A little late to the game, but we still wanted to recognize the significance of Ladies’ Home Journal taking on gay bullying. LHJ is one of the Seven Sisters of “homemaker” magazines geared directly towards women in “real America,” as a certain GOP vice presidential candidate would put it. The legendary magazine’s realization that bullying is an issue that effects all corners of the country shows how much the issue is resonating right now.
The article is well written with a lot of accompanying information online. It is aimed directly towards its audience and frames the issue in a way that shows respect for both its audience and the topic:
For most Americans the news reports were heartbreaking. They took us beyond our political arguments over gay marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — even past our deeper disagreements about homosexuality. For once we could all agree: Those kids should be in their classrooms, not in caskets.
September’s gruesome trend raised pressing questions. Homosexuality appears to be more widely tolerated than ever: Fifty-two percent of Americans consider it morally acceptable, according to a recent Gallup poll. Kids can join gay-straight alliance groups at more than 4,000 high schools and more than 150 middle schools nationwide and find advice and support online. Yet according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, about one-third of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens report an attempt at suicide. Why are so many still driven to try to take their own life?
“Despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable,” says Scott Quasha, PsyD, a professor of school psychology at Brooklyn College. It’s not uncommon to hear fierce condemnation from politicians and preachers as they debate gay civil rights. Homosexuality is compared to incest, bestiality, even violent crime. “This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs,” says Dr. Quasha. “A gay child is an easy target for classmates looking to make trouble.”
Antigay bullying is something all parents should be concerned about, says Merle Bennett Buzzelli, who oversees the public school antiviolence program in Akron, Ohio. “The victims are not just students who are actually gay,” she points out — the abuse is also directed at straight kids who don’t quite fit gender norms. Tomboyish girls and guys who show interest in, say, gymnastics or dance are often called the same names — and subjected to the same ostracism and attacks — as their gay and lesbian classmates. There’s no evidence that Billy Lucas was gay, but he was “different,” classmates said. Because of that, bullies called him “fag” and told him he didn’t deserve to live. Of course, for kids who do experience same-sex attraction, the use of the word gay as an all-purpose put-down is just one more painful indication that they don’t fit in, whether or not they look or act any different from their peers, says Dr. Quasha.
And here’s how the article deals with faith and community influence on bullying:
Even if their parents fully support them, some gay kids are overwhelmed by community intolerance. Soon after Tyler Clementi’s fatal leap, openly gay 19-year-old Zach Harrington killed himself in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. He had recently attended a city council meeting in which homosexuality was called a “destructive lifestyle” that corrupts children. Zach’s parents felt that the rancorous debate may have pushed their son over the edge, the town’s newspaper reported.
We all need to speak more carefully, says Father Mike Tegeder, pastor of the Church of St. Edward in Bloomington, Minnesota. “The Catholic Church teaches that each person has dignity, whatever their race or gender or sexual orientation,” he says. “We don’t need to agree with one another, but we have to respect one another’s dignity as children of God.”
And many religious groups agree. Exodus International, a conservative Christian organization that had previously encouraged kids to speak out against homosexuality, changed direction after the recent string of suicides, deciding to advocate “biblical tolerance and grace” instead of confrontation. For Warren Throckmorton, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania, the group’s reversal was an obvious choice. “It seems to me that Christians should be first in line in saying that everyone should be treated the way you yourself want to be treated,” says Dr. Throckmorton, a traditional evangelical who recently developed The Golden Rule Pledge, a program specifically designed to help conservative churches prevent antigay bullying.
Kudos to LHJ