It's Not the Bigots That Bully, It's Our Friends That Hurt Us More
By Charles Karel Bouley II
There's a lot of "gay" in the news these days. It always amazes me how it goes in cycles, bubbles up to the top of public consciousness, gets in the media cycle, and then goes away again.
This time the hoopla is about gay bullying. It shot to the foreground with the case of the Rutgers University student who at 18 jumped off the George Washington Bridge because his roommate posted live video of him making out with another guy. And as with any news cycle, when something is hot, the other stories start flowing in so the string of gay teen suicides that occur each and every week are again in the forefront. But gay teens have throughout my 47 years of life killed themselves, without a lot of media play; gay teens have been #1 at killing themselves for years and not many have cared, at least not CNN or MSNBC or every talk show host in the country.
On October 11, 2010, National Coming Out Day a Republican candidate for Governor of New York said he doesn't want his kids brainwashed that being gay is OK and blah blah and again, the nation's media responded, the talkers (like me) talked, the papers printed, the blogs blogged and a sense of righteous indignation took hold.
But spare me, please. Let me tell you something, a few things, actually, about being openly gay in America (which I have been for 31 years, do the math, I'm 47, came out at home and school at 16).
First of all, all teens think about killing themselves. It's part of being a teenager. However, gay teens tend to be even more conflicted, and some have no support and yes, they die. And I hate it. But blaming Carl Palladino in NY or the case of the Oklahoma teen who killed himself after a city council meeting where homophobia raged, singling things like this out as the cause, pointing that finger, well, that's far too easy and patently wrong.
I expect those that disapprove of me because of their religion to be hateful. I learned early on those that claim the most godliness, the most piousness are often the most evil and as far away from any dogma of love and kindness to each other as one could be. They are insane in many forms and I learned early on not to pay attention to the insane. Just try and keep them out of office.
And I spent enough time as a young child in Texas, Florida and parts of the South to know that most good ole' boys want to beat the queers by day but do something a little different with them at night after a few drinks. The Lady doth protests too much, me thinks, was a philosophy every gay person learns at one point or another. Those are the dangerous ones that flip out because they can't deal with the fact they might actually have an attraction (most gay bullies fall in to this category, gay adults call them rough trade because, well, it can get rough).
So you learn who is dangerous, who is hateful and why early, early on; Usually the hard way.
But as I hear all this increase in the gay bullying and suicide epidemic chatter, I find it disingenuous at best, harmful at worst. Harmful? How could calling attention to this be harmful? Because most are missing the point: Bullying from crazy religious people or people at school is understood, almost expected. But when allies or friends do it, it cuts so deep it can kill.
Take the case of Democrats. Democrats have painted themselves the party of inclusion, of civil rights, of progress. It's why I've voted that way since I was 18. But the truth is, they're not. And it hurts.
When Barack Obama said he was against same sex marriage but supported marriage equality, that hurt me, at 45 then, and it hurt so many gay youth you cannot even imagine it. Even you, Obama? You're a Constitutional scholar that doesn't believe in equal protection or the 14th Amendment? When the President comments on TV about every other case, like calling cops idiots for arresting his friend, or weighing in on this or that, and Prop 8 first passes, fully funded by the church, and then the courts uphold it denying tax paying Americans again, their 14th Amendment rights, he remains silent. In fact, every major Democrat has remained silent through so many of these battles either out of fear of political repercussions or religious condemnation, whatever the case, Democrats pander to the gays for money and then go to D.C. and continue the policies of exclusion and disapproval. Harvey Milk often fought alone.
The President says Don't Ask, Don't Tell should end, but first allows the government, my government, the government of gay men and women everywhere across America, to send out the most insulting online survey about attitudes towards gays ever printed. 30 pages of questions, and then the "would you mind showering with the queer questions." Yes, let's ask the 18 year old son of a preacher man (yes Dusty!) from Tennessee if he wants to share a shower stall with a homo and what his comfort level with that would be. You are kidding, right? And gay people know civics and know that the President, as Commander in Chief, could sign an executive order immediately suspending the enforcement of the policy until Congress works it out. But he won't. He wants to wait. And he continues to discharge gays. He does. He's Commander in Chief. Bully.
