Note: This post was first published on my original blog - Celebration Generation - on October 7, 2010. It was transferred over to this blog - existing comments and all - on 4/2/2021
I’m going to apologize in advance here. Today’s blog isn’t light, fun, or in any way wedding or food related. It’s political, and it’s about a sad, crappy subject: the recent epidemic of bullying-related suicides.
It’s a subject that’s frustrated and saddened me for awhile - especially this past couple of weeks. After reading an article yesterday - where a local religious/”family” organization actually blamed these suicides on the victims themselves - I have to speak up.
First off, my background. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no stranger to being bullied. When you grow up smart, nerdy, and with Asperger’s... you’re a prime target. I was bullied from the time I started kindergarten, all the way through the end of Jr High.
When I was in Jr High, I moved to a school that was... well, quite honestly, it was full of complete degenerates.
The usual teasing and bullying went from “picking on the nerdy kid”, to something new: I got bullied for being gay. I also got bullied for having AIDS, and it was horrible.
Daily abuse, ranging from name-calling, to being pushed down a flight of stairs, to being ganged up on and physically assaulted on the way home from school.
One time in particular, I was hit over the head from behind, with a 2" thick tree branch.
I wasn't gay, and most certainly didn't have AIDS.
My big crime was being a figure skater, at a time where 2 well-known skaters died of AIDS. Of COURSE that meant that we were ALL gay, and ALL had AIDS. Yes. Logical thinking FTW, right there.
I remember clearly what a relief it was to leave that particular school - and go to a regular school. Not only was I not ridiculed for those things, the *actually* gay kids weren't ridiculed either.
I may not be gay, but I can relate to these victims, and the recent rash of suicides pisses me off. How many people need to die before bullying is stopped for REAL?
Bullying not only leads to suicides, it leads to school shootings. The past few years, there's been an untick in the number of school shootings, many of which were tied to bullying.
Now there's a bunch of suicides.
What, exactly, is it going to take to make those responsible for this stand up AGAINST the issues that cause it?
While I never considered suicide, I clearly remember sitting in class, fantasizing about the school burning down, with everyone in it.
I never considered DOING the burning down myself, but I do remember how it was so awful going to that school, that I really just wished that a huge number of people would drop dead - for real.
Now put yourself there for a minute. You’re an 12 or 13, and being made so miserable that you actually wish death on a mass number of people.
What would it take to get YOU to that point? Whatever it would take - do you think that it’s something that any child - CHILD - should have to go through?
I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer that children should be free to grow up in an environment that is free of that kind of darkness.
To be able to focus on growing, on their schooling, on having fun and being the children that they are.
On playing, and enjoying their youth - not on mapping out alternate routes to their next class / home in order to avoid further assault and ridicule.
The thing is, these kids would never tell adults - such as the police in that one case - that they were teasing me for “being gay”.
They knew enough to know that THAT kind of abuse - much like racism - was actually a bad thing, and that it was socially unacceptable.
Nowadays, finding myself having to deal with a new culture that is COMPLETELY foreign to me... I can’t understand how it’s socially acceptable - and in some circles, considered a good quality - to be a bigot. WHAT?
Back in the day, my bullies ascribed whatever conditions or qualities to me that they could to make me even more of an outsider.
They jumped on “gay” not because they’d been conditioned to, simply because there were news reports about 2 gay figure skaters dying of AIDS. I know, it makes little sense to me, too!
Here and now, however, kids are being brought up in a social and political environment that openly preaches hatred against GLBT people.
Kids today are constantly barraged with comments, commercials, news stories, and preaching that indicates GLBT people as somehow less than human.
As being so much “lesser”, that they deserve very few of the basic rights that straight people enjoy.
Seriously, when people make comparisons between gay marriage and the idea of people marrying FARM ANIMALS, what message does that send to children, to potential bullies?
How about the message that there is something SO WRONG with GLBT people, that they should not be allowed to serve in the military?
Beyond dehumanizing GLBT people, many of the politicians and religious leaders today also breed a destructive culture of fear against GLBT people.
It’s not enough to dehumanize them, they need to convince their followers that they are actively under attack from GLBT people.
Kids today are raised, being told that gay people are out to get them, that they are evil. Gay marriage, you see, will destroy their parent’s marriage.
