Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When is it enough?

I'm having a hard time containing rage this morning. Recently we've seen some movement on issues like Don't Ask/Don't Tell, gay marriage, GLBTQ adoption and parenting, etc. We continue to make progress and move toward fairness and equality, but as other stories stack up, it's not enough.

News came today that a third student within a month died after committing suicide. Their stories are all tragic, and for so many GLBTQ people...all too familiar. They faced taunting, teasing, and bullying. Often when they finally spoke out and tried to get help from those around them, their pleas fell on deaf ears. It appears that schools didn't do enough to protect or support them.

A Serbian man is heading back to court, fighting for asylum...and his life. He was beaten in school, attacked and disowned by his father, raped and abused in the military, and is now facing being sent back. Why is he heading BACK to court? Because the original judge denied his request, stating that he didn't seem obviously gay and so shouldn't be at as much risk as he was claiming.

How is that so many politicians, clergy, and citizens around the country don't "get it" when an 11 year old boy has a broken arm and may require surgery? His crime? He's a cheerleader, and that's not manly enough. Even though there are 40,000 male cheerleaders in high schools and colleges around the country, our antiquated expectations of masculinity are still so strong that people feel justified in hate and violence. He talks about loving the tumbling and cheering on his friends...and got a cast as a reward.

How much blood has to be spilled? How many bones must be broken? And how many of our children must end their lives to avoid the pain before people truly begin to wake up?

We need to stop allowing religious zealots from imposing their particular flavor of morals on everyone else, especially by dumping money at ballot initiatives. We need to stop allowing people to claim we're pedophiles and that we're trying to destroy America's families and values. I've been talking about these issues for years now, and I've always tried to be respectful of other people's viewpoints. Each day, those viewpoints are now causing more pain and injury than ever before. And I'm pissed about it.

I've often reminded people that when we begin to make progress, there is usually a backlash in response. During the civil rights and women's rights movements, there came a point at which violence increased. It's a desperate response, designed to send us running back to the closet in fear. I hope it's also a clarion call for fair-minded (and humane) people everywhere. Holding onto the hate and bias against GLBTQ is literally killing us. The name calling, the bullying, the attacks, the denial of rights...they all weigh on us.

They weigh on your children. Your nephews and nieces. The neighbor kid down the street. They weigh on your siblings, your coworkers, and your classmates. Gay people are everywhere, and that's not going to change. If the bruises and bloodshed aren't a clear enough signal that something is wrong and MUST change, I don't know what more it will take.

Also know that we have limits to our patience. I can't quite find words to explain the depths of my rage and sadness right now. Part of me wants to walk up and slap the face of people who continue to spread venom and hatred. Part of me says violence is not the answer. Most of me wants to scream from the rooftops with a bullhorn until people understand that your words and inaction can and do cause as much pain as actual violence. That if you keep it up, it might be your cousin who next hangs herself from a tree. It might be your son who's beaten by a group of 4 other students. That if he fits one too many of the stereotypes, it won't really matter whether he's actually straight or not...and you will have only yourselves to thank.

How long before people realize on a fundamental level that nobody deserves to be hurt because of who they are or what they believe? If you don't get that simplest of concepts, I say you fail at life. "Go stand in the corner and think about what you've done" doesn't seem to cut the mustard in this case. This is dumb, and I'm tired of wasting time and breath on something so obvious and basic.

Today's lesson: Realize that even people you don't agree with or even like are PEOPLE too. Get over it, or get the fuck off our planet so the rest of us can get on with the myriad of other problems we've got to fix.

Update on Oct 1: I wanted to post a great video too. There are several posts out there with the "It Gets Better" Project. This is my favorite, from San Francisco.