Why just one month?
Really! It's National Bullying Prevention Month. So why did they pick October and forget the rest of the year? Bullying goes on all the time, not just during this month or if it does, I need to write this very quickly. And while it is great for us to be reminded that bullying exists, especially for those of us with children, it is nonstop. I am sadly still drawn to a situation in my daughter's middle school some years ago. An adopted child of a single, gay father was just tortured by the other boys in the class. The name calling was nonstop. He was either ignored completely and had no friends or he was harassed by the herd going after him. It got so bad that finally a group of girls went to a teacher to report what had been happening. The teacher said, "I'll take care of it." Apparently it was not important enough for her to remember to do something. The next week this boy brought a bunch of pills to school, took them and was found lying on the bathroom floor. For those kids who found him, I am sure it is a vision they will never forget. They caused this. Where he obtained the pills is another concern, but the very fact that a pre-teenage boy would be driven to take his own life -- and to do so in a public arena so everyone would remember -- promises to make everyone never forget. And this did not happen in October. A hospital stay, serious psychiatric intervention, which no doubt continues, saved his life. Once he had the inner strength to return to school, he changed institutions where one can only hope found a kinder, gentler and more attentive approach to the tender lives in the school's care. What about the teacher who "forgot" to mention this incident and who could have prevented this? One would think she would be relieved of her duties but that wasn't the case. The bullying boys were suspended for a period of time, hopefully one long enough for them to think about their actions and the fact that even though they did not cause a death, they killed the self-esteem of another child.
It is not just children who endure this pain. I am currently working on a documentary about transgender adults and how they changed after their surgery. Note that their lives were changed long before the surgery as they slowly began to change, wearing dresses or pants, makeup or short hair, growing breasts or sideburns. Many were forced to endure not just the stares, but the insults from colleagues and even former friends who could not accommodate the transition in their relationships. Others, fortunately, worked in environments that supported them and had a no tolerance policy for any kind of in-office cruelty. This fascinating look at those who dare to become themselves is a reminder that we come in all different flavors.
Cassidy Lynn Campbell is 16 years old. She's a beautiful and very typical teenage girl, who loves makeup, high heels, shopping. This year Cassidy was crowned Homecoming Queen for Marina High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. Cassidy used to be called Lance Campbell. She was born a boy and is now going through the long process in her transgender change. When she was crowned, the whole school cheered. Can you imagine this happening ten or even five years ago? She would have been bullied right out of the school and hopefully not out of her life. Cassidy's success story is a huge victory not just for the transgender population but also for anyone who might be considered different. But aren't we all different? I just hope we are really in a world where tolerance for color and gender, tall and short, skinny and plump, gay and straight, bi and transgender are just how we are and not some freak show to be put on horrific display. As parents, we still have an enormous job to do in teaching our children not that they have to love or even like everyone but they must have respect. As adults some of us have a tremendous job in teaching ourselves the same thing. No doubt many of us are a work in progress. We did not grow up in environments that welcomed everyone nor did a lot of us have unbiased parents. So may we learn from our own kids, many of who seem so much more at ease in welcoming difference and recognizing their own truths. And let's mark every month on the calendar "National Bullying Prevention Month."
Follow Susan Winston on Twitter: www.twitter.com/warrior1952