Think about that for a minute. You’re a young child, and you are being told - in many ways - that these “gay people” are going to DESTROY YOUR PARENTS’ MARRIAGE.
Children don’t think like adults. They lack a lot of the problem-solving, critical thinking, MATURE thinking that adults (supposedly) have.
They don’t think that these people are pushing an agenda, they don’t understand politics.
They don’t understand the manipulation that is playing out when such statements are being made, and - in many cases, with younger kids especially - they probably don’t even know what “gay” is.
They just know that gay people are “bad”, and that they don’t want their parents to get divorced.
I’d like to think that such repercussions of their actions are the furthest thing from the mind of those anti-gay bigots, as they push their political agendas for their own gain.
I’d like to think that breeding a dangerous culture of hate, of brainwashing and conditioning their children just doesn’t show up on their radar, too preoccupied with their own agenda.
As a rational thinking person, however... I realize that such thinking would be pretty naive on my part.
While homophobia is a powerful tool for those that choose to wield it as such, it is an INCREDIBLY dangerous weapon. It has no place whatsoever in politics, school, or society.
Those who choose to wield it should be shunned for being the awful “people” they are, not exalted as being “moral” leaders.
The blood of these bullying victims is on the hands of every politician, school official, and “religious” leader that has pushed an anti-gay agenda, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
I may be agnostic now, but I was raised Catholic. There is nothing righteous or in any way Christian about preaching hate, and demonizing anyone - much less children. CHILDREN.
Look at Asher Brown, a 13 year old who recently killed himself.
That’s not some horrible monster, that’s a gorgeous young CHILD who had his future taken away from him. Look at his smile. How horrible is it that these kids, this society, managed to take his light away? It’s beyond disgusting.
When I moved to the US, there were a few catch phrases I heard often:
“Freedom” - I hear this all the time, and I don’t know how many people have a clear understanding of what freedom is.
How free is a country, when entire groups of people are dehumanized, and lack equal rights?
“Freedom of Religion” - I’m sorry, but as worded, freedom of religion seems to imply all religions. Maybe even lack thereof.
That one single religion has such control over society and politics is .. Well, I think that it runs counter to this ideal.
I’ve yet to hear why it’s acceptable for one religion to have such control in the USA, and to push its beliefs on those who are not of that religion, yet it’s a different story when it comes to other countries with other religions in charge.
Religious extremism is religious extremism, no matter the religion or locale. And yes, teenagers being driven to suicide is definitely something I’d consider to be extreme.
“Liberty and Justice for ALL” - What part of FOR ALL is conditional?
Again, something I’ve not had explained to me adequately.
Before I get jumped on, I’m all for Christians being able to practice their religion, much like I’m all for everyone being able to practice their own religions.
The thing is, there is no such thing as absolute freedom, and I think this is where a lot of people get lost.
Freedom only goes so far as it can WITHOUT hampering someone else’s freedom. One’s freedom of religion stops at the point they hamper someone else’s freedom of religion, or someone else’s freedom of BEING.
Preaching hatred is not a victimless action... and everyone deserves freedom to live, to thrive, free of such harassment.
I’m tired of being frustrated and saddened by the amount of evil out there - and yes, preaching hatred, demonizing entire groups of people, that’s evil - and had to speak up.
These bulling victims aren’t an idea, they’re not some vague concept or statistic.
They’re someone’s child. They’re people who will not grow up.
They’re people who were tortured to the point where death was a more attractive option than living. Those that preach hate need to step back and look at that.
These are people.
The thing is, I also feel really bad for those that preach the hatred.
I feel bad for the bullies involved with these suicides. Hell, I even feel bad for those that tortured me when *I* was in school.
Healthy, happy, well-adjusted people do not exert time, energy - and in the cases of politicians - a ton of money into hating other people.
I can’t imagine what kind of dark misery these people have to be living in, to drive them to treat others like that.
I can’t imagine what kind of existence it would take to drive a person to dedicate such energy to denying rights from others.
Trying to wrap my head around it makes me sad. I wish that all those bullies, the homophobes, and the politicians that wield homophobia as a weapon all find some sort of peace, and soon.
If you're against gay marriage, don't get married to someone of your gender. Simple. I'll never understand why some people obsess over what is happening in someone else's bedroom.
Intelligence, acceptance, love, and reason should not be minority groups of thought.
