Saturday, November 27, 2010

Against Bullying: Some Resources

Still think bullying is the victim's fault? You really need to get over that. Anyone, particularly any gay man on a gay men's website, who denies that LGBT youth are in peril in today's society needs to have their cranium removed from their rectum. Yet I have seen plenty of such comments in recent weeks. That's either denial or veiled self-hatred, or both.

I heard more via email from friends in the gay men's chorus in San Francisco about the bullying/suicide connection. One of them passed on information about The GLBT National Help Center, support website with helpline phone numbers. Even though they're based in San Francisco, they are a template for many similar regional support services.

Some relevant facts to be found via The Trevor Project:

Additional Facts about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

• Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (2007 GLSEN National School Climate Survey).

• Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%) (2009 GLSEN: Harsh Realities, The Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools).

• LGBT youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates (JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM – Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009)

• Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).

• It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (2006 National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness). 62% of homeless LGB youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers (Van Leeuwen JMm et al – Child Welfare 2005)

Living as I do in a rural area, I see that third bullet point all the time. Most gays in my rural area are not out. Every time I post an online personal ad hoping to make a date with someone, fully half of the respondents are married men who want "boys on the side." I delete those responses without replying, since I don't want to tangled up in that kind of drama. (Nor am I interested in being part of someone's coming out process, being their therapist or guru, or whatever. Once they get past the initial few years of being out, maybe we can talk.)

Living a gay life in rural America is living in a mostly hostile environment.

California supports bullied young people. In early October 2010 a bill was signed into law:

SB 543 — Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth — is an historic bill that allows youth 12 to 17 years old to receive mental health care without requiring their parents’ consent. LGBT youth across California who are fearful that their families could become abusive or kick them out if they come out—or refuse to consent to their obtaining mental health services—will now be able get the help they need, before it’s too late.

Equality California and Senator Mark Leno made this bill a priority to address the hostile environment too many of California's young people find themselves dealing with everyday, the kind of environment that has led to bullying, hate crimes and several recent tragic and heartbreaking suicides. This bill is one critical step to provide support for LGBT and questioning youth. But we have a long way to go to end the climate of terror that those who oppose equality and promote hatred have created.

I hope this law does start a trend. I hope that it does go federal, eventually.

But of course there will be the usual wingnut outcry against it from the right, which will no doubt label it as creeping socialism. Which of course it is not. But that's what keeps happening when the extremist ideology of individual liberty trumps the desire to maintain the social fabric. In fact, of course, the idea that kids can go seek help without their parents' consent is a triumph for individual liberty. But how many will perceive it that way? Wait and see.

I'm all about stuff we can DO, not just talk about, to counteract the effects of bullying and prejudice and hate. And sometimes words are the tools we can DO something with, too.

If you're a queer writer, or a queer artist, here's something else to do, to make it better: The Better Book Project, edited by Eric Nguyen:

Deadline: 30 December 2010

I think for any living queer (past high school) this is very hard to deal with. Our community is falling apart here. Our tribe is dying. It is definitely better now to be queer than in the past: but it’s still hard (I can go onto a whole sociological analysis of all this…but that’ll be like dissertation size, with a lot of unanswered questions [until I can get research done ] so I won’t). Obviously.

I am not part of any nonprofit organization. I can’t say that I’m an activist in that I stay in an office and do work to help past laws. (After many interviews, I don’t think I can truly be an activist in an office). But what I am is a writer. I am a part of culture. I am culture. (All writers and artists are). As a writer, I am doing what I can. I’ll do the only thing that I can do. Write. And edit.

Thus, my Better Book Project.

Inspired by Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, this is a project for the queer literary community. It is our chance (it’s our duty), to use our words to their full extent–to save lives, to communicate to our distant selves.

Think about yourself as a teenager. What story, what poem, what words would’ve made things better, in the face of bullies and unapproving family members, in a small town without a car perhaps, with no visible community? What would you tell them?

I am looking for words– stories, poems, essays, short memoirs–for an anthology tentatively titled BETTER: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Teens About Growing Up, Surviving, Living, and Thriving. Publication is set for Summer 2011. Publication will first be through Lulu. All profit from this will go to a nonprofit that supports queer youth. Therefore, sadly, no payment. Think of it as a literary donation. No word minimums or limits, but remember that this is an anthology. Will seek publication through a publishing house for larger distribution (I’m thinking about where this book can be physically avaliable to kids, and public libraries don’t buy self-published titles), but we’ll see then.

Send all submissions to by December 30, 2010.

More (but not too much more) info at:

The genuinely positive side of the Internet: ending isolation for people who have no other easy way to connect with like-minded people, or others who are going through similar problems. The supportive connections are powerful and very helpful.

Here's something extremely cool:

An anti-bullying website for and by youth, gay and not, focusing on telling their stories, making a positive message, providing help, telling it like it is, and even a poetry contest. I've often said that making art is the best revenge, meaning that it's the best way to talk back, to stand up and be heard, and to survive. In my own darkest hours, making art, making music, is what has kept me alive.

This is one very good way to start making a difference, and getting out the anti-bullying message:

A Million Miles from Anywhere

A message from Sarah Silverman on bullying, and she just about says it all.

From The White House: It Gets Better

From The White House Blog, video clips of President Obama and Vice President Biden addressing the recent spate of suicides caused by bullying. It impresses me that the President spoke out on this, with his own view that it does indeed get better. There are also several links provided on the blog to resources about the suicide and bullying of gay issues.

It's good to see The White House throw their weight behind this issue. No matter what anyone thinks politically about whoever inhabits, will inhabit, or has inhabited The White House, it's really good that the Executive Branch has taken notice and said something about bullying and suicide, because this is an issue that affects every citizen, one way or another, beyond all political posturing and debate.

Ft. Worth, TX, City Councilman Joel Burns speaks out that It Gets Better. I found this video deeply moving. Maybe there's hope after all, if the younger generation of politicians, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, can be more like Joel Burns.

Pass this clip on to a troubled LGBT kid if you know one. It's sure to be helpful.

My Son Is Gay

What a super mom! Her attitude is the best anti-bullying tonic possible. What a great mom.

Some of the comments are shocking, though, in context. But these serve only to speak better of Supermom, who by contrast with those benighted souls is a shining light of heroic love.

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