"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...