Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bigots, bullies, and dead kids

It was another beautiful spring day that looked like summer and felt like fall. I went out for a walk to try to lighten up. But something kept bothering me. Bouncing around in my head. Then as I stood there watching the kid skateboarders I remembered what it was. Something this religious wingnut said.

"It's about Children, Stupid!" Yeah that's it. You better believe it my bigot bishop. You're so right and yet so bloody wrong.

Of all the evil things straight people do to gay people in the name of sick religion, nothing makes my blood boil more than the pitiless violence inflicted on gay and lesbian kids. If you want to know why I am fighting so hard to make sure that gays and lesbians aren't treated as second class citizens anymore. It's mainly because of what happens to the kids when religious hatemongers run amok.

The depressing facts speak for themselves. Canada has one of the highest
youth suicide rates in the world. About 30 per cent of the kids who kill themselves are gay or lesbian. Gay males and bisexual youth in Alberta are 14 times more at risk for a serious suicide attempt than heterosexual male youth. They're bullied in swanky schools and on native reserves. The situation is bad everywhere.

But if you really want to know how bad it is you have to hear it from the kids themselves. From those who survived those years in hell, and those who didn't. Like Hamed Nostoh, 14, who said he wasn't gay, but was bullied to death anyway. Here are some excerpts from the note he wrote before he jumped off a bridge in Vancouver.

Dear Mom and Dad

The first thing is, I love you Mom and Dad. There was so much going on, and I tried to cope with it, but I couldn't take it anymore.... It was horrible. Every day, I was teased and teased, everyone calling me gay,fag,queer, and I would always act like it didn't bug me...But I was crying inside me...

"I know that you are going to miss me, and that you will never forgive me, but you will never understand.You weren't living my life. I hate myself for doing this to you. I really hate myself. But there is no other way out for me..."

"Mom after my death, please, please go to schools and talk to kids that bullying and teasing has big consequences. Please visit my grave often so I am not lonely..."

Robbie Kirkland was also 14. He was gay. He suffered the same fate. Here's what his mother had to say about his death.

When a society condones this kind of behaviour, or doesn't do enough to stop it. When religious fanatics are allowed to to meddle in politics and whip up a hatred against an oppressed group. It all sends out a powerful message. Gays and lesbians are second class citizens. They are not like us. Not really human. It's ok to bully them and bash them as much as you like.

This SSM "debate" in Canada isn't just about the right to affirm our love and get married, if we so choose. It's about equality,respect and the right to live in peace and dignity -- and not be assaulted or murdered. Or have gay and lesbian kids bullied to death. While most of the people in this country look the other way. Don't even rein in their own kids, and teach them that insulting and bullying gay children is bad. Just call it death by denial.

What good is it fighting for human rights in Afghanistan, if we can't even protect our kids at home? That's what this battle is all about. That's what it is for me anyway. So kids like Robbie Kirkland don't have to look forward to a daily beating, suffer in silence, or die, or feel so alone. Here's part of what he wrote in a poem he called :"I'm Dying and Nobody Cares."

"I try to stand and walk
I fall to the hard, cold ground
The others look and laugh at my plight
Blood pours from my nose
I am not a pretty sight
I try to stand again, but fall.
To the others I call
But they don't care..."

Then there's the suicide note Bruce wrote.

I think this is one of the saddest ones of all. He died hating himself like so many poor kids. Apologizing for who he was. Because they filled his mind with bullshit religion. Told him his love was dirty. And that it was all his fault. That God hated him. And he was going to hell. As if he hadn't been there already.Thanks to them. And the poison they call religion. But I call a curse.

Fortunately there are more anti-bullying programs now than there were a few years ago. No thanks to the religious right that is always fighting them in the name of so-called religious freedom.

Or the freedom to hate. Doesn't that make you want to vomit?

But despite this wave of intolerance more and more gay and lesbian kids are learning to be proud of who they are younger than ever before. Standing up bravely for their rights. Even in some of the worst places to grow up gay.Or so you would think. You gotta love that kid. That's the kind of attitude I admire.

So we are making progress, it's just too slow and not enough. And I'm afraid this totally unnecessary so-called "free" vote on gay marriage is not going to help things. That it will stir up another divisive debate in Canada, that gay and lesbian kids will end up paying for with their blood.

But that should only motivate us to fight harder. To fight these crazy religious fanatics like we've never fought before. Not just for trying to steal our human rights. But for making gay kids suffer. And bullying them to death.

I know I will. For Robbie, and Hamed, and Bruce and all those thousands and thousands of other young victims of bullying and bigotry who cry out for justice from their lonely graves.

That's why we're fighting.

That's why we can't lose.

That's why every decent Canadian should be fighting with us.Saving the kids.

Who could be their own...


Anonymous said...

Simon, thanks for highlighting an issue that garners a hell of a lot more attention than it gets. I, too, went through daily routine bullying, harrassment and ridicule in school right from kindergarten to grade nine, when I finally had enough and fought back. I never once wanted to kill myself because I loved life too much to do that. Other gay people I knew in school weren't quite as fortunate as me, and were basically damaged for life. Ironically, that grusome experience in my early years is what made me the strong, successful person I am today. I even had incidents in class when fellow students would call out faggot and the dumbfuck teacher would laugh too. She should have had her fat ass fired, but that was the 70's. One day it all changed. I fought back and to this day, I will not allow anyone to disrespect me. The ring leader of the gang of thugs who picked on me and I had a little fight in front of the whole gang. Guess who won. It was a rainy October day, I grabbed him, threw him down in the mud and held his face in it. I screamed at him, are you going to call me a faggot again? Are you? Answer me? I totally humiliated him and I will never forget the rush of adrenaline and pure joy I had. His name was Kirk, he got up, started balling his eyes out, and the whole group was laughing, this time not at me, but at their precious leader. All of these religious and political bigots are no different than Kirk, the schoolyard bully. They do and say these things to us because they get away with it. That pathetic fuck Teddy in Helberta who wants to "protect religious freedom" should hang his head in shame and be forced to talk to all of the parents on the website you sited. Religious freedom my ass! Vic Toews, Stephen Harper, that sick-fuck Bishop, Elsie Wayne et al, all pathetic cowardly bullies who just need to be put in their place and their small-penised/no-tits power taken away from them. That's the real key to resolving this problem that THEY have created in society and that sick religion ferments.
Awesome post. We need to get the gay community off their apatheic asses and start fighting against this shit.

