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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.
For gay, lesbian or bisexual people who are closeted, sexual desires can often be alarming or even frightening. Because of a fear of discrimination or rejection from the ones they love, they often don’t feel safe asking for guidance about even the most basic biological questions concerning their bodies’ sexual reactions. We’ve heard words like “perverted,” “unnatural,” and “sick” to describe typical sexual fantasies or arousal.
We speak with many people about this issue, and let them know that attraction and arousal are normal reactions, and that thinking about sex is natural too. We can also answer questions about safer-sex, and keeping yourself as safe as you want to be if you are sexually active.
Here at the GLBT National Help Center, we focus our discussion around feelings, rather than actions. If you have a technical question about the mechanics of sex, we are able to refer people to the San Francisco Sex Information Switchboard, a wonderful organization, independent of us.