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Whose Agenda is This Anyway?

The attention to pressures on young gay and lesbian people and on bullying in general in the past two weeks has been unprecedented. It’s clear that with the leadership of such media stars as Dr Phil, Ellen DeGeneres, and Anderson Cooper, colleges and schools will have a much more difficult time turning aside complaints, requests for room changes, and defending the policies they already have in place which are often ineffective.

We’ve also noticed a strange attitude that says that bullying isn’t just about gay people, it’s been around for years, but now only gets attention to  “further the gay agenda”. To that we say “Enough is Enough!”

Meantime, school boards, colleges and universities object to new oversight, because after all, they already have policies to prevent bullying or harrassment due to sexual orientation.  The policies in effect are clearly not working, and it is time to examine why that is so. Could it be that the procedures are so unclear that the students don’t know how to seek assistance? Could it be that the climate of fear, ridicule, and repercussion is so severe that students are afraid to report incidents, or feel that seeking help might further endanger their safety?

We believe that putting an end to bullying in general, and in particular the harassment of people who are gay or perceived to be gay, is not just a matter for the “gay agenda”. It is a matter that affects us all, and needs to be on ALL our agendas.

Straight spouses come to our organization for support with their own issues about having a gay husband or lesbian wife. However, those issues go beyond the relationship; they extend to family, to children. In our confidential settings, the following incidents are composites of stories that have been shared repeatedly by many:

  • A. A father comes out, and is open about his sexuality in the general community. He’s seen at school events with his new partner. Both of them come to parent meetings, football games, to show support of the middle school age son and daughter, who live with their straight mother. The son tells his father to never bring his partner to football games, because he hates him. While those are his true feelings in reaction to the divorce, the son is also getting razzed by teammates about being gay, just like dad.
  • B. A 20 year old girl feels she has to “warn” every guy she becomes romantically involved with that her mom is a lesbian, in a committed relationship. She loses a lot of potential relationships that way. Finally, she meets a guy who tells her he’s in love with her, not her mom. It’s a huge realization to her that she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, or a “warning”.
  • C. A college freshman has profound anger over his parents recent divorce, and needs time to adjust to his father’s marriage to a new gay partner. College is a chance to get away from all the stuff in his household, and have a new start. He’s assigned a roommate who is openly gay, and realizes he isn’t ready to deal with gay culture and activity in his dorm room. He requests a room change and is lectured about homophobia. The room change is denied. He is given no options for alternatives. By the end of the semester, he has shut down so completely he flunks out.
  • D. A group of students target another student for “jokes”. They set up a series of “gay dates” to meet the student in public places or at his home, even though the student says he is not gay. Over a few days, the situation escalates, and when the student attempts to walk away, the group corners him physically so he can’t get away. The student reports the assault, which results in arrests. The student is afraid to report that the harassment is gay related. No one knows that one of the bullies has a closeted gay father with a history of spousal abuse. No one knows this, but no one asks the bullies what their problems are.

We believe it is time for every school, from preschool through university, to not only adopt rules against bullying and harassment, but to also specify that bullying, intimidation, and harassment of another student for their sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, or a family member’s sexual orientation is not to be tolerated. This needs to be specifically mentioned, not just swept away in a nicey nicey statement about “respect”.

We believe it is time for colleges and universities to effectively communicate their policies to their students. This means that students should know what the next step is AFTER they tell the RA who either does nothing or responds inappropriately. This also means that colleges should pay attention to WHY someone is bullying a gay student, and consider that the bully may indeed be gay, or struggling with unresolved issues toward a gay parent or sibling. It isn’t just “homophobia”.

We believe it is time for our world to end the of harassment and intimidation of gay people, their families, and those who are perceived as being gay as a human issue, not just a gay issue.

Safety, freedom, respect, healing, sanity.

That’s our agenda, and we’re sticking to it.

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