- Posted September 29, 2010 by
New York, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Bullying in America's schools
Gay bullying is taking the lives of our children – and you’re to blame
Justin Aaberg. Asher Brown. Billy Lucas. Seth Walsh. These are names you need to know.
The boys, each from different areas of the country – Minnesota, Texas, Indiana and California, respectively – all had bright futures. Justin loved to play the cello. Billy rode horses. Seth’s grandmother said he was fashionable and artistic.
But none of that matters now. All four of them are dead – and within days of one another – having committed suicide to escape bullying by their peers.
There are plenty of reasons why their stories anger me. The most outstanding is that I know what they endured – the relentless taunting, teasing and torment because other kids thought they were gay.
When I was in high school, I was the target of an anti-gay act when a classmate impaled a live squirrel on my car’s antenna. Turns your stomach, doesn’t it? When the police arrived to investigate, the officers tried to blame it on me. No joke. At one point I was told that if they found out that I had anything to do with the incident, I would be in “big trouble.” School administrators were equally unhelpful as they chose not to pursue leads into who might have sacrificed that rodent for the sake of making a hateful statement.
I was frightened – scared for my life, in fact – and none of the adults I trusted to protect me seemed to take that threat seriously.
Their response was all too typical. And it still happens 10 years later.
I have a theory on why the adults in kids’ lives turn a blind eye to gay bullying – and you’re probably not going to like it.
Adults – especially those with “normal” kids – think gay kids deserve it, that we bring it upon ourselves. Back then, if I had a dollar for every time I heard something along the lines of, “If you acted more like the other boys, this kind of stuff wouldn’t happen,” I could’ve paid for my college tuition in cash.
Any educated person knows that that argument is ridiculous. But it’s not unlike the one that people defend when a girl gets raped: "If she didn’t dress so provocatively, this could have been avoided."
Then, of course, there’s the logic that kids will be kids. Yes, they will. Kids have always called each other names, and most of the time it’s harmless. But when kids start shooting other kids in the head because one doesn’t like that the other is gay – like Brandon McInerney did to Lawrence King – or breaking their arm because they’re participating in “gay” activities – like bullies did to 11-year-old cheerleader Tyler Wilson recently – something must be done.
Whatever your feelings on homosexuality, such outrageous acts of violence should never happen to our children. Do they deserve to be beaten, broken and dead because they may or may not be gay? No. So why is this happening?
As a society, we don’t stand for this nonsense when bullying is a race issue. Communities reach near-riot levels when a black kid is attacked by a white kid and vice versa.
We certainly wouldn’t let our kids lash out against kids with disabilities, either. How many parents do you know who take it lightly when their children make fun of people in wheelchairs or with Down syndrome? None.
So why, when the kid is gay, do we rationalize the violent behavior of the aggressor? And that’s giving the benefit of the doubt that it ever reaches the point where rationalization occurs. Most of the time, as we’ve heard in these recent suicide cases, the grown-ups involved all but closed their eyes and ears and turned their backs to the situations. Some role models, huh?
Yes, gay kids are different. It’s true, too, that most people don’t understand those differences. Still, that’s no reason to lack compassion and concern where they're involved.
Gay kids deserve to be protected from danger like any other kid. Why? Because in most respects they’re just like any other kid. They have hopes. They have dreams. They want to graduate high school and become somebody.
If only they could get there.
It’s time to wake up, America. Your kids are hurting. Your kids are crying. Your kids are dying.
And it’s all your fault.
Mikey Rox is an award-winning writer/journalist. His work has appeared in The Advocate, The Baltimore Sun and The Examiner newspapers, among many others. Rox lives with his husband and their two dogs in New York City.