Bullying of GLT Teens

September 19, 2010


Last year, around Super Bowl time, an anti-abortionist group down south put out a commercial about a famous football player. The premise of the advertisement was that had his mother had an abortion, his potential as a sports hero would never have been actuated. Sports fans, and presumably the world, would have missed out on his greatness.
This very message comes to mind in the tragic suicide death of teenager, Billy Lucas of Indiana, because he was bullied for being gay. Like Billy and untold other young gay/lesbian/transgender youth, we will never know about the greatness they could have become because they unnecessarily died far too young as a direct result of hatred heaped upon them.
Although I do not know Billy’s family, my deepest sympathies are for them and for all of the families that have already experienced this horror and, unfortunately, for the families who are yet to experience it. I am truly sorry for your loss!
What can be done? First, a couple of things have to get clarified. Second, parents, political and school leaders, other adults, and peers have get more serious about the gravity of this issue and start making real changes.
Two points have to be clear. First, bullies are not kids who secretly feel bad about them selves. They are kids with entitlement issues and who have no sense of empathy or sympathy. They are selfish and manipulative and their behaviors are frequently reinforced by their parents.
Second, these kids who bully, and their parents, are woefully misinformed and refuse to accept the fact that being gay is not about an act of sex. All too often, it is this that is used to target GLT youth – “gross, you like having sex with guys!” or, “you get fucked by guys!”. The accusations are endless and are usually about the act of sex. Gay is about emotional identity.
Here are some things that adults can do. For school administrators and teachers, you must create an environment where alliances are supported and GLT youth are accepted by the adults and peers in their school. The first step in doing this is dispelling the myth of, “guilt by association”. Adults and peers can befriend and support LGT youth and not fear becoming gay themselves. This doesn’t happen!!! Gay and straight are complex physiological, emotional, and social processes. Gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals do not recruit and convert people! A gay teenager can be a friend with a straight teen and the straight teen will not become gay – just like the gay teen will not become straight. These alliances should be sponsored by both men and women – gay and straight.
Bullying creates an environment of isolation and loneliness that leads to depression and hopelessness. The result, without intervention, is suicide. Support and community will greatly decrease the probability of this drastic, final action.
School administrators and teachers who oppose these kinds of alliances are allowing their personal fears and issues to get in the way of their professional judgments and obligations. This, however, is not contained within the walls of the school community. Any political, religious, or community leader who suggests in any way that the death of a gay teen is an acceptable loss – a, “so what!” – is a dangerous person! Find out what LGT really is; it is an emotional orientation.
School and community leaders have to be strong enough to stand up against these bully students and their parents. There have to be clear and decisive consequences that are consistent through every school district. Lives are at stake. It is no longer acceptable to commit the crime then apologize for it later – to be directly responsible for someone committing suicide by relentlessly bullying them then saying, “sorry”. Where is the forethought to one’s actions and the understanding of the consequences? This comes through education and a huge shift in the way in which adults think about GLT teens.
For some parents, I have some hard feedback; most of you know your child is GLT. Don’t deny it any more. Don’t send messages to your child that suggests there is something wrong with them or that they are unacceptable. Most of you made the commitment that you would give your lives for your children and that you’d do anything to give them as much as you could so they’d have healthy, happy lives. If you have issues with your child being TGL, get help! Don’t put it on your child to be different. You do the work to accept your child as GLT. My message in this part is not one of blame. It is to emphasize that children and teens will look to their parents as possibly one of the last threads to hold on to while they are learning to cope with the hard lessons of life. It is when a LTG teen has nothing else to hold onto that they let go.
If you know deep down that your child is GLT and seems depressed or withdrawing, get them into therapy! Get a therapist who will accept them and support them. Reparative therapy is BUNK! Do not send your child to a reparative therapist to try to cure your child. Your child is perfectly fine and loveable being GLT. You are doing more harm and sending the wrong message!! If you are sending your child to reparative therapy, that is indicative of your issues and fears and you should be in therapy.
For friends/peers of GLT youth, stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. Continue to force your school to allow supportive alliances to be formed. Don’t buy into the stupidity that you might become gay if you are friends with someone who is gay. It won’t happen! If you see a GLT friend becoming more depressed and/or withdrawn let them know you are there for them and reinforce with them the importance of connecting with supportive adults.
For GLT youth, as I’ve said in other articles, try to hang on! Your life will not always be this dark. You have great potential and will be loved. You’ve got great things ahead of you. Life has extraordinarily difficult times and this would be one of them. Your ability to make it through this will help you down the road in dealing with other challenges. Life is full of many riches as well – lots of love and laughing and beautiful things to see and experience. We need you. You may be a doctor who helps the community, a political leader who contributes to great social change, a religious theologian who ministers to a parent and changes their relationship with their child, or a therapist who writes articles and works in the community to help individuals deal with their sexuality and live happier, healthier lives (I contemplated suicide when I was a teen, and I’m so glad I didn’t!). We can’t afford to lose one more life!