Category Archives: Safe Schools

Focus On The Family’s Slightly More Polite Game Of ‘Smear The Queer’

The 16th annual Day of Silence is upon us. On April 20, 2012, students across the world will take a one-day vow of silence to remember LGBT kids who died by suicide this year and more broadly draw attention to the effects of homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism.

Day of Silence 2012

As you might guess, anti-gay groups are none too happy about people being reminded that their anti-gay rhetoric has a real human cost, and they’re sending in their kids to give the homos a smackdown.

Anti-gay group Alliance Defense Fund initiated Day of Truth back in 2005, built on the knowledge that the gay kids wouldn’t be able to respond verbally during the Day of Silence. It was horribly unpopular, and in 2009 ADF passed it to “ex-gay” group Exodus International. It became even less popular after the wave of LGBT suicides in late 2010, so EI passed it on to hate-group-affiliated Focus On The Family. Focus then rebranded the event as the Day of Dialogue.

Whatever they want to call their official anti-gay response, it’s remarkably similar to Smear The Queer. For those who missed that bit of playground violence in their youth, here’s a pretty good explanation from The Crow’s Eye.

The objet de jeu was simple, compared to baseball or lacrosse: do violence to the “Queer” with the ball. If you are wondering if the Queer was just an odd fellow, within game play, ponder no further. The Queer was certainly the Fag. And he had a handicap, which was the ball. The Queer had to have two hands on the ball, unless he was throwing it away. The point of the game, from the vantage point of the ball clasping Queer, was to get rid of the ball and become not-Queer. Because the only person who could be struck, tackled, knocked down or done violence to was the Queer with the ball.

In this slightly more polite version of the game, anti-gay groups arm the children of anti-gay churches to spread their anti-gay message to gay kids (and some straight allies). Then they present the anti-gay “Hey, we’re just having a conversation, man” model of sermonizing, full of coded words like “struggle” and “God’s best plan.” The goal is to get a gay kid alone and give him a good old-fashioned spiritual attack until he relents and goes back in the closet, or at least doubts himself enough to stop talking about it.

Last month, Friendly Atheist posted this spot-on response to the weird Day of Dialogue cards Focus are asking their kids to pass out to Day of Silence participants. Original is on top, response on bottom.

Click for Friendly Atheist's post
Click for Friendly Atheist's post

Last Saturday, Kenneth Weishuhn completed suicide after he came out a month ago and endured death threats by exactly the type of kids Focus On The Family has recruited to hand out these cards. He was 14. Austin Rodriguez attempted suicide in March at the age of 15, after coming out late last year. Thank God, Austin was not successful, and Asterisk exclusively reported earlier this week that he is slowly regaining his strength.

Jamey Rodemeyer. Rafael Morelos. Matthew Chance. Jacob Rogers. And the list goes on. Below is the map I’ve been keeping up of LGBT suicides in the United States.

(View LGBT Suicides in the United States in a larger map)

This year, we will remember that the anti-gay groups don’t want truth, and they don’t want dialogue. They want us to cease to be, to disappear. Above all else, they want to end us. The children and adults — their campaign’s damage lasts a lifetime — on this map are their success stories. (And yes, I’m saying what you think I’m saying. It’s long past time to stop sugar-coating it.)

This Day of Silence, we will remember.

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How About Some Good News? Gay Attempted Suicide Victim Recovering In Ohio

Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV
Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV

On March 30, I told you about Austin Rodriguez, a gay teen in Wellsville, Ohio who had attempted suicide two weeks before. At the time, he was in a drug-induced coma and doctors were preparing to perform a tracheotomy to help get him off a ventilator. I’ll be honest, things didn’t look good for this splendid young man.

I’m happy to report today that Austin has made remarkable strides since then. He has been awake for a week now, and last Thursday spoke for the first time since the incident. He’s been moved from ICU to a private room on a “stepdown” floor, which is a very good sign.

Monday night, to the delight of family, friends, and supporters, Austin returned to Facebook with this post through his mother’s account.

Happy dances all around!
Happy dances all around!

hey everybody, this is austin 🙂 getting stronger every day, but i wont be home in awhile. Ik abt all the support & thank you all from the bottom of my heart ♥

I got in touch with Austin’s mother this morning, and she had this message for the community: “Austin had no idea so many people were pulling for him. I would like to personally thank everyone for their support.”

Austin has a lot of work and a long recovery ahead of him, but I look forward to the day when he can return to school. Keep it up, Austin! We’re so glad you’re here!

Two Weeks After Attempted Suicide, Gay Ohio Teen Remains Unconscious

Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV
Austin Rodriguez - image via WYTV

It’s been two weeks since he attempted suicide, and Austin Rodriguez’s mother is asking for prayers in preparation for surgery next week. The Wellsville, Ohio teen remains sedated and on a ventilator at Akron Children’s Hospital after taking over a hundred prescription pills and collapsing in his family’s home on March 16.

This Thursday, Austin’s mother shared the following update with a Facebook group formed to relay information on his condition.

Austin has been fighting with Neuroleptic Malignate Syndrome. A lot of people were asking the name of it. Look it up, it’s really serious. He is looking at surgery mid-week next week to remove the tubes and put in a trach so after a week or so they could try to take him off the muscle relaxers and medications that have him paralyzed, which will be great. No real improvement with his lungs yet. His temp went up overnight to 104 again, but they put him on a cooling blanket again and his temp has come down and stayed down through the morning. His blood pressure is good for now. So please keep him in your prayers and if you have an extra minute please pray for our family. Thank you for all the support.

The Advocate first reported Austin’s attempted suicide last Friday. Local NBC station WFMJ followed up earlier this week.