Simon said...

Right on brother. Strong stuff. It's depressing how many gay and lesbian lives have been scarred by what they had to endure when they were children. What should have been the happiest and most carefree part of their lives,is instead the most traumatic.You can get a rough count of the dead, but there's no counting the walking wounded. You're also right when you say it's time to do something about it. I've got some good news in that regard. My friend Sebastien was telling me that him and others are organizing bully patrols. To track to down those who would bully gay children. And make sure they pay for their crimes. They've got six so far. They hope to have about one hundred by mid summer. When they do maybe we'll get somewhere. But one thing is certain we shouldn't wait for others to join us.We've got to do this job ourselves.It's our kids who are being killed...

Anonymous said...

It's everyone's kids who are being killed. Canadian kids. Bullying kids for their sexuality (or frankly, the /excuse/ of their sexuality, since a victim's true sexuality often has little bearing on things) will last as long as unthinking adults encourage it. When they tout it as a corrupted lifestyle choice where the older seduce the younger, little pitchers have big ears and suck all the fear in.

Once in the black hole of high school, those same kids mutate into the helpful knights fixing things for King Henry 2, when he gnashed, "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!?" about the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The kids /know/ there are behaviours allowed in school adults could never get away with outside the grounds. Sanctuary? They don't need to respect no steenkin' sanctuary.

The deadliest thing about bullying is the 'code of silence' surrounding the kids. Add to that, the burden of being 'sinful' as piled on by the homophobic crowd and you have a completely toxic isolation for adolescents in hormonal flux.

The isolation is what needs to be broken. For bullying of all forms. I've been there, been bullied there. But my time was the civil rights marches. I was stubborn, or stupid, enough to take it directly, on my own, to the principal's office and keep taking it there until something was done about my bullies that stuck. There's no way I expect kids to always be able to do that, or have that good a detente outcome on an individual basis.

I guess I'm not sure what anti-bullying patrols would do. It's not like you can get on to school grounds without permission. Does EGALE have teen support programs to populate? If they don't, can some be started?

What programs exist outside that? I know there are teen crisis hotlines who use volunteers and need better profile. There are a growing number of anti-bully programs in schools. There are safe haven declarations on campuses and tolerance clubs on and off campuses. They all have good reports on results, but they could certainly use more positive publicity and support.

What are the schools like in your areas? Are the school boards up to hearing from sexuality tolerance promotion groups at their meetings? You could have your can of worms pop right there. Publicity and filtering to the kids all in one.

Simon said...

Hi Niles you make some very good points. As you say kids are bullied for all kinds of reasons,for being fat, or thin, for the way they speak, for being gentle and shy instead of rough, for the colour of their skin -- as well as for what the bullies perceive as acting "gay.' I wasn't bullied for being gay, but for being a white kid who was friends with the only black kid in town. But most of all for being a Protestant who supported a Catholic soccer team! Isn't life bizarre? But I think gay kids have a particularly tough time because nobody stands up for them, because they're too afraid they'll be called gay themselves.
The good news is that thanks to the work of a lot of people (especially teachers) things are improving. And more and more schools are declaring themselves bully-free zones. The problem is how to protect the kids outside those zones. Again some progress has been made, but everyone --parents, teachers, and police-- needs to do more.

Zac said...

Excellent piece Simon, truly excellent and very touching.

Not being gay myself nor growing up with any gay kids, I find it very sad what many of you had to endure.

Lots of the problem has to do with the connotation that the word "gay" carries with it. When something is bad it is labelled as "gay", when someone acts strangely, they are acting "gay". These words are powerful when levelled against someone one. The connotation has to be changed so that kids knowing that it is not wrong to be gay.

The "God Squad" has much to do with this. I'm writing a piece for my university magazine entitled, "the problem with god", which I will also post on my blog, which addresses some of these issues. I like your permission to use some of the info from your peice. The harcore christian groups at my campus have a real presence. They call themselves everything from the "campus crusade for christ" to the "McMaster Morality Association" to the usual "right to life". Some members have harrassed our local GLBT groups and have distrupted thier meetings. I'm hoping to set them straight.

Harrasment of gay kids doesnt stop on the school field, it continues on into university as well. We had a gay student commit suicide in residence about five years ago because he was harrassed constantly by some of the members of the varsity sports teams.

Truly sad stuff, but thanks for providing some insight for me.

Simon said...

Hey Zac! Thank you. You have my permission to use anything you like.
It's really good to know that we have decent straight people like you on our side. It gives me hope for the future.That we can stop the hate so more poor kids don't have to suffer and sometimes die.That we can make our country a better and more tolerant place for everyone to live in. Keep up the good work!

Zac said...

Thanks for your permission Simon. I appreciate it.

I'm disgusted with the way that people can be sometimes. The lack of action is also disturbing, like how some people think the fight for gay rights ended in 1989 or something.

Either way, happy to to do my part.