Column – Bullying, not politics, is real problem

October 4, 2010 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador

By now, you’ve probably heard of the many tragic suicides of young, gay men/boys that have happened recently. We ran a guest column on the topic in Monday’s issue of The DT, and many other news sources are covering it.

But what bugs me is that I feel as if too many people are taking the fact that these suicides were by members of the gay community and rushing to make a political statement out of it.

I’m not going to talk about gay marriage or anything here, as doing so in this context would be both insensitive and unwise on my part, regardless of which side of that fence I fall on. The problem I have has nothing to do with these people’s sexual orientation. My concern is that people are trying to make this a gay rights issue, rather than a bullying issue, the latter of which affects much more of the population.

Early this week, I received a press release in my inbox that proudly declared, “Report finds bullying linked to depression in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth.” The subject was in all caps, and I get many such press releases due to my work with the paper, and usually they’re junk. But this particular subject caught me as odd.

See, bullying is linked to depression in everybody, especially young people. This is not something that is exclusive to the LGBT community, and it’s quite possibly something that you’ve experienced yourself, whatever your sexual orientation.

Kids can be terrible, and it’s been that way for some time. People are made fun of because they’re gay, because they have glasses, because they’re skinny, because they’re fat, because they’re religious, because they’re not religious … Kids are made fun of and harassed horribly for just about any reason you can think of.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. In no way am I saying this to lessen the deaths of good people like Tyler Clementi or Texas’ own Asher Brown. What these teens went through is absolutely terrible, and should never, ever happen to any living, breathing person on this planet.

Even if you think gay marriage is wrong, even if you think homosexuality is a terrible sin, you have absolutely no right to harass another human being in the way these people were being harassed. You have no right to tell such people that they would be better off killing themselves. Such statements are despicable, no matter where they come from or where they’re directed.

My fellow Christians should know this better than most, yet sadly that seems to be far from the truth. But I suppose that’s another topic for another time.

That aside, it’s obviously not just homosexuals that are bullied, and that’s a very serious issue. If we only focus on stopping the attacks on young homosexuals, who is going to save the kids who are suicidal because they’re being bullied over other things?

Especially in an increasingly online world, even cyber-bullying is a huge threat. A relatively well known example is the story from 2007 about a mother who bullied Megan Meier, an acquaintance of her daughter, via MySpace, which led to Meier’s suicide. This girl wasn’t a member of the LGBT community, but the effects of bullying still led her to her death. If we only focus on the homosexual bigotry, who’s going to save girls like that?

Thankfully, not everyone is pushing the gay rights aspect of these recent deaths. Ellen DeGeneres, herself an open member of the gay community, made a blog post and video about the issue. In them, she doesn’t dwell on the fact that these recent suicides were by gay teens. She mentions it, as she should, but she makes it clear that bullying is the epidemic, and directs people to anti-bullying organizations such as Angels and Doves.

According to CNN, back in July President Obama sent a letter to a young girl who had written him about problems she was having with bullies at her school. In the letter, Obama said, “Bullying, whether in person or online … is never OK. All of us must recognize that our shared experience and our unique differences are what make this nation so special. You deserve a safe and enjoyable classroom and together we will strive to make it a reality.”

Whether or not Obama wrote that personally might be open for debate, but the words ring true. We’re all going to have different opinions, and I think that’s fine. But as such, we shouldn’t try to shove those opinions into the bullying epidemic. We should solve it for what it is – a very serious problem that effects a large population of children – and not turn victims like Tyler Clementi into poster children for political agendas.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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