Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bully For You

When I graduated from Downers Grove North High School in 2003, 15 of my former classmates came out. A few of my peers had been subject to gay rumors for years, others dropped hints but never specified their sexual orientation, but a few guys jumped out of the closet to virtually everyone's surprise. It was kind of unusual to see so many people come out en masse, but I was glad that they could finally be honest about themselves. I was friends with them before graduation and I'm still in contact with several of them via Facebook.

Coming from a predominately white, upper-middle-class, moderate-conservative high school, I understand why so many of my high school buddies kept the closet door shut until they left. Downers North at the time was not very gay-friendly --in fact, there was no organized LGBT student group until midway through my senior year-- and the few students that came out beforehand were treated like pariahs. I remember getting into an argument with a fellow classmate because it annoyed him that a boy we knew would regularly go to school wearing glittery makeup and women's blouses. My classmate knew nothing about the guy; his presence simply aggravated him.

I mention this because the human interest topic du jour has been anti-gay bullying. In the wake of that terrible suicide at Georgetown University, a spotlight has been thrown on utter disregard for students of alternative lifestyles in high schools and colleges all across the country. Even for those of you that are on the fence for LGBT rights, there's also the legal quagmire of harassment, freedom of speech, and invasion of privacy. What transpired in Tyler Clementi's dorm room last month and its tragic aftermath could be debated in court for years to come.

One would argue that bullying in our nation's schools is just as rampant as it was 50 years ago, but you could also argue that the ramifications of bullying have increased exponentially. It's not just about bigger kids beating you for milk money anymore; social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become new grounds for potential tormenters to run loose, in some cases anonymously. The daily beatdown in the schoolyard has been eclipsed by threatening texts, slanderous wall posts, and in this case, some asshole with a hidden webcam.

I'm only a straight ally, but I know what it's like to be bullied and this absolutely has to stop. The Clementi tragedy is only one of several gay suicides nationwide that have occured in the past few months. In most cases, the tormentor is compensating for their own unhappy life and takes it out on someone that can't or will not retaliate. This subconscious anger can lead to a wall of ignorance and prejudice that is hard to unravel, and in turn inflict psychological damage this is equally difficult to unwind. My classmates at DGN stayed in the closet until they were 18 out of fear of being hurt or humiliated. The religious right can call this opportunistic manipulation all they want, yet they're missing the forest for the trees. This is still bullying.

Other notes:

+ In light of my fantasy baseball success, my two roto football teams are struggling. My TV.com team is 1-4 entering Week 6, keeping a loose grip on 7th place in a league of eight teams. Not realizing that all my running backs have byes this weekend, I dumped Tim Hightower and picked up Giants standout Ahmad Bradshaw. My "other" team is 2-3, tied for 5th place out of 10, and holding steady after a weak start.

+ After going 2-2 in the divisional series, I'm picking the Rangers to beat New York in 7 and the Phillies to nail San Fran in 5. In the end, it truly depends on who has the more dominant pitching.

+ On the improv scene, I finished Improv Level 3 at IO last weekend and I start Level 4 on Sunday. My last Writing 1 session with Nate Herman ends next Monday, with Writing 2 beginning the week after. Still no word on my next show, though.

+ Last Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 11,000 for the first time since May 2010. "That's awesome," said a cancer patient with no health insurance. ;)


  1. A boy wearing glitter and women's blouses? Jesus christ. This is the difference between my generation and your's, Stu. No guy EVER wore that in my high school; he would be belittled as an absolute sissy. How about this: nobody truly knows their sexual orientation in high school, and it's nobody's god damned business, nor does anybody else really need to know. Let them find out in college. We don't need self-absorbed "What about ME???" special interest groups distracting h.s. students as it is.

    Of course your generation finds nothing wrong with it, but to have a LGBT group in high school while the kids are all STILL MINORS, only promotes risky behavior, because what else is the point of having such a group?

    And I can tell you from experience that anybody who commits suicide because of bullying (or like say, not making Track & Field), didn't do it just because of bullying - there were obviously other serious issues at hand the person was dealing with. I will say I was bullied at a very early age, but come on, it wasn't a Federal case and it's a part of growing up. Kids are cruel little assholes, not brainwashed robots.

    And as for cyberbullying, simple rule: no people younger than 18 on the Internet. Simple as that. Young people having access to the Internet is like throwing gasoline on a fire, and it's no surprise to me what's happening. Just like when you introduce anything new to the population (like meds), it's going to be rampant & there will be terrible consequences & abuse.

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