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Dare To Dream Site Owner’s Concerns Hit Home In Massachusetts

04/15/2009

mcol_rainbowOn March 26, 2009, Tristan Hand was inspired to write about the use of the expression “That’s so gay,” referring to something being “lame.” See the post at That’s So Gay. Tristan commented that he had first heard the expression when visiting a friend who employed high school students. He said,

I am somewhat surprised at how easy the words were spoken, and as casually as if they had been talking about the Browns or Cavs, but being use[d] to abuse and threats over the many years of being “out”, I have developed a wait and see what happens attitude when situations arise. Tho I admit that I would have spoken my displeasure with the statement had they not apologized.

Without having spoken to Tristan about this, I believe he had several goals in writing this post. First, he wanted to give our mutual friend, Dr. Dan Nadon, Associate Professor of Theater and Co-Director of LGBT Studies at Kent State University’s Trumbull Campus some press for a performance entitled “That’s So Gay” an exploration of labels and stereotypes by today’s youth which was being performed at KSU-Trumbull. Secondly, I believe he wanted to express his admiration for Ame Duncan, the newly confirmed US Secretary of Education who had recently told a gay student advocacy group that he intends to make schools safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Lastly (and most significantly), he wanted to warn that LGBT students experience extreme harrassment [at school] and elsewhere according to the National School Climate Survey.

Well, less than three weeks after this post comes news from Springfield Massachusetts that 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover has committed suicide after school bullies repeatedly called him “gay.” Indeed, Susan Donaldson James of ABC News felt compelled to entitle her piece at ABC.Com, “When Words Can Kill: ‘That’s So Gay'”. Kindly have a look at the article and/or review Anderson Cooper’s video report below.

Many people are up in arms that ABC, CNN and other media outlets have made this a “gay issue” as opposed to a “bully issue.” Critics claim that overweight students, students who are simply less attractive than others and, generally, any student that is different is prone to being bullied. Any of us who attended school know that those statements are true. The obvious answer to the critics is that it is both a “bully issue” and a “gay issue.”

I call this story to your attention today with the hope that you will be as angry about this as I and that it may inspire you to take action in your own community. What is the policy regarding bullying at your local school? If you don’t know, I hope you’ll make the effort to find out and then begin your lobbying effort to ensure the safety of our young GLBT brothers and sisters at school.

I never personally experienced this particular sort of harassment in school, but I’ve certainly experienced bullying. I’ve always been able to “pass” and have taken full advantage of it, but I grew up in blue collar, sports-oriented Ravenna, Ohio, where, as a young man, if you are not an athlete, you are nothing. I have always had issues with hand-eye coordination and was generally clutzy and hence, very unathletic – the last guy chosen for the basketball team. My classmates were merciless in their ribbing and it had a profound, deleterious effect on me. I hated school (until college) and went as infrequently as I could get away with. I confess to having had thoughts of suicide as a youngster. My fear of going to hell was stronger than my desire to put myself out of my misery or I might have acted on those thoughts. I can only imagine what was going through this poor little boy’s mind and how tortured he must have been.

Help is coming. It’s a new day. Ame Duncan has professed his desire to change things. We have to help him. Let’s do it.

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