Stop the Bullying
Film night in the Rehoboth Beach area is Friday, June 2, with the movie Bully being shown at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware (UUSD), 30486 Lewes Georgetown Highway in Lewes. This movie is a product of the Bully Project who describe the film this way: “Filmed over the course of the 2009-2010 school year, Bully opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy ‘kids will be kids’ clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities, and in society as a whole.”
As traumatic as bullying is for all children and youth, bullying of LGBTQ youth is even more intense and prevalent. At the recent gathering of the Annual Conference of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church, a Resolution was presented that spoke to the need to be engaged in anti-bullying efforts by churches, working together with their respective school districts. The remarks made to introduce Resolution R-7 were powerful.
“There are many reasons to support this Resolution to stop the bullying of our LGBT youth. We can review statistics, but statistics really do not mean much. Instead, let’s look at those who face bullying only because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
“Donte is a 13-year-old gay teen who recently came out to his parents. His parents are very active at church. They told Donte that he has to move out of the house because he is going to hell. Donte confided in his friends at school, and they will no longer sit with him at lunch. In fact, they sit a few tables away, whisper, point at him, and laugh.
“Rosie is an eight-year-old transgender girl. As she was walking to math class, two 10-year-old girls came up behind her, pushed her to the floor, and said, “Why don’t you just go home and die?
“Kenny was in tenth grade, he was severely beaten in the school rest room because four other students thought he was gay. He had not yet come out to anyone. They kicked and punched him incessantly. Fortunately, all the bruises were on his body and not his face. He was able to hide the bruises from his parents. He did not report this to the teachers, because they would not have done anything. When Kenny turned 18, he sat in his bedroom with a loaded .38 handgun, and thought about killing himself. Thank God he did not.
“Now the stories of Donte, Rosie, and Kenny are all true. But there is an important difference with Kenny’s story. He is one of us. He was baptized at Calvary UMC in MaryDel. He was confirmed at Peninsula UMC at 20th and Washington in Wilmington. And he was a long-time member of St. Paul’s UMC on Faulk Rd. in Wilmington. Today, he and his partner are very active at Epworth UMC in Rehoboth Beach. Vote in favor of R-7. A vote against R-7, or a vote to table R-7 is a vote IN FAVOR of continuing the bullying of LGBT youth, even those who sit across the pew from us in church. This is a critical Resolution that will affect OUR LGBT youth.”
The Resolution was heavily amended, stripping its language of its meaning and purpose. While the Resolution passed, it bore little resemblance to its original intent.
The one person who has tremendous influence across our country in establishing anti-bullying measures in public school districts is the one person who has chosen to ignore the concerns of the LGBTQ community. From a Psychology Today article by Jack Turban come these reflections: “The U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos plans to do nothing, when it comes to anti-LGBT policies in schools receiving federal funding. During Congressional testimony, US Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) asked DeVos about Indiana’s Lighthouse Christian Academy. The school receives over $665,000 in school vouchers. The school also states in its handbook that if a student is from a home in which a “homosexual lifestyle” or “alternate gender identity” is practiced, that the student can be denied admission, or expelled.
Rep. Clark then asked Secretary DeVos if she would step in and require the school to eliminate its discriminatory policy in order to receive federal funding. After several attempts to avoid the question, DeVos ultimately answered that she would not.”
Turban continues, “Pediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychologists have been working tirelessly to improve the health of LGBT youth. They have spent countless hours working with schools to make them safer for these students. As school climates improved, we started to see students thrive. One transgender 13-year-old girl I worked with has straight A’s, was in her school play, and is already thinking about college. Gay and lesbian students are valedictorians, varsity team captains, and class presidents.
“If we’ve learned one thing about LGBT youth, it’s that when we take away the bullying and rejection, these kids succeed. The Lighthouse Academy, by refusing to accept these students, is bullying and rejecting. It is the job of the Secretary of Education to do everything she can to end this bullying so that these students can thrive. Secretary DeVos refuses to accept this responsibility. We know that when a family rejects a child’s LGBT identity, it can increase the risk of suicide almost twenty percent. I’m afraid of what will happen when the head of our nation’s education system does the same.”
The strategy of the anti-LGBT camp is to push back to the state governments the ability to make their own decisions, but only when it is convenient to do so. Perhaps that strategy should be our approach as well. Stay in touch with your state Senators and Representatives. Keep their office telephone numbers in your contact list, ready to call. Speak up and speak out! Stop the bullying.
If any readers of this column (or an acquaintance), have experienced gay conversion therapy, and are willing to share their story, please email me. This will be kept confidential. Email David Garrett