Thursday, October 14, 2010

Joel Burns, Fort Worth City Council Member to Gay Teens: It Gets Better

Joel Burns' testimony (I'm using that religiously charged term deliberately here) at a recent Fort Worth city council meeting in Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project is circulating around the internet right now, and deserves serious consideration.  It's a powerful testimony, heart-wrenching and mind-altering to witness.

I first noticed the video at a link on Dan Savage's blog yesterday, and then, late in the day, saw a recommendation of it from a Facebook friend of mine who's a native Texan, who lives near Houston and is a strong Democrat with whom I often commiserate about what's become of our party, after all of our years working for it in states in which it was hanging on by its fingernails.

Here are some things that strike me as I watch the video: this is Fort Worth, Texas.  It's Fort Worth, for God's sake!  It's Texas.  It was in Forth Worth that, only last year, the local police raided a gay bar for specious reasons on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and bashed patrons while calling them faggots.

So as I watch and listen to Joel Burns' powerful testimony, I tell myself I'm seeing history made.  This kind of testimony shouldn't be taking place in Fort Worth.  Fort Worth is not the most obvious city in the world that would leap to my mind, if I were asked to list cities with openly gay council members.

If it can happen in Fort Worth, it can happen anywhere.  And so I understand why the rabid right (both political and religious; and they're really one and the same when it comes to gay bashing) is increasingly frightened at the massive cultural shift underway in the U.S.  And why they're becoming meaner by the minute.  Seeing the city council of Fort Worth respond to this testimony with a standing ovation has to be sending chills down the spines of Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins and Peter LaBarbera.

And all those conspicuously silent Catholic prelates around the nation who have not said one word--not a word!--about the recent suicides of teen after teen, and the gay bashing that precipitated these tragic deaths.

But who still expect us to listen to them when they claim to be moral teachers and moral leaders.

And something else strikes me as I listen to Joel Burns.  When I uploaded my piece a few weeks back about my own experiences with bullying in junior high and high school to the Open Tabernacle blog, a respondent logged in to tell me that gay boys bullied in school are almost always effeminate, and they're not being bullied because they're gay: they're being bullied because they're effeminate.

And they can control their effeminate behavior, so we ought not to be sympathizing with them.  We ought to be encouraging them to stop the femme act.  The poster making these remarks says he's a conservative Catholic who is gay himself, but a butch young gay man who wasn't bullied in school.  Because he knew how to play the  game and didn't draw attention to himself the way the feminine boys (like me) did.

I knew, of course, that the primary reason the person logging into the blog to say this (he's a return visitor) logged in was to undercut my claim to tell a story that deserves attention, a potentially attitude-changing story about gay bullying.  Sadly, like a segment of gay folks in our society, his loyalties lie with the political and religious right, and he's willing to help them do their dirty work to challenge the claims of gay folks speaking out about bullying now.  Because the religious and political right are appalled that the media are now giving attention to these stories.  And they're very afraid of the effect that accurate knowledge of gay teen suicide will have, when the social mainstream encounters these stories.

And here's the point I'm winding around to about Joel Burns: this is a gay man who was bullied not because he was feminine, but because he was gay.  And that's true with all the bullying, whether the person being bullied is a butch lesbian or a lipstick lesbian, a femme gay man or a butch gay man.

Joel Burns grew up on a ranch.  He was a cowboy, like his father before him.  He was a jock.  He played basketball in school.  And, still, he was bullied.

Because it's about being gay.  Not about being gay and feminine.  And it does no one any good if we deny the reality of what's taking place when gay teens are bullied, and if we deny them the right to claim that they are bullied precisely for being who they are, who God made them to be.

And the final insight I have as I watch: the overriding meme of the political and religious right as the gay teen suicide story has finally reached the mainstream is, as I've been noting, that gays don't care at all about these bullied youth.  As my comments about John Stangle's posting to Michael O'Loughlin's America thread on teen bullying yesterday noted, the claim from the political and religious right is that gays are selfish and are cynically manipulating the script about teen bullying to score political points.

Unlike Christians (who are the opposite of gays: you can't be both gay and Christian).  Christians care.  Deeply.

I defy anyone with half a brain and even a tiny door open in his or her heart to watch this video and tell me that Joel Burns doesn't care.  Intently.  And that his offer to want to help gay teens struggling with being bullied is not sincere.

No wonder the rabid right will do anything possible, from lying, using members of the gay community to attack other gay folks, trying to manipulate (and block) media coverage of these issues: when people can see with their own eyes where the truth lies, and who is really compassionate and who is only mouthing words about compassion, things begin to change.

And the christianist right doesn't want that to happen.  Unless they control the process of change.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: