Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Here Are Some Things Bullying Does to People

Here are some things bullying does to people:

• It makes you feel isolated. 
• It makes you feel you have done something wrong. 
• It makes you feel you brought the bullies onto yourself. 
• It makes you feel that even your friends blame and judge you. 
• It tempts you to feel helpless. 
• It makes you want to shut your mouth. 
• It makes you want to hide, retreat into a shell, make yourself unseen and unheard. 
• It makes you believe that any words you say to defend yourself invite more problems and will be seen--even by those who support you--as special pleading and indicators of weakness.

Too many people live with these experiences. As someone who is gay and who long since decided to challenge bullying of gay or gender-questioning youth, I have a special concern for young people who are bullied, because they often do not have strong defenses built up against the bullying they experience.

As the "about me" statement for Bilgrimage indicates, one of the primary reasons I set this blog up was to try to do something concrete to combat bullying of LGBT and gender-questioning teens.

Old people can be bullied, too, I'm reminded all over again by my experiences of late. Growing old can already make one feel isolated, and in the case of older gay folks, that isolation can be compounded by a lack of support from one's family members. The combination of that sense of isolation and a feeling that one is losing some of one's strength can make the effects of bullying strike deep, even when one has developed a coarse hide over many years.

Women are bullied all over the world, as some readers of this blog have reminded me the past few days. What was done to Sandra Fluke when she dared to open her mouth about healthcare and contraceptive coverage was classic bullying, and it shone the spotlight on the bullying with which women live on a routine basis in my society and many others in the world.

It reminded me painfully of what was done to Anita Hill, and of the unholy jubilation many of my heterosexual male colleagues at Belmont Abbey College expressed in the faculty common room on the day Hill was shown she was powerless as Clarence Thomas was confirmed for the Supreme Court. These were the very same men who made threatening sotto voce comments to Steve and me in the hallways of the college during our years there, or even childish loud comments as the faculty lined up for academic processions and Steve and I had the same academic robes showing that we had graduated from the same university.

Too many people live with these experiences. We need to find more effective ways to combat bullying and to defend those being bullied. I remain intently concerned about the bullying of young gay or gender-questioning young people, and I am determined to keep speaking out against it in a society in which even older gay people are not immune to harsh and abusive treatment. I am determined to keep supporting LGBT youth.

And I remain committed to being a squeaky (and a mouthy gay) wheel reminding the bishops of my church that they have kept their mouths shamefully shut as gay and gender-questioning youth are put onto the street by families claiming they are adhering to divine commands in rejecting these children, and as some young people bullied due to their perceived sexual orientation end up taking their own lives in despair.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan is uniquely placed to offer leadership in this area to his brother bishops. His Easter words about his love for gay folks will continue to ring hollow to many perceptive people as long as he and the bishops he leads continue to say not a single word to challenge bullying of gay and gender-questioning young people, and as long as he himself refuses repeated invitations to visit shelters for gay youths put onto the street by their families after they came out of the closet.

The graphic is from an article at e2Campus discussing the use of online tools to combat school bullying.

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