Recently somebody asked me why I keep writing articles about issues related to the rights of homosexuals. After all, I’m not gay and no one in my family that I know of at least is gay. I do have friends who are gay and have known many people over the years who are gay, but so have a lot of other people. So why is it that this one issue I have written four separate articles about? I have written articles supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, about if being gay is a choice or a trait that a person is born with, and about supporting same-sex marriage. I write about many issues but this issue for some reason really gets to me. The reasons that I keep writing about these issues is twofold. The first reason is simple. No person for any reason what so ever in this country should ever be discriminated against and whether that reason is because of their sex, or their skin color, their religion, or their age, a disability or their sexual preference, the fact remains, it is wrong. This issue goes way beyond what group is being discriminated against, this is an issue of common decency. It is the same issue that faced African Americans during the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the issue of Equality. If African Americans still had to sit in the back of the bus and drink from separate drinking fountains then I would be writing about that. If women were still denied the right to vote then I would be writing about that. If Jews were still restricted from living in certain Chicago suburbs or joining certain social clubs I would be writing about that. And while all of these groups still and always will have to endure discrimination on some level, that discrimination, unlike the discrimination that homosexuals face is currently against the law. Homosexuals on the other hand not only still have to endure discrimination but they have to endure legalized discrimination and until all discrimination of any kind is outlawed, we all should be outraged that any legal support for discrimination still exist in modern America. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is legalized discrimination against homosexuals in the military. Laws forbidding same-sex couples to get married is legalized discrimination. Laws forbidding same-sex couples to adopt is legalized discrimination. Homosexuality is not a disease, it is not a condition that needs to be rectified, it is not a lesser lifestyle or a way of being that others need to pity someone for. It is a human being, being a human being with every right that every other human being on this earth has. And if the actual act of two people of the same sex having sex with each other bothers you, well get over it. No one is asking you to watch. I would not want to watch most heterosexual couples having sex. Being gay is not all about sex just like being heterosexual is not all about sex. Being homosexual is simply about who you love, who you care for, who you choose to date, who you build your life with. Sound familiar, it’s just like being heterosexual. To deny a homosexual any right afforded to a heterosexual is wrong and it is discrimination
The second reason these issues are so important to me is much more personal. Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh. If you don’t know these names, these are four of the teenagers who recently made headlines because they were bullied so much for being gay that they felt the only way to escape it was to commit suicide. Asher Brown and Seth Walsh were only thirteen years old. These four teens killed themselves simply because they could not endure the abuse they were receiving from other kids. This is tragic. This issue of equality for homosexuals has gone way beyond equal rights, and has become about life and death. These four boys just wanted to be who they are, to live their lives but they were bullied so much that all they wanted was for it to stop. Being a kid, without having to deal with the stigma surrounding being gay is hard enough. To be a teenager, where popularity and acceptance is everything, and also be gay is something I can’t imagine having to deal with at that age. If you got through your first eighteen years of life without being bullied for something, you are fortunate. I was bullied because I was always the smallest, I had a huge head of curly hair, was better at art then I was at sports, and was a bit of a geek. I was teased, beat up and there were many times that I just wanted it to stop. Fortunately my positive attitude and close friends kept me going and I never let the bullies destroy what I knew was great about me. The fact that I went on to marry a girl who was the head cheerleader at her school still amazes me. The fact is bulling is something that is all too common among young kids but not something that is new. The difference is that today we have Facebook, My Space, and YouTube and with that bullying has reached a whole new level. With some teenagers having hundreds and even thousands of Facebook friends, harassment can now happen instantly on a global level. Bullying can happen on a scale today that was unimaginable when I was a kid. A video of a private sexual same-sex encounter once posted to Facebook can go viral in a matter of hours. Verbal harassment can happen even when you are alone in your own bedroom through social networking and where in the past a teen could escape the abuse simply by the sanctuary of his or her own home, today via text messaging, My Space, Twitter, and Facebook the harassment is nonstop.
But who is to blame? It is easy to blame the bullies, but that is too easy and not the true source of the problem. The truth is, the bullies are also kids, kids who are also looking to be popular, wanting to be accepted, and many times are even more insecure and lacking in confidence then the others in their peer group. Many times their bullying is simply to compensate for this lack of confidence and their insecurity, and without thinking of the consequences of their actions, they lash out at the easiest target, the one that will get them the most noticed, the one that will raise their own level of popularity and acceptance among their peers. Their actions, regardless, are inexcusable but the solution must come from somewhere else. Prejudice is not inherent. Hate is not a gene. And barring some mental disorder, intolerance is something that is learned. The solution must come from the home and the reinforcement to the solution must come from the schools. The blame for intolerance, hate and prejudice lies in the home and in the home is where it must change. A child must learn that bulling is not ok, that intolerance of anyone is wrong, that we are no better than anyone else because they are different from us. It is the parents that must set the example and realize that when you call something “gay” and mean it derogatory, a child learns from that. When you use the “N” word when speaking about an African American, a child learns from that. When a child uses hitting, punching and yelling to get their way, and you say nothing, or worse, do it yourself, a child learns from that. And when you are intolerant of others because they are different then you, a child learns from that. The blood of Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh is not only on the hands of those that bullied them but also on the hands of their parents, their parents who with or without knowing it taught their kids to be intolerant. The blood is on the hands of the school system that didn’t provide a safe haven where a teen could turn to for help, and until parents and the schools start taking responsibility for the intolerance that our children are having to face on a daily basis, more teens, who just want to be who they are, will end up ending their lives simply to escape the bulling that the parents of those doing the bulling continue to condone.
Discrimination of any kind is wrong. Bullying anyone for any reason is wrong, and no person should ever be made to feel lesser of a person, whether it is by a peer group who teases to compensate for their own insecurities, or by a State who forbids same-sex couples to marry. No one should ever have to hide who they are from a military who says Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell, or from a school system who fires their teachers because of their sexual preference. We are all human beings and not any one of us is lesser of a person because of who we choose to spend our life with. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Please take some time to watch this video created by the young stars of Broadway, and please watch the other videos posted under the Daily Videos to the left.
If you've been bullied please share your story by clicking on the "Comments" link below.
If you know a teen who needs help here are some very useful resources: