Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Resources to Address Gay Teen Bullying, and Right-Wing Pushback vs. Mainstream Media Reporting on This Issue

I've mentioned to you that I record the "Ellen Degeneres Show" and watch it as I do my daily treadmill walk--well, I watch Ellen for at least one leg of my daily walk, which I divide into two stints daily to make a total of an hour and fifteen minutes each day.

I also mentioned several days ago that Ellen had done a segment on bullying of gay youth and the suicides that sometimes result from this bullying.  Ellen continues to work to raise awareness about this serious problem and to do something constructive to address the situation.

Yesterday, she interviewed Anderson Cooper about teen bullying.  From that interview, I learned that Anderson Cooper is doing a special report all week on his "360" show in conjunction with People magazine, called "Bullying: No Escape."  This airs at 10 P.M. ET.  Cooper also interviewed University of Michigan student Chris Anderson, who (as I've noted previously) was targeted in a cyber campaign by an assistant attorney general in Michigan, Andrew Shirvell.  That interview aired last evening, and the video is now online.

Ellen's website is developing a number of valuable resources to assist youth dealing with bullying, as well as those trying to address this problem.  For example, the site now has a page of resources to help stop bullying, with links to important groups working on this issue, including Trevor Project, GLSEN, etc.

Ellen also announced a campaign yesterday, which she's calling the KIND Campaign, to help raise money to assist the Trevor Project.  On her show today, she informed the audience that this campaign has raised $87,000 in one day's time.

The amount of mainstream media attention that the recent suicides of gay youth is receiving has been a pleasant surprise to me.  Suicide of gay teens has been at epidemic levels in our society for some time now, and the link between bullying and gay teen suicide has long been established.  But it has been exceptionally difficult for those trying to publicize this serious social problem to obtain mainstream media attention.  The story has been largely relegated to the gay media, as if this is exclusively a gay problem and a gay concern.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media's choice to deal with the recent spate of gay teen suicides is not being welcomed in all quarters of American society, and strong pushback is developing.  As Max Brantley, editor of my state's alternative newspaper Arkansas Times notes on the paper's blog site today, the right-wing Media Research Center is targeting media outlets in major cities around the nation, and has bought billboard space in Arkansas to advertise against "the liberal media."

Brantley notes that a major concern of this group--and of conservative media in the U.S. in general--is precisely the recent willingness of the mainstream media to report on suicides of gay youth.  The meme that is developing among conservatives (and I meet this meme on Catholic blogs now when these issues come up) s that gays and lesbians are "politicizing" the conversation about gay teen suicide, and trying to blame "Christians" who only speak the gospel truth about homosexuality for being part of the problem and not part of the solution when it comes to gay teen suicide.

I've been astounded to read on a Catholic blog this week that gay teens who commit suicide do so because they have been led by the gay community to believe that the "gay lifestyle" is a normal choice, and when they enter that "lifestyle," they discover that it's abnormal and therefore become depressed.  And  so kill themselves as a result.

This analysis astounds me, because there's abundant evidence in all the recent cases in which gay youth or youth perceived to be gay have committed suicide that what drove them to suicide was not the gay lifestyle," but ugly bullying.  Bullying that some Christians claim they support and want to see protected by the law.

I'm astounded, too, that anyone on either side of the fence thinks it's possible to argue credibly that we can leave politics outside the church door.  Since everything we do, all the choices we make in our lives, are framed by political considerations and political options, we who go to church and worship in church always bring our political penchants to church along with us.

It's naive--it's dishonest--to suggest that churches are apolitical, and that they become political battle grounds only when "political" groups like the gays ask that church members think twice about the effects of homophobic rhetoric on young psyches.  I have to wonder, as I read these attacks on the "political" gay movement, and the suggestion that gay teens who commit suicide do so because of the "destructive gay lifestyle": do the folks saying this have children of their own?  Or do they care about the children of others?  Who might just happen to struggle with these issues?

Do they seriously want to sacrifice more children, somebody's children, to the idol of their homophobia?  Just so that they can keep imagining they live in a gay-free world, in a world that makes them comfortable, in a world in which the price of their comfort is the suffering of anyone who doesn't fit their narrow perception of how reality should work?

We have a long way to go, as a culture, when it comes to envisaging a humane world for all.  And gay folks like Ellen Degeneres who step up to the plate to assist with that task deserve praise, not condemnation for "politicizing" the conversation about gay teen suicide.

P.S. One more valuable resource I intended to mention, and have just remembered: a good reader of this blog, Shannon, sent me this link, and I'm grateful for it.  This is a wonderful litany for children who have died from bullying, at the Kirkepiscatoid blog.  It's encouraging to see people of faith developing prayer resources to sensitize their faith communities to the problem of bullying.

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