You would be amazed what the mommy-blogosphere is saying. One of the moms I read has an eight year old who is becoming a bully. She's begun making all sorts of excuses, saying that bullying is really a result of a very confident child trying to contrast their own success against obvious failure. That bullies are more popular, that they are more successful in life. That the children who are bullied make themselves victims. I can't even begin to tell you how much this view shocks and terrifies me. I was bullied as a child, mercilessly. I remember vividly contemplating suicide when I was eight and a half years old, because of how cruel the other children were. And while that had nothing to do with my sexuality, it had to do with other elements of my personality I was just as incapable of changing. I was teased about being Jewish, about being a vegetarian, about having glasses, about having curly hair... anything that bullies could come up with to use against me. And I was not alone. Children are a cruel lot once you get them in packs.
She's begun making all sorts of excuses, saying that bullying is really a result of a very confident child trying to contrast their own success against obvious failure. That bullies are more popular, that they are more successful in life. That the children who are bullied make themselves victims.
Another disturbing bit of reading I've done is by a mom who's blog is intended to debunk parenting news. Her argument is that these kids are too young to be thinking about such issues as their own sexuality anyway, and the best thing that the adults in their lives can do is to discourage them from worrying about it in the first place.
Has she never been a teenager? Can she honestly not remember the CONSTANT OBSESSION that teenagers have with sex? They want to have it, they're frightened to have it, they want to know who's having it, when, how... Take a look at any video store or library, teenagers want to watch movies and read books about other teenagers talking about or having sex, they want to learn everything possible about it, and figure out what sort of role sex is going to play in their lives. There's constant speculation about who's doing what with whom, regardless of the orientation. High schools have always been and will always be rife with speculation about which girls are easy, which boys are all talk and which have actually "gone all the way."
Not surprisingly, the kids who are the cruelest during those teen years are the ones that are least comfortable with their own sexuality. Girls who feel demeaned in their own sexual experiences are the fastest to label other girls "slut," boys who are the most frightened of their own potentially homosexual urges the first in line to shout slurs or beat up a boy they might see as effeminate, even if they haven't outed themselves as gay.
Can she honestly not remember the CONSTANT OBSESSION that teenagers have with sex?
We as a culture are beginning to understand more and more that our assumptions about what it means to be gay are not true. Two thirds of Americans are ready to welcome gays into the military, because we understand that they're not limp wristed girly men who run from a fight, but patriots- no different from any other patriot that wants to serve their country.
But the fact of the matter is that kids are killing themselves because of bullies. Now. They're not only being bullied for being gay, but homosexuality is one of the last bastions of fundamental characteristics that many adults seem to think is still WRONG. In most of this country, you can't bully a kid for being black, or Catholic, or a girl... but homosexuality is another story. How many of those homophobic bullies have a parent who would support them if they went to Prom with somebody of the same gender? How many of those parents would try to accept their child's confession that they believe they were born with the wrong reproductive organs?
I've spoken with M several times about what we would do if one of our girls was being bullied, and what we would do if they were bullying. I know I would cry bitter tears for any child my child victimized. I also know what I would tell my girls if somebody bullied them. And it's something I desperately want to tell to all these teenagers, gay, straight, or just plain odd, who face the bullying daily:
Assault, hate crimes, these are the things children get away with in the name of youthful exuberance.
This is not about you. They're not making fun of you or hurting you because of anything true- and if it is true, it's only a coincidence. They've decided to make you a target and that's not fair, but it means nothing. They could tell the other kids that you're an alien from Mars, and get the other kids to beat you up for being an alien from Mars. It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, it doesn't matter if you're tall or short or smart or stupid, they'll pick any reason out of the air and they will bully you for it, but it does not define you. You are not what they say you are, and what they're saying you are is unworthy of their respect. Nothing more meaningful than that. You are a human being, and you're a kid, and that means that life is not fair and that life is hard, but you will all get a little older, and this will end. These horrible people who make you feel ashamed to be you, they'll turn into regular old adults, and you'll be a regular old adult, and they won't dare say these things. Because when adults do this, it's called a hate crime. You might not be able to stop them, but the end is in sight. All you have to do is grow up.
The last thing I would say is that I am so sorry I couldn't do more to make this a better world for you. For my daughters, for every kid that's bullied past the breaking point, I wish to God I could have made this a better world for you.
I plead with all of you parents out there, please don't turn a blind eye to facts of your child's life. If you child is a bully, don't ignore it. Don't make excuses. Because if this was behavior an adult was engaging in, they would be in jail. Assault, hate crimes, these are the things children get away with in the name of youthful exuberance. Would you stand by your adult child in court as they were prosecuted for beating up homosexuals, telling the judge and their victims that it's just an overabundance of confidence? Would you tell your twenty two year old daughter that she really doesn't need to think about whether or not she's a lesbian because it's time to get a job and focus on her career? No. Because once your kids are adults, you have to accept that their adult behavior is largely out of your control.
It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, it doesn't matter if you're tall or short or smart or stupid, they'll pick any reason out of the air and they will bully you for it, but it does not define you.
But your child's behavior is NOT out of your control. You can make it right. You can at least TRY to make it right.
I hope against hope that when my girls are grown, they will have the freedom to love whoever they choose. Sure, part of me wants my kids to have the same sorts of experiences that I had- and those were largely heterosexual experiences. But I also want them to be happy, and most of all true to themselves. Because what kind of happiness is it to live a lie?
Part of me would genuinely rather my girls were bullied than that they were bullying others, because I just don't know how I would fix that problem. I hope I never have to learn. But I do hope they never have to endure the bullying that I did, or that those poor dead teenagers did. I hope that in the next decade, the rest of humanity wises up a bit and realizes that children are people too, and that it is NOT acceptable for people to treat other people as anything less than an equal human being.