From guest blogger Diane W.:
Lately, the news is awash with story after story about youngsters committing suicide as a result of homophobic bullying. The nation's eye is finally turning to organizations like The Trevor Project, with celebrities climbing out of the rainbow-colored woodwork to lend their voices in the collective cry of, "Why is this happening?!" Our nation is stunned by the news, stunned, I tell you, that kids as young as 11 are taking their own lives because dying seems a better option that living as a homosexual in our society.
Really, people? Are you really that stunned, shocked, surprised, or other synonym for being caught in a state willful ignorance?
Where do you think kids get the idea that being gay is bad, and that other kids that "act" gay need to have it beaten or humiliated out of them? They're not pulling bigotry out of a box of Fruity-Os, people. They're being handed it by the headlines, by the off-hand jokes their dad makes watching football with The Guys, and by the pastor at church.
Homosexuals are third class citizens in this country. They can't marry. They can't serve in the military. They are creepy, and we should be afraid of them, because they are all pedophiles who should not be allowed to adopt or raise children. The message is loud and clear. And with these messages broadcast every day for decades on end, are we really going to pretend to be surprised that kids treat their gay peers as third class citizens? Children do as children see. And if anyone is to blame for what is happening, it is US.
For years the GLBT community has talked to their youth, telling them not to believe the hype. That it's okay to be gay. Even now, the message is, "It Gets Better," so don't give up. While I don't disagree that it's an important message, and one that frankly is true for pretty much anyone in middle/high school, gay or not—it's not the most important message to put out there. Maybe a few more despairing gay kids will reach out and find someone to quarterback them through the bullying, but what really awaits them on the other side? If the bullies are still bullies, and turn into bigoted adults...if our country keeps preaching the same message from its legislative pulpit...then what, really, have we gained?
All due respect, it's not the GLBT youth that need a hotline. It's everyone else. It's the adults who teach their kids bigotry that need to learn to respect others. They have to do before they can teach. It's the lawmakers that need to stand up to their bigoted constituents, much as lawmakers stood up for women, African-Americans, and other minority groups, and gave them a voice for equality. It's time this country got off its collective paranoid ass and recognized that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice and that homosexuals are not fire-breathing monsters. They're people. Good people, at that. And the sooner we adults stop treating them like criminals, the sooner our kids will too.
And that, my friends, is the only way It Will Get Better.