Our unions, our basic unions, are put up to harsh, divisive votes that come with horrifyingly negative campaigns in which my, our, very being is discussed, our very existence, whether it's normal or natural and TV news stations like CNN actually allow people to enter in to the debate or make statements based in nothing more than religious dogma. I am lucky enough to call Gavin Newsom a friend. And I told him point blank one day when he said he can't wait to get another marriage amendment on the ballot, I said, "Gavin, do you have any idea how insulting it is to have your unions voted upon by the masses, the validity of your love up for debate by the population of your state? No, you don't, or you'd know that you don't vote on civil rights."
Point the finger in the mirror at most of yourselves because America in general is the biggest bully of Gays, hell, of anything different, that there is, and it always has been. The fact that many of you still question whether it's a "choice" or not is lunacy beyond belief, insulting, and demeaning to other humans. And your kids hear this debate. Careful the things you say, Children will listen. Careful the things you do because Children will see and learn...
These bullies don't come from defective parents, they come from most of you out there right now. They come from anyone that even believes for one moment that equality in contract law based on gender should be voted upon. They come from anyone that thinks the natural state of being human for another is a "sin" or an "undesirable lifestyle." They come from remarks made by Presidents, like let's amend the Constitution to "protect" marriage, or even the Obama stance as President of I don't "approve" of this so I want a separate but equal policy for "them." Democrats, Republicans, there's no corner on gay bashing, it comes even in the nicest of forms.
Glenn Beck is a bully. He made fun of a man from Tennessee who lost his home and pets while the fire department watched it burn. His October 5, 2010 broadcast should be reported as obscene to the FCC instead of just bitched about, I know I've reported it and many of my listeners. You can too, at my website, http://www.thekarelshow.com
He's a bully because he can, he's got the money and the power. The same for George W. Bush. He was a bully, and yes, a gay bully. So is Barack Obama, by allowing the enforcement of policy now deemed unconstitutional and by not siding with the Constitution on Equal Protection. By taking a survey on how others feel about serving with "them," the different ones, the gays. Insulting to any gay. I believe every gay in the military should wake up tomorrow, find a CO, and start singing "Bad Romance" by Lady Ga Ga and say, "there, I've told." Then, get kicked out , and use your training to go to work for a private contractor doing the same thing and making 10x the salary. It's a volunteer army, screw them until they accept you. Take their training and then make cash with it. But I digress.
No, it's not enemies that surprise gay youth or gay adults, it's not them that really harm us unless they kill us, it's when our friends, or allies, do nothing, in school or in politics. No one is a bystander. If someone is being bullied for being gay, your kids, or you, should know to step in between. To stop it. To say this is unacceptable. And when politicians begin their gay bullying, as they do daily, what party steps up, steps in between, says this is unacceptable? None. People say at least Democrats do no harm to the gays like Republicans and I say define harm. A President saying he personally is against same sex marriage because of his religious views hurts gays more than he'll ever know. Gay youth and gay adults. Even in my state, in CA, the fact that the Prop 8 battle could even be fought hurt youth and adults out here more than anyone will ever know; The constant TV ads, the debate. The fact that there is "another side" to present in every news debate hurts. There is no other side.
And that's just it, the debate is a bully as well. How would you feel if every day your very existence was debated, like there was an option to you existing in your current form? How would you feel if you knew that society was never, ever going to let you forget you're different, even the "nice" people in society. That they're always going to see you as something less, something on the outside, something not quite equal? That's the message from both sides, like it or not --Because everyone's approval always comes with some conditions. Oh, I don't mind gays but I don't want them doing this. Oh, I don't mind it as long as they don't flaunt it or put it in my face. Why do they have to do that? I mean, I don't care, but really? Homophobia. Most don't even know they project it, but even the most accepting of people do at times. Why? Because they still see it as something to "accept" instead of something that just is.
Society is the bully, a society so steeped in religion it can't even see that when it's trying to be nice, kind, approving, it's still being condescending and insulting. There's hope, young people are getting it more and more, the are-you-kidding-me?-Gay?-Who cares?-Kind of attitude, but it's taking a while.
In the mean time it's funny to watch America discover gay bullying like it's something new. Tens of thousands of gays have died, and yes, gay youth, over the years, millions over decades because of policy, homophobia, bullying, suicide, religion. Even Hitler killed us before the Jews, rounding us up with our pink triangles and gassing us, experimenting on us, along with gypsies. You never really hear about that, Jews have co-opted the Holocaust and rightfully so, more died, but that's only because there were more. Had there been six million gays, he would have killed that many. And no one really cared while he killed the gays and gypsies.
