Growing up gay is hard enough, why are people making it so much harder? Although I can't speak for someone who was directly bullied in school for being gay (I wasn't out until college), I can speak for the kind of indirect bullying that takes place every single day that makes an already confused, insecure, and scared kid hate himself for even thinking he might be gay. This kind of bullying wasn't pushing me on the playground or calling me a faggot in the halls, but it was hurting all the same. Worst of all; it was socially accepted. There is still so much accepted homophobia ingrained in our society that most people don't even think about or notice, but trust me, gay kids do...I know I did.
For starters, it's still accepted to use words like "That's gay" or "Faggot." This kind of language was extremely prevalent in the school I grew up in. Even last years biggest Hollywood comedy, The Hangover, (loved by gays and straights alike) included a joke where the word faggot was used in a derogatory manner (as a joke)...What if they used the word Nigger in it's place? That would be, and is, totally unacceptable. Why is there a difference? Did you cringe when you read the F-word the same way you did with the N word?
Gay bullying has been getting a lot of attention in the media and everyone is focused on the bullies and the schools, and of course that's extremely important, but what about whats making these bullies think it's okay to treat someone differently for being gay? Unlike gay people, bullies are not born that way...They are bred by adult bullies and indirectly (and directly) taught that gay people are less than them. If kids grow up knowing that the LGBT community are treated as second class citizens and don't have the same rights as everyone else, then of course they'll think it's okay to treat them badly, everyone else does...The kid who hears his parents saying gays shouldn't marry could very easily adopt that opinion and express it at school with abuse and violence. Kids are mean already, why give them ammo?
When I was in school I did NOT want to be gay. I fought it and denied it with everything I had. The message I was getting from religion was that being gay is a choice and therefore against god, gays are going to hell...the bible being used to spread and justify homophobia. What was the government telling me with Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Gay marriage bans? Gay adoption bans? And people using their first amendment right to speak hate and spread even more homophobia? And my peers? Calling a teen boy gay or a fag was the ultimate insult whether it was true or not and the cool kids were certainly not the openly gay ones. I've been obsessed with movies my entire life and couldn't even find solace there. Growing up I can't remember one positive gay influence I ever saw in a movie or on TV. Everything I saw and every message I heard about being gay made it seem so negative, so uncool, so difficult, so unappealing. There was also a lack of openly gay people in the world I lived. I thought I was completely alone. Everyone I knew liked someone of the opposite sex. Why was I so different? We all grow up with insecurities and finding yourself when you're young is always a struggle, but imagine feeling like the only person in the world going through this. The only person in the world with these feelings. Feelings that from a very young age you've been told are wrong. Feelings you can't get rid of, no matter how hard you try. This is why coming out is so important. The gay community has to be more visible. I hear all the time people denying their homophobia and saying "I don't hate gay people...BUT..." And following that with something along the lines of "gays are too in my face about it." The hypocrisy in that statement is undeniable. It only makes me want to be more in your face! Then maybe you'll get used to it. This isn't a gay agenda, it's an agenda for respect, acceptance and equality.
If a young LGBT kid thinks his parents won't accept him for being gay, even if it's true, the only person with a chance to change their minds is someone they already love. People are afraid of what they don't know or understand.
Before I met my boyfriend's religious parents he was terrified they wouldn't accept me. They had never voiced a positive opinion towards his sexuality and didn't want to hear about it. But when they met me and saw that their son was happy in a committed, loving relationship no different from his older brother and his wife, their attitudes and feelings changed. We can change people's minds, I've seen it happen. Kids should be taught about LGBT issues in school from a young age. Then maybe they'll grow up less confused and less afraid of it.
It wasn't until I got to college and met people just like me that I was able to truly accept myself and be comfortable in my skin. I had to create a new idea of what was "normal" and escape from the unfair, unrealistic and antiquated version of "normal" that society has tried so hard to force on us our entire lives.
I may have not been made fun of for being gay or contemplated suicide but I WAS bullied into hating myself for who I was by the world I lived in. My heart breaks to hear about LBGT youth with childhoods more difficult than mine because I understand how hard it is without the added pain of being bullied for it.
It's time for everyone to start taking some responsibility. These kids are victims of bullying but most of all, victims of intolerance and ignorance in a world that still does not accept them for who they are. If they already feel this way, how do you think someone at school calling them a faggot will make them feel on top of that?
All of our actions and messages are heard loud and clear by the LGBT youth. Now is the time we start listening to them. Before it's too late....
-Joshua Alan Rogers, Los Angeles CA, Writer/Producer