If you don't want to click through after that warning: five boys in twenty days killed themselves after being bullied about being gay (which, as anyone who's been in a middle school or high school in the last forty years knows, may or may not mean they were actually gay).
I can't say much that others haven't said, but I also know that not all of my readers spend a whole lot of time reading the brilliant words of other GLBT folks online. You come here for the funny stories about your ordinary (if exceptionally clever and good-looking) friend's stories of life in the country. So I'm writing about this in case it means people will see it who wouldn't have otherwise.
Here's what I feel:
- So, so, so much sadness. So much grief, not just for five teenagers who have died in twenty days (as if that's not enough), but for the loss to my communities: for the shining lights they were while they lived and the brilliant suns they could have become: People who could have helped others survive torment, people who could have raised families, run for office, been extraordinary friends and activists and artists and scientists and clergy and and teachers and businesspeople and citizens and lovers. And hell, maybe they would have become horrible people. They still would have deserved to live.
- And all of the above? I also feel or so many other people who have died for the same reason whose deaths haven't made the news. People who were so scared of what could happen that death seemed better.
Here's mine: Expose children to queers.
All the kids need this: Potential bullies, potential targets, potential bystanders.
- Queers, we need to get over the fear of how society will react to our reaching out to kids, specifically. We need to be out, and we need to get to know as many kids as we can. We need to expose them to our lives and our friends' lives. We need to show them that we live lives both ordinary and radical, sometimes at the same time, and also sometimes not.
- Non-queers, you need to do all you can to ensure that children see that bullying is not acceptable, and that queerness is. I'll be your token, but I am not enough. Exposure to me is the barest tip of the iceberg. Also: Stop worrying about "how you'll explain." No one's asking you to teach a five-year-old about anal sex (though you'll probably want to do that around the same time you explain vaginal sex, incidentally, if you're serious about this normalizing, because to do otherwise suggests that you assume she or he will encounter straight sex before or to the exclusion of gay sex).
- Everyone, make sure the books and movies you choose for children incorporate a range of experiences. Let them fall in love with the gayest characters. Buy this stuff and ask that your library do the same. Money talks. If you buy it, they'll make more.
UPDATE 10/1 at 4:22 p.m.: Six. I am trying not to cry at my desk at work.