Friday, October 8, 2010

The Question Remains

The news media cycle is already moving on.

People are still talking about the recent spate of stories in the media about gay teen suicides, and suicides due to bullying, outing, and so forth. And the news is already moving on.

People are already forgetting the urgency, outrage, anger and despair they felt only last week. Well, you can't live in those feelings forever. But you can't just move on and pretend nothing ever happened.

The topic of bullying is one that people mostly want to avoid. People will go back to wincing around the topics of bullying and suicide, because it's something they'd rather not think about, unless required to. Wincing, often, because they feel helpless to do anything about the situations that lead to those outcomes. Some may wince even at the fact that I'm not going to let this issue just fade away back into life's background noise. Yet silence is complicity: if you avoid talking about it, it just goes back into the closet.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

Bullying and suicide are issues I care about a lot more deeply than gay marriage. I think gay marriage is largely irrelevant as an issue by comparison to those issues wherein people are dying, or losing other parts of their lives to outside attacks. Addressing gay teen suicide is more urgent. Repealing DADT is more urgent. Keeping the civil rights already earned, such as domestic partnership laws in some states, from being eroded is also urgent. Bullying and suicide are on my radar. They will be for a long time to come the main points of activism that I focus my energies towards changing.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

I know what I'll be doing about it. I'll be counseling every gay kid I know, or am introduced to, that it gets better. I will talk to every kid I see being bullied or attacked or ostracized or verbally abused, just for being different, that it gets better.

That's a tough sell. Kids who have been bullied very wisely don't trust most adults, especially adults in positions of authority. If adult authority actually meant anything, they'd have the power to stop the bullying. Bullies are often stupid, but they're also often sly, or crafty.

But it's worth the effort to make the sell, even to kids who find it hard to trust you. How do you get them to trust you? By being congruent with your words and actions. By never lying to them, even when you'd like to lie because it would everyone's tender feelings. By never pretending things are other than they are. By being true to your word; if you can't do something, you say so, and you don't make promises you know you can't keep. You can't promise to protect someone against every harm they will ever encounter; you can only promise to do your best to be with them, and do your best to help them overcome.

And by telling them your own stories: How you were bullied and verbally abused, just for being different, or just for being gay, and how you overcame it. Maybe you still have a few scars, and you don't try to pretend you don't. Maybe being bullied changed you for life. And you tell those kids, who find it hard to trust, how you turned that into a blessing, into something positive, turning your scars into badges of honor, into memorials and blessings, into tools for overcoming.

And not every person can be saved. For some it's already too late.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

I know what I'll be doing about it. I'll be speaking out against anti-intellectual dumb-down political rhetoric designed to control people by triggering their fears. I'll be speaking up against political, verbal, and peer-pressure coercion, all of which are kinds of bullying. I'll refuse to be silent in the face of abject stupid hatred, just to avoid offending anybody. I'll be speaking truth to power. I'll be refusing to stay silent in face of lies, distortions, small misunderstandings that lead to big conflicts, and the like. I'll speak my mind when there's something worth saying, or someone worth defending, and otherwise I'll be silent.

I'll also be bringing whatever beauty into the world that I am able to, in my own tiny individual way. I'll be writing music that no-one asks for, and no-one wants. I'll be making photographs that no-one cares about. I'll be writing poems that no-one asked me to write, and no-one wants to read. And each of these will be one more reason to stay alive, to live one more day, to remember that ugliness and hatred are not more true or real than their opposites.

Every ripple in the pond matters. Enough ripples coming into synergy can create a tsunami.

People complain and complain about how there's no unity and thus no effective political power in the gay pseudo-community. People bitch constantly at each other about they're mean to each other and argue over the slightest little catty points while never getting anything done. People try to verbally shame each other into agreement, which only creates more divisions. People forget that there are problems that can't be solved simply by thinking about them, or even by trying to verbally whip each other into caring about them.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

You find those points that you CAN agree on, and that you DO agree on, and you come into alliance to address them. You find common cause. You set aside your other differences, for awhile, and focus on what you have in common. You come into alliance, if only temporarily, to address issues like bullying and suicide, and yes even gay marriage, while they need to be worked on together, after which we can all go our diverse ways again.

You collect your individual waves into a tsunami.

It doesn't have to be a permanent wave.

And stop beating each other up for being different—that's what the bullies do, beat us up for being different. The whole culture is a bullying culture, because it has managed to get us to bully each other, so the bullies don't have to.

The LGBT world is theoretically built on embracing and celebrating diversity, and yet we so often beat each other up over our differences. Doesn't anybody see the incredible irony in that? We do the bullies' work for them, when we beat each other up for being different. Think about it.

What then must we do?

We can start by stopping the bullying. And we can start by stopping bullying each other. And we can start by labeling bullying as what it really is, whenever we see it, as a way of becoming aware of the problem. You can't solve a problem till you've become aware that it exists, as a problem.