3/14/2011 – Nicolas Kelo Jr. 13, takes his own life due to being bullied as “gay” at school. The anti-gay sentiment began when Kelo gave up football for a spot in the high school band.
1/21/2011 – Kameron Jacobsen, 14 takes his own life after incessant bullying at school and victimization for being “Gay.”
1/15/2011 - A young man from Alexandria Minnesota, Lance Lundsten commits suicide at 18. A victim of consistent bulling at the local high school, it’s suspected that Lundsten took his own life due to the mounting stress.
It’s an easy war. Bully the kids and sooner or later they go off and hang themselves. “Gay” has gone from a simple insult to a death sentence, and our children are the first line of hate warriors in this battle.
It’s little wonder that this is happening, the rising tide of moral conservatism in the US precludes all but the “correct” pairing of men and women. Consistent losses in the anti-gay effort against marriage equality, gays being precluded from military service (at least openly), and a host of other “fundamentalist” defeats is raising the volume of their dissent.
Worst of all those “conservatives” are finding out that their friends and neighbors do not automatically agree with their positions on the LGBT community. They are not afraid of the queer couple who moved in down the block. They don’t find a different lifestyle threatening to the very fabric of “American” life. Shockingly they don’t even “know” that a gay teacher is the destruction of society itself.
This makes the anti-gay louder and more afraid than ever. It spreads to their children and they bring it to school in it’s full fury. But it’s not just the overtly anti-gay, it’s everyone who doesn’t take a firm position of acceptance with their children. Every parent or care giver who doesn’t denounce the victimization of gays over their sexuality.
That’s a lot of people who don’t believe in acceptance enough to make a clear statement. The ones who say “I have gay friends, but….” or “I have nothing personal against gay people, but…” obviously do have a problem with gay people. They’re just not willing to do anything overt themselves. It’s this “grey tide” of closet hate and revulsion that lasts from one generation to the next. The subtle cues that children are so good at picking up, just as they pick up all those words they’re not supposed to use.
The kids aren’t blameless. It’s hard to stand out from your friends at school and declare that being even slightly anti-gay is a problem, but it still needs to be done. How do we give them that strength? Are we truly American if we don’t try?
As the moral “conservatives” in the US become more and more threatened we can expect more of the same. I wish I knew how to convince some people that live and let live is not a dangerous policy. This morning I watched a video of a town council meeting in which a man who had lost his government position for his anti-gay sentiments, and then another job in Vancouver for the same reason and was still pressing his agenda. He insisted that declaring October LGBT history month was a dangerous precedent and would lead to infiltration of the gay lifestyle into the school curriculum.
A week later, 19-year-old Zach Harrington who attended that meeting in support of the resolution took his own life. His family said that it was the “toxic” turn of comments that so depressed him. Long before the meeting, Zach had had to leave his own high school 6 months early out of fear for his safety.
No doubt there will be many more young men and women who fall to despair in this “toxic” moral war. While we may not be able to reassure the vehemently anti-gay, and calm their fears, we do not need to support them either by action or inaction. It’s time to take a stand, loudly and clearly.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011