Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cheryl Saban: It Gets Better

A brief postscript to what I posted Monday about Minnesota's problem with the gays and the recent suicide of two teens in Minnesota, Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz: Cheryl Saban has a very good article at Huffington Post right now, providing personal testimony about how her interaction with the LGBT community in Los Angeles in the 1970s opened her eyes to the real-life struggles that those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans go through on a daily basis.  She notes the struggles of LGBT persons to obtain adequate health care and to be free of threats and violence.  As she says, some of the LGBT people she met in the 1970s experienced bullying of one sort or another on a daily basis, resulting in enormous stress for them--stress compounded in many cases by their families' rejection of them.

Saban thinks that, though we hope things are on the whole better for LGBT persons in our society now, there's considerable evidence that "in many towns and cities around our nation, there are lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens who feel so alone and sad, that they see no other option but to attempt suicide."  And for those teens and anyone concerned about the lives and their futures, there are valuable resources: Saban mentions, in particular, the Trevor Project and Dan Savage's It Gets Better campaign.

This is valuable testimony.  It's fascinating to learn that Cheryl Saban's current significant work as an advocate for women and children began with what she learned in the 1970s by interacting with close gay friends.  And the two outstanding resources to which she points--the Trevor Project and It Gets Better--are doing outstanding work to help make the lives of gay or gender-questioning youth safer and better.  Much-needed work in many small towns and rural communities in this country, where, as in Minnesota with its Catholic leaders, church people and communities of faith can either make life horrendous for those who are LGBT, or play a significant role in building more humane communities for all citizens.

And in case my point in this posting and the one to which I link at the head of the posting is not absolutely clear: I do, indeed, hold the Catholic bishops of Minnesota responsible for helping to create a cultural climate in which gay teens or teens struggling with questions about gender and sexual identity, who are bullied, commit suicide.  The expensive video the Minnesota bishops produced last fall to attack gay marriage for political reasons was an attack on gay and lesbian human beings and their rights.  It sends a signal to those bullying gay youths that they have a right to engage in this kind of bullying.

The total silence of the U.S. Catholic bishops about the issue of bullying of gay youths scandalizes me.  It will be judged at some point in history as an abdication of authentic pastoral leadership by the pastoral leaders of a major Christian communion at this point in history.  I applaud those Catholics who push against the cruelty the bishops are fostering now, with their attacks on LGBT persons.  In Minnesota, there are notable Catholic initiatives to offer an alternative to the bishops' voices about these issues, including the powerful blogs of my e-friend Michael Bayly The Wild Reed and The Progressive Catholic Voice.

But in my view, there still needs to be much more push-back and much more exploration of alternatives to the bishops' voice in places like Minnesota by ordinary Catholics in the pews.  Young people in small towns and rural communities are very much at the mercy of what religious leaders in those areas offer them.  When what is handed out is abuse or callous silence as bullying occurs, and when religious leaders egg on familial scorn for gay and lesbian family members, our youth lose one of the most valuable support systems in many communities throughout the U.S.

And tragedy is often the result.

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