As a kid, I was bullied. Of course, being painfully shy and wearing glasses starting at age four did nothing to help the situation. It was rare that I found the courage to fight back. (Indeed, I can only recall one time where I hit a guy- he hit me back and scared the begeezus out of me. The positive side? He never bothered me again.) One issue I did not have hanging over my head, though, was my sexuality and all the difficulties which can accompany a search of that kind. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who are on that journey; how it affects their faith, their relationship with family and friends and most of all how they must come to terms with how society has chosen to view them versus the truth they know inside.
We don’t live in a vacuum and as a result, what happens in our world is affected by what we do or do not do. Two weeks ago, our nation was shocked by a string of teen suicides, all of which were motivated by the anti-gay bullying they experienced.
We have a whole host of research into what causes people to bully, so we already know that those children who are pushing their peers to the edge have their own problems which need to be dealt with. Why have gay teens been targeted? Why has it been acceptable to use them as a scapegoat? What has our society, as a whole, through its laws and current debates in the church, told the youth? How has society contributed to the anti-gay environment?
According to the current law, homosexual unions are not equal to heterosexual ones, and therefore are not afforded the same right to protection (not to mention tax breaks!). There are only five states which currently allow homosexual marriage, but since most states have DOMA written into their laws/constitutions, those marriages are not legally recognized outside of the state they were performed in. Until this week, gay members of our military were being forced out of service thanks to don’t ask, don’t tell. Such anti-gay laws create an environment where it is acceptable to exclude people who are ‘other.’
Our society as a whole must attempt to recognize the environment it has created. Let’s get real…how does a committed gay couple marrying, negatively affect your marriage? Brittany Spears’ 24 hour ‘marriage’ undermines it more than a committed couple (homo or hetero) since such a short union betrays a casualness that does not respect the institution. Making the statement that homosexual marriage is not worthy of legal recognition means that the people involved in such unions are also not worthy of legal consideration. And it goes downhill from there.
The recent rash of suicides should be a wake-up call for our consciences, but instead, there will be finger pointing at the bullies and the culture of bullying, without any real deliberation as to how we all contribute to that culture. There will be spouts about taking personal responsibility, about being more aware of those ‘other’ people in our midst. But the ads claiming gay marriage as evil, the propaganda pushing hate as a reasonable response to fear of the unknown, will continue unabated.
If society as a whole refuses to take responsibility, it is that much more important for us as individuals to take a stance and make a positive impact where we can. Stand up! Let bullied kids (gay and straight) know- It gets better. Really, it does.