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collateral damage in the cultural wars

This is disgusting:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202

Not the article but the phenomenon. Basically, in a small town in Minnesota (Sen. Bachmann's district actually), they've had a collection of I think nine suicides by high school and middle school kids. Many but not all were LGBT, and it started around the same time the school board barred teachers from promoting homosexuality through the sex ed curriculum. (That included presenting homosexuality as an acceptable "lifestyle.") Because the curriculum was so unclear, teachers were afraid to admit they were homosexual or teach about the role LGBT people had played in history. Or, you know, stop the students who taunted their perceived-as-LGBT classmates, chasing them down the hall and calling them faggot or dyke. I find those words offensive to type; imagine being thirteen an having your peers call you that in full view of a teacher, who does nothing.

There is a real sense of the-inmates-have-taken-over-the-asylum here. Some parts of the story don't quite track for me, like why teachers waited so long to take a stand. Or why the board met with an LGBT activist without having their story straight, if they needed a story. Or why the students were simultaneously traumatized by the deaths but simultaneously went on teasing them until yet more died. But I think denial can explain a lot, as can the inherently messy and illogical nature of all suicides, especially where it's kids we're talking about.

What really shook me (aside from the physical details of the suicide; they're not excessively graphic, but definitely triggery for someone with my history) was the reaction of the local "family values" advocates:

Asked on a radio program whether the anti-gay agenda of her ilk bore any responsibility for the bullying and suicides, Barb Anderson, co-author of the original "No Homo Promo," held fast to her principles, blaming pro-gay groups for the tragedies. She explained that such "child corruption" agencies allow "quote-unquote gay kids" to wrongly feel legitimized. "And then these kids are locked into a lifestyle with their choices limited, and many times this can be disastrous to them as they get into the behavior which leads to disease and death," Anderson said.


Let's assume just for the moment that she's right, that homosexuality actually does lead to a shorter lifespan. Say there's a higher prevalence of AIDS and other diseases, that social pressures lead to self-destructive behaviors. I don't believe that, but let's just say for arguments. In these cases it wasn't AIDS or "limited choices" or anything else that killed these kids.

It was hate.

And that hate can be traced back to the bullying and alienation that the policy not to mention LGBT issues and individuals in the curriculum pointed back to. Some of the suicidees were thirteen. I can't imagine Samantha had even heard of ACTUP, the GLF, or whatever their modern analogs are. But she knew the hate she dealt with every day. If the person who put this policy in place cannot feel empathy for her and thinks the only proper response is to blame her "kind," then Ms. Anderson is missing something big about being a human. Kids are dead. I'm not so naive to think it's all her fault because, as I said, suicide is complicated. But teachers who stood by while this harassing happened time and again and district policies that made it difficult to do anything else had more of a role in this dynamic than any "gay agenda."

Honestly, stuff like this makes me ashamed to be a Christian. I've read enough of my Bible to know these folks aren't practicing the real deal, and I've known enough Christians to know they're not all this. But if I was a high school kid in Anoka, MN, I think I could be forgiven from praying the bumper-sticker's prayer: Lord, save us from your followers.

Amen?

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
lady_branwyn
Feb. 7th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Or why the students were simultaneously traumatized by the deaths but simultaneously went on teasing them until yet more died.

The callousness is unbelievable. In a local case, a young girl was hounded by classmates until she killed herself. During the calling hours, the other girls were reportedly making rude comments about how she looked in the casket. Honest to God, if that had been my sister, there would have been more deaths!
marta_bee
Feb. 7th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
It is amazing. I like to think that those girls may have just felt guilty and didn't know how to handle it. But deep down, I don't think so. Does it make me a curmudgeon if I just grumble about what the world's coming to?
azalaisdep
Feb. 9th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Oh gods, that makes me want to weep. With rage.

I am so thankful that the UK legislation that made it illegal for schools/local authorities to "promote homosexuality" (the infamous Section 28) got repealed in 2003 and that even a Conservative government (admittedly in coalition with the Liberals) shows no signs of wanting to reintroduce anything similar - indeed the Conservative party has a number of openly gay MPs and I think public opinion in the UK, particularly among young people, has moved on light years. Which isn't to say there isn't still dreadful homophobic bullying in some British schools, but others are very forthright about challenging it, thank heavens.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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