Thursday, 4 February 2010

What about OUR children?

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

What about the GBLT kids and teens?

Homophobic and transphobic bullying is toxic in the playground. Stonewall reports 2 in 5 PRIMARY school teachers witness homophobic bullying. 2 thirds of GBLT kids in secondary school are bullied - and 40% beaten up. Homophobic bullying is second only to weight in terms of frequency and 9 out of 10 secondary school teachers have witnessed homophobic bullying.

Outside of school GBLT kids grow up in a world that demonises homosexuals and trans people. Even with the best family in the world, the homophobia and transphobia and the cis/heteronormative world is presented everywhere. On television, in books, in games, in the playground, from the pulpit (ye gods, definitely from the pulpit) and from the seats of government. 'Gay' is one of the most common pejoratives there is, especially among the young. It seems hardly a week goes by without some celebrity merrily letting the word 'fag' spill from his lips. Ministers and religious leaders don't pause for a second in spouting the most virulent homophobic bigotry. Nations around the world think it's acceptable to kill us - and the BBC think it's acceptable to debate whether we should be killed or not.

The message of hatred is always there. It's poison that seeps into kids, corrodes them, damages them, destroys their sense of self worth, self-esteem and even will to live.

And they are ALONE. Unlike many marginalised groups, homosexuals, bisexuals and trans people rarely grow up in a house with people who share their marginalisations. Their parents are cis-gendered and heterosexual. Their siblings, their grandparents, the vast majority of their family - they're all cis-gendered and heterosexual. There's no support net. No understanding. No advice. No experience. Nothing to counter the constant poisonous message that they're diseased, broken, wrong.

And we're not allowed to counter the message. Teachers receive next to no training in dealing with homophobic bullying - and the mere mention of homosexuality in schools is considered so taboo it's nearly impossible to counter the bullying, the prejudice and the language of hate. How many kids are told how damaging using "gay" as a pejorative is? How many are even told that "fag" is a grossly unacceptable slur? How many are told that "tranny" should never pass their lips? How many kids are taught that anti-GBLT hate is NOT ok? They grow up in a world that is saturated with anti-GBLT prejudice and straight and cisgendered privilege and no-one ever tells them it's wrong, no-one tells them the damage it causes - even educating them on the hurt is considered immoral. They will absorb hate unless we work to counter it - unless we're allowed to work to counter it.

Is it any wonder our kids hide? Is it any wonder we closet ourselves? But then, that makes for even less chance to seek help. How can you connect to the GBLT community when you're terrified of being outed? How can you complain to your parents or your teachers that you're being bullied or assaulted or abused when it would mean outing yourself to them? How do you go to the police when you are afraid of anyone finding out?

Is it any wonder so many of our young are depressed? Is it any wonder so many of them self-harm? Is it any wonder so many of them are homeless? Is it any wonder so many of them turn to drugs? And we can't even begin to imagine the full scale of pain they fall to - how many resort to destructive relationships because they think they're worth no better? How many live empty, hollow lives pretending to be straight and/or cis-gendered and hating every day?

Is it any wonder that so many of our young kill themselves?

So, righteous homophobes - you want us to think of the children? We are - and we'd appreciate it if you'd stop killing ours!