I’m not sure, really. On the one hand I’m glad there’s a conference for gay youth to talk about their experiences with bullying and harassment in school, and that there were teachers there to listen and offer support as well.
As a roomful of their peers watched yesterday, six or seven gay middle schoolers, who are more accustomed to being victims than aggressors, stepped up to a life-sized paper cutout of a boy or girl their age and systematically tore off body parts – an arm, a leg, pieces of the torso – until only the head remained. Each also delivered a verbal taunt before returning to his or her seat.
“Go back to your gay home.”
Their next assignment was to tape the pieces back together. But when the exercise was over, the figure was a disjointed patchwork of what it was 15 minutes earlier. The damage had been done and the lesson about the permanent damage that intolerance inflicts had been learned, although many of the middle schoolers in the room said they already had learned it on their own.
Bullying. Disapproving parents. Indifferent teachers. Loneliness. Hallway taunts and shoves. The closet. The cover-ups. Coming out.
On the other I’m frustrated that there’s still a need for a conference like this, while at the same time a group like PFOX is handing out literature in schools. Maybe that’s because of what I went through growing up as a skinny, effeminate, nonathletic, black gay boy in the south, in the 80s, during the Reagan era. (Yeah. I survived, but I may still have a few scars from that.)
But what’s truly disturbing are the people who says that an anti-bullying conference “affirms” the “gay lifestyle,” and particularly the woman mentioned in the article who wrote, “There’s something called therapy. A person can change if they want to, and they should be encouraged to change if they can.”
Of course, I could refer back to the last QueerlyKos round-up to answer that with a look at the failure rate of that “ex-gay” therapy. Even some of its advocates say it only works 50% of the time, and they’re probably overestimating because who would actually claim that the product they’re selling doesn’t actually work? Ted Haggard, the latest self-hating homosexual exposed to daylight, says he’s worked at it al his life, with no success. And despite the fact that Ted should be pretty high up on Jesus’ callback list, J.C. hasn’t helped him switch teams. Even James Dobson has washed his hands of Haggard’s efforts to (finally) become an “ex-gay.” Says he doesn’t have time. (Or was it “There isn’t enough time in the world”?)
And if they can’t or won’t change? Do they deserved to be harassed? Well, I remember NARTH says bullying might do queers some good, if it reinforces “necessary boundaries.” (Necessary for what? Harassing a kid into heteronormativity or suicide?) And I remember that some people (some of the same, perhaps) are opposed to gay teen suicide prevention funding. Better a dead queer kid than a self-accepting gay teen, because the latter undermines “traditional family values” while the former reinforces them?
LIke I said at the end of the last QueerlyKos, it almost seems like they need us to be unhappy and unhealthy to keep the universe as they see it from imploding on them. And thus our strides towards self-acceptance and stable, committed relationships drive them to distraction. It threatens everything they hold dear that there might be a happy homosexual or two in the world (and that they might hook up).
So I can imagine it must really bug them to see a bunch of queer kids laughing together like the ones in the picture, even at a conference to talk about how they’re harassed. That’s probably the result of the kid of support they get from each other, and from gay/straight student alliances, and maybe even a health/sex ed. curriculum that doesn’t define them as sickos. And then there’s all the positive portrayals of gays & lesbians in the media, and news stories of same-sex couples getting married. That probably inspires way too much self-confidence and hope in gay youth; more than some people can stand, because bad things happen when queers don’t hate themselves enough. Right? (I mean, look at Ted Haggard and Mark Foley. Now, there were a couple of homos who knew their place.)
The kids are alright, and working on staying that way. It’s just that some people really need them, and us, not to be alright.