Sunday, February 17, 2008

To be young and gay, often means to be dead

"The real issue is not the kid coming out, but the kid sitting next to him."

You haven't seen this story on the evening news, and none of the presidential candidates has mentioned it. But earlier this week, a 15-year old boy was shot in the back of the head by a classmate. Students were just sitting down in their seats when the 14-year old assailant suddenly pulled out a gun and shot Lawrence. He shot Lawrence because he was gay and it freaked him out.

From the LA Times:
Police have not determined a motive in the slaying but said it appeared to stem from a personal dispute between King and the suspect.

[S]everal students at the south Oxnard campus said King and his alleged assailant had a falling out stemming from King's sexual orientation.

The teenager sometimes wore feminine clothing and makeup, and proclaimed he was gay, students said.

"He would come to school in high-heeled boots, makeup, jewelry and painted nails -- the whole thing," said Michael Sweeney, 13, an eighth-grader. "That was freaking the guys out."
As regular readers know, I used to teach middle school. So I know, it doesn't take much to freak out the guys. I also know that when something like this happens it is imperative that the adults make a clear sign that this is wrong -- very wrong -- and it will not be tolerated.

Yet the LGBT community is still waiting to hear one of our "adults" (i.e., elected officials and those who would hope to be elected) stand up and make a statement about this tragedy. As blogger Sara Whitman has noted:
The message of hate is getting through to our kids, loud and clear. It’s okay to kill someone who freaks you out because they don’t fit a gender role to your liking.
And think about these words spoken by Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A Gay Center, at a memorial for Lawrence King:
No one is born hating gay and transgender people or believing that we should be denied equal rights. Such hatred and bigotry must be learned. It is learned in families that don’t accept their own children if they’re different than the norm. It is learned in right wing churches where ministers preach abomination or in schools where teachers and administrators don’t protect LGBT kids from bullying and harassment. It is learned from political leaders who support blatant discrimination again us or whose leadership fails them when it’s time to speak out and take action on behalf of our equality and our humanity.
Superdelegates? Really? Michelle Obama's clothes? Clinton's campaign manager? Is that what's important? Of course not. So when will either Clinton or Obama show some real leadership, refocus on the priorities, and make a clear statement denouncing this act? 


Cootamundra W said...

I have decided that I am not a tolerant person. I cannot tolerate people being so freaked out by people who are different in any way..
I am greatly saddened by Lawrence's death. I am also saddened by the lack of MSM attention to this tragedy.

BAC said...

I've been out of the closet for more than 30 years, and during that time I've heard many stories similar to this one -- and I'm still affected by them. It's something I don't think I'll ever get used to, and I don't really want to.

You are correct in saying that it's up to the adults to change our culture. And it would certainly be helpful if MSM would report this kind of violence.


Sue J said...

I just wanted to add that as a former teacher, I hope everyone understands how many different things teachers today must be aware of and involved in. I wanted to teach in middle school because I remember what an awful time it was for me, and I hoped I could really make a difference to some students. (I was a shy, tall tomboy who wore her brothers' hand-me downs. I didn't exactly fit in with the early 70's permed hair and makeup crowd.)

Every adult I know said to me "Good god! Why would you want to teach in middle school! It's common knowledge that these are uniquely difficult years for children -- yet there is no special training, no special consideration given for the needs of children at this time.

I guess my point is that we need to be aware as a society what we are asking our schools to do. Some teachers are better equipped to handle students like Lawrence than others. I had zero tolerance for bullying of any type in my classroom and treated it all as serious offenses -- sometimes only to have it thrown out by the principal or v.p. But then the bully would go to the next class, and who knows if that teacher was even aware of the taunts or comments. They may have been too busy getting their class ready for the next round of standardized testing .....