Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Sad Reality of Anti-Gay Teen Bullying

We are in the midst of a gay suicide epidemic.  Tyler Clementi was the first to get national attention, after the Rutger's student jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his untimely death.  More suicides followed, and then Raymond Chase was reported as the 5th teen to take his life in just 3 weeks.  But really, how many have come and gone before became this issue became a media trend?

Gay teens are 300 percent more likely to kill themselves than heterosexual teens.  And while there has been a public outcry against the adolescent intolerance believed to be responsible, how much can we really ask of our youth when our political system continues to limit the freedoms of gay citizens?  Hate and fear are learned behaviors and to discuss "teen bullying" is only telling half the story.  This discrimination is institutionalized and every time constituents vote in favor of anti-gay legislation, we hammer a nail in the next suicide victim's coffin.

There has been an explosion of activism, aggressively spreading awareness about these tragedies and the hatred that causes them.  BGSU's own Aris Kaleps-Clark was captured by the local news educating others about the bullying of gay students on campus.  Kaleps-Clark is also part of One Bowling Green; a campaign attempting to pass two non-discrimination ordinances concerning housing and employment.  Community members are hoping to create a city that is both fair and welcoming to gay and transgender individuals whose rights are currently unprotected.  This election will determine what sort of example adults in Bowling Green want to set  for their children.

Opinion leader Ellen DeGeneres was quick to respond to the Rutger's incident with an emotionally-charged video that swept the Internet.  Tim Gunn and other celebrities have followed Ellen's lead, speaking out against homophobic violence.  And Dan Savage launched the "It Gets Better" project, which has it's own Youtube channel.  Now anyone can upload a message of encouragement during these desperate times that have already claimed too many lives. 

Youtube is creating a support structure, and for that, I am grateful.  Those who chose to share their personal experiences, like Dan and Terry, are bravely stepping up to serve as role models for teens who don't have any.  And while it does get better, being gay in America can still be a difficult, isolating experience.  Let's remember why that is, and that when school children are cruel, their bullying is merely an imitation of the belief system they understand.

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