So look in the mirror, look to the White House, look to the State Houses and the city councils and the school boards and the text books and ...and...and. Gay bullying is everywhere and has been accepted so long, is so prevalent, and mostly unrecognized by America. It's easy to see in the news when a kid kills himself as to why, but harder to see it's part of a society that simply has, as long as it has existed, approved of the bashing of gays either vociferously or simply by looking away. And women. And Hispanics. And Blacks. And Native Americans. And Japanese (internment camps and all). And. And. And.
To move past it is to shed the very core of the bullying, the perverted religious doctrine that condemns a group of people who are simply living in their natural state. And America won't do that, even if it kills people, even if it kills its youth. To move past it would require each and every parent, or future parent, to adopt an attitude that homosexuality is as natural and normal as heterosexuality and every shade in between is fine, too. Not even up for discussion.
And to move past it is for gays to stop playing the victim card. Not all bullied gay kids kill themselves, most don't. In fact, many use that experience to over achieve, to prove a point, to prove themselves. I hate to say it, but that drive has turned many a gay kid (myself included) in to an incredible gay adult; that, "I'll show you" attitude. And yes, I was bullied. And it prepared me for the real world full of bullies like Glenn Beck, or bosses, or anyone that thinks they have power over you. I've been bullied in radio by a General Manager, openly humiliated by him in front of the entire staff of the station in clear cut homophobia. Had I never encountered the adversity, I would have crumbled. But I've dealt with asswipes like him before, yes, in school. I won those battles, and I won that one. He's gone now. I'm not.
Gays are survivors. Why? Because we have to be. I'm not sure I want that totally taken away. But we can turn it around in many ways.
So my message to Ellen, to Dan Savage, to Stephanie Miller, a message I've started personifying on my radio show, stage show, in interviews and print. Being Gay is Fabulous. A lot of people out there say it's not, and gays just say we don't care what you think just don't hurt us in one way or another, and the fabulocity gets lost. That's why I just bought www.beinggayisfabulous.com Go there in future to look for stories from everyone about why being gay is fabulous!
Because being gay is a blast. When you call something gay, well, it can be fabulous or not. Let's be real, some things are even too gay for me, and that's saying something. But in a funny way. I wrote an editorial once called big gay moments and LMAO. Yes, I played Donna Summer on my iPod while driving my motorcycle down Sunset Blvd., Sunset People blaring, why? Because I'm GAY! Yes, when I see Collin Farrell or Brad Pitt I get all weak and tingly, why? Because I'm GAY! Yes, I was close to my mother and adored her, and was devastated at her death and wear her leopard print reading glasses around the house still, why? Because I'm GAY! I cry at movies and TV shows, I cried three times during a recent Glee but then got up and sang and danced to the closing number with my niece, why? Because I'm GAY! And yes, I've learned that some times you're gonna get hit in one way or another and it's going to hurt really bad, but that you can survive it. Why? Because I'm GAY!
That's right. Let's change the dialogue. Let's worry how to stop bullies, but also, let's make them look ridiculous because being gay is so fabulous the country, the world, couldn't imagine a life without us! Change the message. We are not victims that must be protected from horrible speech, we are fabulous beings that should be nurtured and loved because we are fabulous! As a gay man I get to be loved by women and yes, sleep with men (oh horror, I said it!) and how fabulous is that?
Not for you? So what. I bet you're fabulous, too. If you're comfortable in your skin, then you're great. And that's the problem with America. It's a country of people not comfortable being human, comfortable in their own skins. So they worry about everyone else's.
It's called the Bully Pulpit, and gays have been the victim of bullying from it many times. Open your eyes and watch the news, watch the world through the filter that anything beyond total acceptance without debate is a form of bullying. The only reason there isn't total acceptance without debate is because many still think it's wrong, or different, even if they "approve" of it, and that's bullying, too.
Gays, old or young, are normal, natural humans. Until that fact is accepted, until gay is as normal to everyone as being born blonde or red headed, then there will always be bullies. Most gays can handle the ones at school, it's the ones that continue unfettered in the political and religious world that hurt the most, even those that call us "friend." So parents, you take care of the kids be they bully or gay, but America and the power brokers there in, we need a lot of work in the public, political and religious arenas, the true breeding ground of the attitudes that breed the bullies. And gays, let's start reminding gay youth and America that being gay is fabulous!
Follow Charles Karel Bouley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/therealkarel