An eleven-year-old boy hung himself in Springfield, MA last week. He had been repeatedly taunted as "gay" even though he did not identify as such. His mother went to the school over and over again, trying to get something done.
So for all those right wing nuts who insist we are teaching all sorts of positive gay messages in our school, fuck you. You caused this kids death. You and your bullshit rhetoric.
I wish we were teaching more positive images of LGBT people because then "faggot" and "queer" wouldn't hurt so much. I wish that boy had an advocate in the school who listened to his mother. Who did something.
I'm angry. How can this happen today? Why did that mother have to lose her son? Why was that boy not taken care of by the school officials?
It reminds me of when my son Zachary wanted to do the day of silence in his class. He wanted me to go in and explain. I was told no, it's too scary to talk about Lawrence King. It's too... much. A permission slip would have to go out to the parents. We can't talk that way without permission.
Which of course meant it was sexual in nature, even though it was not. This crime is not gay only. This crime- and it was a crime the way the issue was handled- was about bullying. Teasing. Mean, hateful words.
I'm beyond angry. This is something that could have been prevented. I have an eleven year old son. He wanted to recognize the day of silence. He understood how words can hurt.
He's not gay.
And when we all wonder if marriage equality is the end all and be all of the movement? Think again. In the first state in the nation to accept equal marriage rights, kids are still taunted. Humiliated.
Two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. The top reason was physical appearance.
Carl would have turned 12 on April 17th, the national day of silence in schools. The irony turns in my gut. I must do more. How can I as an advocate, as an activist look his mother in the eye and say I'm sorry? We're trying to push for welcoming, safe schools but haven't made it there yet?
We still need permission slips to talk about how it's not okay to call someone a dyke. lezzy. How the words cut like knives, and the targets aren't just LGBT kids, but all kids.
An eleven-year-old boy is dead today because no one in the school did a thing to help him. They should be ashamed- and they should go to jail for it.
And on Monday, I am going to the funeral. I will promise the mother that until the day I die, I am going to fight for comprehensive anti-bullying policies in schools. Because I'm a lesbian, because I've been on the other side of the taunts but mostly because I am a mother.
We must end the violence.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, recommends four approaches that schools can begin implementing now to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
- Adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression/identity. Enumeration is crucial to ensure that anti-bullying policies are effective for LGBT students. Policies without enumeration are no more effective than having no policy at all when it comes to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, according to GLSEN's 2005 National School Climate Survey.
- Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
- Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance or participation in the National Day of Silence on April 25.
- Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
It's not that hard. It's not about sex. It's about dignity. And clearly, about saving kids lives.