Apparently if I dug a little deeper I would know that the Office of Civil Rights is just as luke warm about the ‘civil rights’ of LGBTQ youth as the Department of Education. Oh how quickly we do the flip from targeted bias against a specific identity group to ‘bullies’. It’s the Godwin’s Law of hate crimes. The longer a discussion about a bias attack goes the higher the probability for sterilizing the conversation of any discussion of the cultural and personal presence of bias functioning as the motive for the attack.
“Bullies” without the very tangible and measurable social and political power of anti-gay structures, assumptions, and social status wouldn’t pose much of a threat to LGBTQ people. The bully ain’t the gun, he’s the monkey holding it.
Musings on today’s headlines
A Marshalltown High School student named Tim Counts has started a face book campaign and is planning an ‘event’ devoted to hating on the gays of Marshalltown.
According to the Facebook event, Tim Counts started the group event “Gay Shame Week” which is apparently set to start next week. At least 35 people, including many Marshalltown students, have replied that they are “attending” the event.
(but he notes:)
“Just to clear up any misunderstandings, this event is not planned out of hatred,” the posting reads. “It is simply protesting the concept of homo-sexuality (sic). Neither I nor this group encourage discrimination, violence, or any other sort of animosity toward homo-sexuals (sic).”
Can you see the distinction? Me neither. Meanwhile the school district is keeping an eye on things… “District Rep. Koester said the student has freedom of speech without disciplinary action unless it causes a disruption at school.”
Let’s see, the most common slurs in public schools are anti-gay slurs which are heard an average of 14 times per day by any given student. And LGBTQ students are more likely to skip school out of fear, more likely to drop out of school altogether, and 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.
I wonder if the district honestly plans to make sure “Gay Shame Week” doesn’t disrupt learning environment for any of the LGBTQ students and families at Marshalltown High. I wonder if they really think it hasn’t already disrupted learning for some students and created serious safety concerns for some families. Or maybe that’s not who Koester was thinking of when she spoke about the potential for a school disruption.
And come to think of it, I wonder what the community and school leaders would have done if his facebook event had been named “Racial Minority Shame Week” and was simply planning for a week of protesting the concept of a particular race. Shoot I suspect even “Christian Shame Week” would have provoked a stronger professional reaction, and we all know Christianity is simply a concept and a lifestyle choice. Sorry just a bird walk into random thought there.
Anyhow, this little highschool dust-up is transpiring in the same state and at the same time that a hostile political campaign against gay marriage has brought in bucket loads of national funding and a gay-hating dog and pony show into Iowa. Yep, there is a political road trip passing through Iowa right now stirring up as much anti-gay sentiment as they can for the Nov. elections. And this crew are spouting the same gay bashing rhetoric as their highschool protegé. In this instance the speeches feature words of gay disdain from the likes of Iowa Rep. Steve King, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Tamara Scott of the Concerned Women for America, and leading NOM bigot Brian Brown.
So at one end you’ve got a highly public and somehow socially acceptable attack on the lives of marginalized students. For now lets just call that one School as Usual, in tribute to the meh response of the administration. And at the other end of the demographics there’s a widely publicized public attack on the civil rights of LGBTQ parents and other adult LGBTQ people hosted by elected representatives as key speakers. I guess I’ll dub that one, Unrepresented.
And then somewhere in the middle, at the college age, you have folks like Emory’s self identified frat boy, Adam Smith, dragging a gay student out of a frat party in a headlock. And according to the victim, the aggressor, and witnesses Smith did this precisely because the young man was gay.
“This guy approached me and asked why I was wearing my hat. … I said that I like the hat, just as you like your pink shirt. He then asked me if I was gay, and I said I was. He then started choking me with his elbow and put me into a head lock, and he dragged me out of the party by my neck.”
After the student was allegedly dragged the approximately 10 to 15 feet from the house’s common area to the door and thrown onto the front lawn, Smith was overheard telling other attendees “Hey, this kid’s a f****t.”
