After the several suicides of gay American teens in the past few weeks, major news outlets, celebrities, and politicians have addressed this issue of bullying… mainly in schools. And while I, currently in high school, hear epithets muttered under breaths, see the carelessness of hateful words, and see the intimidated outsider eyes bearing the four-letter weight of confusion, of hate…know that this is not where it all begins.
Prejudice in various forms: homophobia, racism, sexism and others, have existed for a long time. This kind of bigotry has imposed on the lives of undeserving people for years, for ages before anyone my age was born. Clearly, kids aren’t inventing names to call each other or deciding what or who is going to be the norm and who is going to be unaccepted. We have each been born into a world, into a society where a standard of normalcy is pre-determined, where every mind has at least a little bit, if not a lot, of contempt for difference. Hurtful names and insensitive stereotypes already exist, all that young people have to do is keep them in use. Hostility toward certain groups, like gays, is not new. Discrimination, and hatefulness are not unique to kids in school. Chlidren and teens learn these things from adults. The recent media focus on bullying may be looking at the wrong bullies.
Maybe the crusading Kansan church members who’ve picketed outside of hundreds of United States soldier’s funerals in protest of the U.S. military’s supposed “tolerance” of homosexuality with the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy have had some influence on how groups of young Americans treat one another. (I won’t even get started on how DADT is not a tolerant policy.) Or maybe Boyd Packer, a leading member of the Mormon church, has had some influence. He’s the guy who thought appropriate to address the recent suicides of gay teens with a speech explaining how homosexuality is “unnatural.” The message was heard loud and clear, according to religious conservatives like Packer, these suicides were no loss. If that’s not hate, I don’t know what is. The list goes on. Many ministers preach that gays are sinners. Doesn’t this add to the shame and insecurity that young gay people feel?
I will point out that us American youth are ,however, learning not to be so impressionable. Vigils have taken place across the country in memory of the teens who committed suicide in recent weeks, the state of Utah is certainly letting Boyd Packer have it, and student’s in numerous American schools have started Anti-bullying organizations. So, its important to try to stop bullying in schools but let’s also turn our attention to bigger more vocal bullies in the population at large.