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Jadin Bell

This particular blog has been inspired by the very sad story of Jadin Bell, a 15 year old American teenager who hanged himself on playground at an elementary school.  He died in hospital two weeks after the attempted suicide.  A week prior to the incident the teen is said to have complained about homophobic bullying and had talked to a counsellor at his high school.  Read more about his story and others here.

Whilst my blog isn’t about Jadin Bell’s case…it did get me wondering about how often this happens, the reasons behind it and how to prevent this unnecessary loss of life.

Coming to terms with your sexuality in terms of understanding what it means to you, the effects it may have on your life and the lives of those around you and the eventual realisation that not everyone is capable of comprehension, and not everyone is willing to accept the differences in lifestyles.  Struggling through your own personal demons and fears at a young age is hard enough, but add to that a feeling of insecurity, isolation and depression following a spate of bullying about who you are – what options are you left with?

Every month a story emerges about a teenager or young adult that has taken their own life due to homophobic bullying.  Sometimes the bullying can be a prolonged experience, starting before a person has even “come out” and other times it can be just one comment or one misguided insult at a moment of insecurity that send people over the edge.  Remember that bullying can come from many sources:

  • FROM THE FAMILY: Parents that are struggling to believe or dislike the idea of their child being homosexual.  This can be driven out of ignorance, religious beliefs or, often times, out of fear of what their child may endure. 
  • FROM THE PLAYGROUND: Other pupils at a school can be cruel.  Most of these children will not realise what they are doing or saying, it is the nature of a playground for people to pick on the differences and the “odd one out”.  Being strongly religious, having an unusual name, wearing glasses, being gay, being obese and being ginger are often things that get noticed and poked at by other children.  Where the bullying is a problem is when it comes from a place of ignorance and deliberate torment – some children are capable of this certainly by their teenage years.
  • FROM COLLEAGUES: If a good relationship is formed with colleagues and banter becomes part of the status quo – it is conceivable that casual name calling may take place but sometimes though outwardly laughing the words can be felt deeper by the receiver of those words.
  • FROM A COMMUNITY: In some cases the bullying can be so extreme that it takes on a lynch-mob mentality.  A community based around a church, a local pub, a theatre group, a choir etc… can be easily rallied into thinking that the comments are harmless fun but the more and more people joining in and referring to the person as “gayboy”, “faggot” and so on – the harder it becomes to handle.

I always feel that there’s only a certain amount of insults and pressure any one person could take before the human spirit starts to crack.

At any age finding your way through the maze of bullying and the pain that it can entail can be traumatic but as a teenager when you are finding yourself, with or without sexuality / gender identity conflicts, can be horrendously draining.  Teenagers are already dealing with puberty, experimenting with social boundaries and, within most schools, a need to fit in is key to survival.  This is where my slight concern gets tangle.  Do schools educate properly on the issues that affect our out of education lives…a world where people come in all shapes, sizes, identities, ethnicities etc…

Until I had left school I had never, to my knowledge, met a transsexual person.  This could be because they weren’t open or that I had no awareness of this identity.  I also understood that people could be “gay” or “straight” but not bisexual, let alone the wealth of other definitions from pansexual to polyamory and not excluding asexual beings.  Sexual education within schools should be able to describe and promote an understanding of the many different types of lifestyles that exist in the world.  This can be done in the context of religion, explaining why some beliefs may not fully support certain ways of living, but it could help to build bridges and remove the “sinner” / “outsider” / “unnatural” arguments.

It’s very awkward to fully exterminate homophobic bullying within the school system when the outside world has so many abhorrent views like:

  • “If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.” — Senator Michele Bachmann (2004)
  • “Sexuality is a choice”
  • “gay people spread disease”
  • “AIDS is a friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.” – Mark Collett, BNP Director of Publicity
  • “all homosexuals are predatory”
  • “we must protect our families and children”
  •  “The TV footage of dozens of ‘gay’ demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive.” – Nick Griffin, BNP Leader

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When people in powerful positions like Mark Collett, Nick Griffin and Senator Bachmann still spout this ridiculous viewpoint it is hard to encourage other doubters and anti-homosexualists to convert their views, to educate themselves, to realise that people are just people and what they do in the privacy or open of their own lives, providing it’s lawful and consensual, is absolutely nobody’s business but their own.  However, because these ridiculous views are now less and less common, they gain more and more airtime (TV, Radio, Magazine Articles).  A view that is now seen as outdated still attracts more people to the story in outrage, support and out of intrigue.

Now imagine a 14 / 15 / 16 year old child coming to terms with their identity having to hear these phrases and words orated around them – it could make them feel wrong, dirty, evil and as though they had something that should be hidden and never openly talked about.  This can force people into a corner, an alienated place where you feel nothing but loneliness and self-loathing.  This unuttered truth of being yourself, that leaves you silent, also leaves the pain silent and allows little or no chance of seeking help and support.  Many people develop a mask and manage to put on a brave face and help others, fit in with those they detest – only to eventually crack and be driven deeper into the mire where the only option remaining to you is suicide.

This has to stop.

The stories of people like Jadin Bell, Matthew Shepard, Anthony Collao and many many more only go to prove just how desperately we need to change the way our young people, our adults and particularly the way our educators educate.

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