Yea, the schools going to look into it. I’d predict based upon the recent ruckus at Yale that the school will box it out as a NMP off campus event. Not My Problem is the higher ed equivalent of Marshall’s administrative position that these things are happening outside of school jurisdiction and thus have no educational impact.
And so, two months into a school year we have now seen story after story of politicians using gay bashing political rhetoric against LGBTQ teachers, families, soldiers, what have you…
Story after story reporting on LGBTQ youth suicides following prolonged and reported homophobic harassment a.k.a. ‘bullying’ from their peers…
and even a brief national re-awakening to the brutality of gay bashing as recreation thanks to a horrifying anti-gay gang torture session in NYC…
And so today, the Obama Administration’s Education Department has taken a bold public stand against school based bashing of LGBTQ youth……
Drum roll please………….
Today’s headline news issue this meow from the bully pulpit:
So gay bashing may violate civil rights? Wow.
The Education Department goes on to explain this possible legal concern with the following statement, “The department had been working on this guidance for several months, but recent highly publicized cases of anti-gay, *anti-Muslim, and sexual harassment lent some urgency to its work, Ali said.”
That might imply to some that there has been a new uptick in gay/homophobic bullying and sexual harassment in U.S. public schools. That’s certainly what the mainstream media keeps saying. Yet anyone with a background in education research, like maybe the folks at the department of Education, knows that there has been no new uprise in gay bashing or in LGBTQ teen suicides. These experts know these ‘at risk’ trends have been tracked and reported on for over two decades. And case-law clearly established this is a civil rights violation back in 1996.
It’s just that thanks to the recent highly publicized cases of the last ‘several months’ the LGBTQ community has decided to “come out” in full force once again. In everything from the “It Gets Better” campaign to the daily pronouncements by LGBTQ people and allies in public life pleading directly to LGBTQ youth the many voices of the LGBTQ community have initiated yet anew “coming out” campaign. Just as the original “National Coming Out Day” responded to the callous and malicious actions of our government and fellow citizens during the onset of HIV, now once again sexual minority people and their families, from all walks of life, are telling their stories and making themselves visible.
For you see the horrific high rate of suicide among LGBTQ youth has been documented for decades, and we who study educational statistics could predict with some accuracy that are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 young gay lives lost to suicide each week. Every week. For decades now. This is not a new epidemic it has just been a silent epidemic up to now.
And anyone with a background in child development and educational issues (like the folks at the Education Department) could also tell you that somewhere between 20-40% of LGBTQ youth are homeless, though there are no government programs to address this concern either. Yes, we’ve known these facts for a long time.
But shame and fear have kept these children in the shadows and have kept the families of these victims silent up until this fall’s watershed moment with Tyler Clementi. The national response to his death perhaps emboldened other families to speak their truth about the pervasive homophobia their child endured when he repeated the tragic pattern and took his own life.
And so for the first time in some time the public is being forced to look directly at the human price of homophobic policies and rhetoric. Forced to look LGBTQ youth and their families in the face and deny their humanity. Again the general indifference is only broken by brave and furious families and friends telling the stories of suffering and death. Do we really need human lives to point to the naked emperor and say members of the gay community are first humans and second citizens of this country? How many Tyler Clementis, how many Matthew Shepards, Sakia Gunns, Lawrence Kings, Gwen Araujos will it take before we, at least we in field of education, can acknowledge everything from second class citizenship laws and policies to free speech hate groups are linked in a chain of public and private violence against a fellow human being.
And when we as a broader society begin to stand up to the ridiculous ideological claims that attempt to distinguishing LGBTQ children’s lives from their lives; “it’s not the gays we hate and have a right to discriminate against it’s their gayness.” And it’s the luke warm democratic political representation the LGBTQ community gets from none other than today’s U.S. Department of Education that suggests Tim’s Gay Shame Week at Marshalltown High isn’t necessarily an educational problem…. but may be… lets just think about it a while longer.
Thanks for that.
*I am not going to address the Christian domination of school rhetoric here – but safe to say anti-Muslim harassment is nested in a long tradition of public school bias against non-Christian faiths. I have posted on anti-Muslim school events here in the past and will again down the road.