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When I was in junior high and high school, I was constantly bullied. It was never physical (I was 6'4" by the time I was 15), but there was constant verbal and social bullying. They teased me about being poor (on subsidized lunches), being smart, and piles of other stuff, true or not.
What made this even worse for me was constantly hearing adults around me talk about how high school years "are the best years of your life".
Home life wasn't exactly great, including my dad's 2 attempts at suicide by pill overdose when I was 12 and again when I was 14. The first one happened while I was away at camp.
I regularly fantasized about killing the people who were bullying me and killing myself. This was before school shootings started happening and students in my rural school actually did demonstration speeches in speech class on how to clean a shotgun, so it wouldn't have even been difficult to follow through.
I never did anything about the bullies, but I did attempt suicide when I was 16. I put a shotgun in my mouth and pulled the trigger. The only reason I'm still here today is that the safety didn't completely release and stopped the trigger. I freaked out at my failure and felt horribly guilty about the pain I'd cause my mom in particular.
I never actually tried again, but thought about it a lot until my senior year of high school. MN started a program where high school juniors and seniors could go to college instead of high school. I was first in line to sign up to get the hell out of there. In the yearbook for my last year of high school, I am "not pictured" and feel like that really sums up the shift that happened for me.
From that day forward, life got better. Sure it was in fits and starts, but it got better. I love the "it gets better" campaign because life at 35 is SOOOOO much better for me than life at 15 or even 20, 25 or 30 that you couldn't pay me to go back and re-live high school.
It always makes me sad to hear about anyone who commits suicide or goes on a murder/suicide spree. I know what it's like to feel like that's your only option.
For 18 years, I never told a soul about my suicide attempt. When I finally started telling family, etc. every single person was shocked. Every one told me that they had no idea I was suffering so much.
I told them that I actually had tried to tell people how miserable I was only to be told that "everyone goes through it", so "toughen up" or the whole "best years of your life" comment.
There was mostly silence when I did that.
When I was a child, I knew a gay man who was a Christian. When he came out, his church turned on him, telling him he was an abomination in the eyes of God. He changed churches, but faced the same reproach and eventually jumped from a bridge. I was raised by right-winged parents. Like many children, I didn't question what I'd been taught. After Mr. Millard died, I found myself wracking my brain to remember whether I'd ever, in any way, made a prejudiced remark in front of him. I loved him. I never would have intentionally hurt him. Had I known he was gay, I would have questioned my parents' ways of thinking, but I didn't learn that until after he was gone. I can thank Mr. Millard for completely turning my thinking around, as I'm now blessed with many friends and mentors I otherwise might have rejected. All I can say is that when he left, the world lost a great talent and a very bright light. He was a deeply beautiful being.
Thank you for this very important and well thought out piece on this issue. I came upon this through one of your wedding cake clients and she agreed with the way you present this issue. I do, too. It's simple and to the point.
Being gay and picked on back in junior high and high school for being fat, Jewish and perceived to not be intelligent - I know how these kids feel. There are still jerks out there that still shout stuff out. It's probably best that we have learned that guns are never a smart thing to carry in a supposedly civil society (I grew up in the L.A. area).
When the Mary Griffith story first broke ("Prayers for Bobby") in the East Bay, I knew that I had to find a way to do something for my community that could save lives and celebrate community. I did that in 1995. Two years ago, I was in Toronto where my work had a local cell. I had two fellas thanked me for doing this one. One intimated to me that he contemplated suicide about the same time he heard that a group was formed in Toronto as part of my work. He wasn't the first one who stated that if it weren't for that work they would've taken their own lives. I'm glad that it did open up a world of possibilities for these young gay/bi men.
Thank you for making youe case that it is no longer acceptable for bigotry to persist in a civil society like ours.
BRAVO!!!! Excellent piece! Bullying has always been around, but it seems to be in epidemic proportions at the moment. Tolerance and compassion definitely seems to have been left behind in religious teachings these days, and in the school those kids seem to be the ones to be the first to attack others for being different. Being a secular family from the South, we see this everyday. I'm glad I found your blog, I'm enjoying following along and love that you don't shy away from hot topics when they definitely need to be covered!
Fantastic piece. Very powerful in both writing and the thoughts behind it.
I hope the people who need to read it, actually do. Thank you.