students over the course of their schooling. DO SOMETHING…. or get a new job.
Students: If you're being bullied and harassed for being queer, or for any reason, please tell an adult. A parent if possible, but if not then an adult friend you can trust. If there's no one individual in your community, try contacting:
Trevor Helpline for Gay and Lesbian Youth24 Hrs a Day / 7 Days a Week1-866-4-U-TREVOR or 1-866-488-7386
If you go to their website, you can search for local resources here: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/youth/local-resources
If the school is doing nothing, contact the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has a project dedicated to LGBTQ students: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/youth-schools
Please, please don't give up hope. The queer community is large and diverse and there are many, many of us who will take the time to see that you will survive, grow, and thrive.
On a personal note: I'm queer. Loudly! I came out when I was 17 in 1992. I was bullied as a teen. I was often sad and lonely. I was occasionally suicidal. I put up with a lot of crap. I've been gay bashed. I've been harassed. It happens to adults, too. And it sucks, and is wrong. I also managed to survive it. I had some amazing friends in high school (and a couple of amazing teachers, too), more amazing friends and a family that I built after high school. I got radicalized through ACT UP, Queer Nation, and eventually Queeruption. I made (and make) zines about my queer world. I co-founded QZAP, the Queer Zine Archive Project because there is an army of us out there. Through QZAP we're able to share a vast history of LGBTQ folks who have gone through it and committed it to print. Looking back at almost 20 years of being publicly queer, I'm proud of myself and my actions. I'm thrilled to have amazing lovers and friends around the world who support me, and who I in turn can support and love fiercely. If I can do it, anyone can.
♥ ♥ ♥
p.s. I'm making this public, which I don't usually do. If you want to share it, go ahead, but please respect that this text is Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 licensed.
note: edited for correct gender representation.
February 25, 2010
"Letters to the Editor"
10917 Valley View Road
Eden Prarie, MN 55344
A year or so ago I mounted a rainbow flag outside my garage on Morningside Road. I did this as a straight ally of gay men and Lesbians who still struggle for equal rights and social acceptance. Someone removed that flag, prompting me to ask for its return in a Sun-Current letter. Days later it reappeared, tossed on my front lawn. No explanation. No apology.
Earlier this month someone again took the flag, but did not touch the Stars-and-Stripes perennially flown by a next-door neighbor. A week or two later, I found a white feather boa prominently draped over my chain-link fence. These events seem intended to silence and perhaps also to humiliate me. They are acts of hate and intolerance.
For some time during the last century Edina formally excluded Blacks and Jews from living here. I'm told that fairly recently Edina sports teams taunted less-affluent rivals by flinging food stamps at them. I've noticed that over the past few years proposals for "affordable housing" have often provoked nearly hysterical opposition. And now I have personally experienced rabid homophobia.
What kind of town is this? Classist? Anti-gay? I hope not. I'd appreciate getting my rainbow flag back. Again.
With best wishes,
4400 Morningside Road
Edina, MN 55416
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