First, a HUGE shout out to the folks at The Day Against Homophobia – you can find them HERE.
Another HUGE shout out to the organizers of the Annual Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia – this was a ginormous undertaking and you can find them HERE.
As a participant I’ll be giving away the winner’s choice of EITHER Santa Claus is Coming (available from eXtasy Books), OR the sequel (tentatively called) Toy Testing in Santa’s Workshop (slated to come from eXtasy in late July – hot off the presses to the winner – blurb to come this week!) To win, you must comment on today’s post HERE on the blog. (There are two more planned posts this week – if my guest posters get off their heineies -coff, AUBRY,coff- and send me stuff!) Winners will be chosen on the 24th from comments on today’s post, though feel free to comment on anything related that finds its way onto my blog between now and then.)
I generally approach this Hop as a teacher – now a former teacher – and I believe with all my heart that the best and surest way we will ever eradicate both homophobia and transphobia is by educating our kids. In the past I’ve written about my students. This year I’m going to let parent speak for me. My very dear friend has a son who is roughly the size of a mountain, and who is gay. He’s grown now, and I HOPE living a fabulous life with people who love and accept him as he is, but high school for him? Not such a wonderful place. Here’s one family’s experience – it has a happy ending, in the “Shakespeare” definition of happy endings: No one died. But, God. We should want so much more than that for our kids.
My son is gay.
And I don’t mean happy. He’s seldom happy, but I think that’s standard issue for young people today.
In high school it was worse. My son is extremely strong-willed. He’s never been afraid to tell anyone the truth, and that included his sexual orientation. And high school kids are bastards on the whole. They will say or do anything, no matter how heinous, to hurt the kids who are different.
So my son became a target.
Now, my son isn’t a small guy. In the 8th grade, he could have picked me up and set me on the kitchen counter. By his freshman year he was 6’1″ and pushing 300 lbs.
You might think this would work in his favor, but it didn’t. It made his teachers less willing to help him.
“He’s a big boy,” they would say.
“He can take care of himself,” they would say.
Until he actually DID defend himself.
Then all I heard was, “He can’t fight in school; we’ll expel him.”
This went on for a couple of school years. The first half of the year, he was bullied because “he could take care of himself”.
We’d have meetings.
Then, the second half of the year, he’d defend himself.
And we’d have more meetings. Suspensions. Threats of expulsion.
By his junior year I was fed up. I told his Vice Principal that either they would protect my son, or he would protect himself and I would find a lawyer willing to destroy a school district.
All this helped. For a couple of months. Then it started back up.
“The teachers don’t have time to follow your son around.”
“If they didn’t see it, they can’t do anything about it.”
“We can’t be everywhere.”
“Can’t he deal with this himself?”
Things came to a head halfway through his junior year. We got a call from the school. My son had been to the school counselor, talking about suicide.
I guess that’s the magic word in a public school.
It’s okay when a student gets relentlessly picked on, teased, and bullied. That’s just “part of being a teen these days”. But a suicide threat? Oh, heaven forbid! That kind of thing could bring bad press to a school district.
Now everyone wanted to get involved, but by that point nothing they could do could help my son be comfortable or happy at that school.
So, he packed up his possessions and moved to Kentucky, thinking that with a new school and a new start, he could get through.
Not a chance.
As I mentioned earlier, kids can be bastards. And school officials often don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect them personally.
I thank God often that my son chose to drop out of high school and get his GED rather than commit suicide, but I find it so sad that it had to come to that. That our children can’t be kept safe in the schools that we all pay for, even as we’re told that “they are doing all they can”. [VJ’s addition: Yes. All they can. While Administration talks and talks and produces, in another Shakespeare moment, “sound and fury, signifying NOTHING” for these desperate kids.] I’m here to tell you that they aren’t. There are teachers who care, but they seem to be getting fewer and farther between by the year. [VJ’s addition: Yeah, it’s incredibly demoralizing to have your hands utterly tied in the face of the bullying we see but are allowed to do nothing but give warnings and write referrals that are never acted on…]
My son is happier these days, but his high school years still effect many things in his life.
He is always waiting for the next bully to show up, the next person to yell “fag”, or “homo”, or worse. Because it’s inevitable. Because so many parents can’t be bothered to teach their kids right ffrom wrong, and their kids grow up to be just as big of bastards as adults.