Posted by: Catherine Lugg | October 21, 2010

Because the Bullies Won’t Stop

I’ve been following the reportage on the queer kids who have committed suicide this fall. And unfortunately, a familiar trope is being resurrected, that of the “poor, tortured, and dysfunctional queer.” In some instances, you can almost hear the not-quite-voiced sentiment of, “but of course they committed suicide. It only makes sense.” Suicide only makes sense if you believe queers, and especially young queers, deserve to be powerless, bullied, and tortured. Yet, I fear too many Americans believe this–because the bullies aren’t stopping.

Granted this deadly attitude is also being reinforced by many of our so-called political leaders. If President Obama really believed that the loathed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on queers in the military was manifestly unjust, then he should put his presidential prestige on the line and get that law changed. But no, he says that Congress, that most privileged of bastions of collective bullies, should change the law. Well, we know how this is going to turn out.

Furthermore, not only does President Obama sit on the sidelines during the legislative process, he uses the DOJ to argue that the law is just as the litigation moves through our federal judicial system. This stance is the same as “the defense of dysfunctional non-queer marriage act”–or DOMA–litigation proceeds. In each instance, the Obama White House has made the moral determination that discrimination against queer people MUST be enforced by the weight of the US federal government. We remain stigmatized pariahs in these United States.

NOW is the time when some major queer attitude is desperately needed. While I revere Dan Savage when it comes to hefty queer attitude and activism (he did write Skipping Towards Gomorrah one of my all time favorite books), we need far more avenues for queer youth than the “It gets better” missive. Yes, this is excellent and true message, and it has literally gone viral. But dammit, if the message is safe enough for Hillary Clinton to embrace, somewhere, somehow, we’ve screwed up. Since the advent of the Human Rights Campaign, our queer movements get chronically “sanitized for non-queer consumption.” (Never trust an organization that can’t say “gay, “lesbian,” etc in its title, because it will be of, by and for, closet cases.) “It gets better” is far too safe and it is largely for non-queer consumption. Part of me loves it, but increasingly, I hate it. It’s not quite pasting a video smiley on another queer kid’s coffin–but it might be close.

We need to tell queer youth that you do have a measure of power that you can exercise right now. You have real power–the power of the truth of your lives. So, queer the prom, queer the football team, and for god’s sake, please queer the cheerleading squad (besides queering the usual suspects…choir, band, glee club, theater, etc). And be sure to queer the principal’s office. Now, I don’t want queer kids to take stupid risks and then get booted out of their homes and/or land on the receiving end of a beating. But for those queer youth who can act with a confident level of security, now is the time to take a stand. Take a page or 50 pages out of the Act-Up, Queer Nation, and the Lesbian Avengers’ playbooks. Read and learn from “Diseased Pariah News” and “Dykes to Watch out For.” Yes, you can expect some bumpiness and downright hostility. But it is better that folks be hostile for something you’ve actually done, instead of what they think that you are doing anyway.

For those queer youth in situations where exercising your power will mean being thrown out of the house and/or getting hurt, read as much of queer history as you can, work a part-time job if you can, and hide, wait and save money until you can be on your own. Trust those who only love you for you. You must nourish your spirit while you protect your body and soul. In a country that officially hates you (see DADT, DOMA, etc), sometimes you must hide your fabulous queerness. Please see Neo-Prodigy’s post on this point.

For the queer adults, now is the time to exploit adult privilege, white privilege, class privilege, religious privilege and anything else that you know gives you a societal edge. We don’t have to worry about getting kicked out of our homes. Some of us even have the security of tenure. For most queers, the only thing you are going to lose when you come out is your fear. So queer your local public school board. Yes, serving on the school board takes major commitment, and you have to sit through ungodly long meetings, sometimes focusing on inane minutia–for hours. BUT, it’s the board that holds authority when it comes to public school governance. The board hires and fires superintendents, principals and teachers. Why do you think Ralph Reed recruited and recruits (!) Christian Theocrats to run for school board? If you want public schools to address bullying, you’ll have the administration’s ear (actually, all of ‘em), if you’re a board member. And if you’re scared, please remember the bullies won’t stop if you’re not there.

If you’re not up for queering the school board, queer your religious body’s governing board (I’m serious). Most queers are religious queers. It’s time to put your body where your faith is. There are multitudes of religious bullies. Challenge them by using the doctrines of your shared faith. Also, be sure to queer your civic organizations, your frat, your sorority, your place of employ. If you can’t be out as an adult, how can you possibly protect the queer kids whom we all mourn? Your silence isn’t stopping the bullies….

And finally, if you’re a non-queer ally, do all of the above. I’m SERIOUS. You have the ultimate privilege in these queer hating United States. USE that precious heterosexual privilege to change your corner of the world. Lives are depending on it. Because as Terrel Williams’ boyfriend Daric Rawr observed, right now, the bullies won’t stop.

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Responses

  1. Wow, you nailed it Catherine. One form of homophobia is the belief that we queer people are poor unfortunates who need help. We cannot only tell young people it will get better, we have to ensure that it is better NOW!!!!
    Warren

  2. Thanks Warren. I’m tired of all this “powerless-ness” talk about queer US youth, while kids in France have been protesting non-stop about major changes to their pension system. One learns to be a political actor by BEING a political actor.

  3. […] again, this is why adult queers must run for school board as OUT PROUD queers. Because there are too many bigots actually in-charge of our public schools. I […]

  4. […] please do NOT try to paper over the obvious crap with bright pink bows and smiley faces (like the “It gets better” campaign). If one persists in happy pap, I’m likely to tell you that Mrs. Claus finally got angry enough […]

  5. […] of Seattle Washington, who are educating, demystifying, and smashing heteronormativity. This is a far more effective response than “It gets better” campaign, which is getting increasingly assimilationist […]

  6. […] it did NOT get better for Mr. […]

  7. […] important civil right, doesn’t mitigate against the endless bashing of queers. Furthermore, “gay marriage” isn’t going to do a lot to quell the anti-queer violence many of our queer children experience in their public schools, colleges, and universities. Queer […]

  8. […] I have been HIGHLY critical of President Obama when it comes to queer issues, this is a terrific policy […]

  9. […] he’s lucky to alive, his eye socket is shattered and he’s facing reconstructive surgery. This doesn’t look like “it gets better” to me. That this young man can sit calmly and discuss on a video the horrific violence he has experienced, […]


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