Editors' Note: Guest blogger Victor Bumbalo is an award winning internationally produced playwright. He has also written for several popular television shows.
Tyler Clementi. Our hearts break. His life is over because his roommate and a classmate thought it was hilarious to share his sex life with the cyber universe. His gay sex life. Bad people. Mean. There were bad kids who made Seth Walsh's life so miserable that the only way out for this 13 year-old child was to hang himself. Billy Lucas, 15, also sought relief at the end of a rope from his life infected by bullies. More bad children. Mean boys. Mean girls. Asher Brown 15. What words from his tormentors were going through his head when he shot himself?
An epidemic of gay suicide. An epidemic of bullying.
Who are these heartless children who get pleasure from tormenting their peers?
We look for causes. But we don't dare look too deeply, particularity in the case of gay children; because if we do, we would be stepping on sacred toes. We would have to hold accountable the many trustees of our spirituality, our democracy, our arts and entertainment.
So we don't talk about the Catholic boy who loves his family and loves God and wants them to love him back. We don't talk about what this innocent hears when he goes to church. The message he receives is clear. If he ever acts on any of his feelings, if someday when he's older he wants to express his love, he'll bring shame on himself and his family. He'll go to hell. Separated in this life and eternity from his loved ones. And he's only a little boy. That kid doesn't have to be Catholic. He could be sitting in any number of Christian churches or Orthodox synagogues.
What about the kid who's the good student, interested in history? What does he hear from the majority of our public figures and politicians as he's channel-surfing? That he doesn't have equal rights and he doesn't deserve them. No matter how smart he is. No matter how accomplished. Equal rights are reserved for straight people. Even those bullies - those mean children who may grow up to be mean adults - they'll have more rights than he'll ever have.
Then there's the African-American gay kid. Finally he has a role model in the White House. But what does this charismatic President tell him? That he should have equal rights, well, almost. Just don't ever think of marriage. That is reserved for his straight brothers and sisters. Not him. And if he wants to serve his country, he mustn't tell anybody he's gay. That would only lead to expulsion and more humiliation.
There's a 13 year-old kid in a small town. No way is he out. He goes to the movies with his posse. Up on the screen is Vince Vaughn in a trailer to his new movie (thankfully pulled) saying something is "gay," meaning annoying, worthless, something not right. The film makers think it's harmless. Just an expression that all the kids are using. They're so hip and funny. They have lots of gay friends. And their little joke is so much better than the jokes in other straight boy movies where the most upsetting and hilarious thing that can happen to a character is to be perceived as gay. But that kid in the movie theater is not that hip. What he hears is that gay people's lives are a joke. Not the stuff that dreams are made of. And deeper into the closet he goes.
These are facts gay kids live with every day. No way are they prepared to deal with these mean boys and mean girls. Even if a gay kid has a loving family, sometimes it's not enough. Because they have to go out into the world, and the world is a much more dangerous place for these kids.
We are complacent. Too silent. Way too patient with our powers that be. It's time these gay kids stop hearing from the adult world that they are not good enough, not equal, just a joke, an abomination. Schools and parents should immediately let these children know there is help for them out there. Be it the Trevor Project or Dan Savage's "It Gets Better Campaign." And there are churches, temples, and synagogues that would welcome them.
Twenty years ago, a friend was dying in a hospital of AIDS. The TV was on in the background. A famous actress, an Academy Award winner, was on a talk show. She prided herself on being gay friendly. However, she was sharing a story about her nellie hairdresser. About what a little queen he was. The actress minced. She swished. The audience roared. This harmless little joke was the last thing my friend heard before he slipped into a coma. His last words were "They hate us." We have to keep that message away from these kids. Or we are just a population of mean boys and mean girls.