Archive for November 2013
Sadly, we are all getting too accustomed to reading about the horrendous news of another shooting in our nation’s schools. We see it in middle schools, high schools and even colleges. And there’s been lots of attention on the possible causes, most notably the ridiculous ease of getting hold of a gun, the gun culture that prevails in so much of our country, and the appalling lack of resources for parents when they know their child needs help, but real mental health resources are way too far out of reach.
But we do a disservice to our children and to our compassion as a country if we ignore the other ingredient in some of these acts of violence. It’s the pervaciveness of school bullying that takes place in almost ever school in our children attend. And after speaking to literally thousands and thousands of young people, that bullying almost always has a homophobic component to it. It seems that the greatest insult you can hurl at a kid is calling him gay. Whether it be the subtle, but oh so belittling, “that’s so gay” to the outright name calling of “fag”, faggot”, “queer” and so many more, it gets interpreted by many of these kids as an aspersion against their masculinity. While of course being gay, or even being perceived to be gay, has absolutely nothing to do with manliness or toughness, in the minds of some of these kids, it’s an outright accusation.
And so for kids with no safety net, no safe place to get support and talk about these things, whether it be a supportive teacher, a home environment which sends the message that sexuality is wonderfully varied, or a mental health system that makes support available before a tragedy occurs rather than after it, some of these kids go off the rails. And in our sometimes warped culture, what better way to prove masculinity, and thus in their mind disprove the accusations of their sexuality, than to bring in the family gun, and show everyone that they were wrong all along. That they aren’t gay. That they are real men. And the poor kids who get caught in the cross-fire, and we as society find ourselves mourning another loss that didn’t have to happen.
Does every school shooting have to do with anti-gay bullying? Of course not. But with bullying shown to be such a causative effect, and with homophobia running rampent in many of our schools, with some schools standing silently by while this name-calling increases in volume until it becomes a crescendo in some people’s ears, we would be foolish to ignore the connection, and see how devestating it ultimately is to all of us.
FOUR LITTLE LETTERS THAT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROVIDING FOR YOUR FAMILY AND POVERTY: E-N-D-A
There are only 17 states that have state-wide protection from being fired at your job because of sexual orientation or gender identity (plus another four that only protect sexual orientation). That means that the majority of states in our country offer no state-wide protection from being called into your manager’s office one day, after getting wonderful reviews for 20 years, and being fired simply because your new manager didn’t like gay people. And recent polls show that most Americans don’t support this type of discrimination, and in fact think it is already illegal to fire someone because they are gay. But it’s not.
And there’s been a bill languishing in Congress for years and years called ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And it’s really the most simple bill. It says that you can’t be discriminated at your job because of your orientation or gender identity, regardless of what state you happen to live in. It says that people should be judged on their abilities at work, not on what their orientation happens to be. It’s frankly what America is supposed to stand for – equal opportunity for all.
But although there is now bi-partisan support for this in the U.S. Senate, it looks like the House of Representatives won’t even allow its members to vote on it. And while we are not a political organization, the truth is that there are three words that are preventing a vote from even being allowed: The Republican Party.
It’s incredible to me that in 2013, our representatives in Congress won’t even be allowed to vote on the bill, because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives knows that if a vote were allowed to take place, the law would almost certainly pass. So let’s just not let anybody vote. Not exactly the American Way.
So please, call your representative and urge them to support ENDA, and to allow people to vote on it. Because it’s hard for us to protect ourselves and our families, when we never know if tomorrow will be the day we’ll be fired, just for being ourselves.
Brad Becker, Executive Director