Bonnie Rodriguez says her 15-year-old son declared his homosexuality just six to eight months ago. First telling family, then friends, and then no longer hiding it from classmates at school.

The teenager’s mother says it was shortly after coming out that her son, who is a straight-A student, began getting bullied at school.

She says at first her son appeared happy and relieved, and then she thought he may have been going through a depression and asked him about it several times, but he never really explained the extent of what he was going through.

From what his mother has learned, the bullying was not only cruel, but enough to make a teenager who was already introverted, feel like an outcast. “It was electronic, it was face to face bullying, they were hiding his gym clothes because they didn’t want him changing in the locker room with them. They didn’t want him to eat by them, or in the school lunchroom,” Rodriguez said.

As he enters week three in critical condition, here’s hoping we’ll soon have some good news on Austin’s recovery. If you have a kind thought or prayer for him, I know he and his family would appreciate it right about now.

High School Yearbook Advisor: “Cut the gay couple or I cut the page”

For almost a week, I’ve been censoring pictures famous images of straight couples kissing. It all started when Peter LaBarbera censored two totally innocent pictures of gay military couples, but like I said in the inaugural post, he’s far from the only one trying desperately to keep LGBT people invisible.

Want more proof that this is a problem? Here’s a story that just came in from Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, CO, where a picture of a lesbian couple holding hands has been removed from the yearbook.

“She told me to in these exact words, you either cut the gay couple or I cut the page.” said former Palmer High School Yearbook Staff Member Rudolpho “Coco” Tribulio.

Tribulio and Anna Carmicheal say their yearbook advisor told them that a lesbian couple holding hands could not be on a page they were creating about high school relationships.A School District 11 spokesperson says there is another reason.

“When the photos came back from that page there was too much PDA and that is against Palmer policy,” said District 11 Public Information Officer Devra Ashby. If you look at pictures from last year’s yearbook, however, you can see several forms of public displays of affection.

Golly, you guys, the school didn’t really have a choice. They were just following policy [for the first time because it was gay kids and not straight kids]. See? No choice at all.

The story at Palmer High is sadly not the first time this kind of thing has happened. Recall this story from May 2011, in which Florida principal Karlton Johnson of Blanch Ely High School threatened to suspend a lesbian couple if they were caught holding hands. Then he outed them to their parents.

There's nothing wrong with you, kids. I promise.
There's nothing wrong with you, kids. I promise.

I know, I know. “Public displays of affection” are against policy. They said the same thing when I was in high school. There’s a difference, though, between how school employees react to straight kids showing affection and how they react to gay kids showing affection. For straight kids, it’s a cluck of the tongue followed by a monthly school dance where displaying affection is not just accepted, but celebrated, with cameras clicking for full school newspaper and yearbook coverage. When gay kids do it, they’re met with a shaming and removal of any evidence that gay people can have affection for each other.

We exist. It’s important for all teenagers that society acknowledge that we exist, and it’s even more important for LGBT teenagers to be free from shaming because of their existence.

You’re Not Furious, And It’s Killing Us

I haven’t watched Glee in over a year, but like most people with an ear to the ground, I’d been expecting (SPOILER ALERT) one of the show’s gay characters to attempt or complete suicide this season. That finally happened this week when gay football player Dave Karofsky made a failed attempt. Fashion/Pop Culture bloggers Tom & Lorenzo (hereafter T Lo), who had praised the introduction of the gay romance last year, had some harsh words for the episode, and even harsher – and truer – words for the It Gets Better Project.

[K]ids only get so much out of “It Gets Better.” You know why? Kids, by their very natures, are not forward-looking; everything is RIGHT NOW and of the HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. We can’t think of any message from an adult more condescending to a teenager than “Shh. It’s okay. Just dream of ten years from now.” Especially since the message of “It Gets Better” pretty much accepts anti-gay bullying as an inevitability; something for the kid to just hunker down and get through. In other words: the message of “It Gets Better” whether it intends it or not (and obviously, it didn’t) is that the victims of anti-gay bullying have to do the work of dealing with it, but no one else does. “You’re on your own, kid. Chin up. The good news is, you might be happy in a decade.”

In the interest of full disclosure and bragging a little bit, I’ve internet-known Tom of T Lo for over a decade. Well before their website so deservedly took off, his and Lorenzo’s example was one of the reasons I finally came out in 2007, so I’m probably biased in favor of their opinion.

On the other hand, it could just be that they’re right.

The way for the creative community (and indeed, the entire world) to address anti-gay bullying is not through weepy portraits of its victims, but through SHEER RAGE. Fuck “It Gets Better.” Show us a campaign against gay teen bullying called “THIS SHIT HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW” and we’ll sign on in nano-seconds. Because the people who need to address anti-gay bullying definitely aren’t the victims – and not the bullies, either. It’s society that needs to change its attitudes toward gays, from the top down. And when the majority of people are righteously angered by any attempts to dehumanize gays or treat them as inferior – and more importantly, moved to act on that anger, rather than sitting at their computers and shaking their heads over it – then anti-gay bullying will practically evaporate. Every time a gay kid takes his life, it’s not he who’s at fault, nor is it the parents, the bullies, the church or the school district. WE ARE. WE ALL ARE. You should be furious about it, not gently weeping over music videos.

You know how I know T Lo are right? Because of this video.

February 21, 2012: Tanya Ditty from the anti-gay Concerned Women for America (Georgia chapter) compares gays to pedophiles, necrophiliacs

Anti-gay forces have been using this “23 sexual orientations” lie for years now, most memorably in 2009 by Rep. Steve King during debate on the Matthew Shepard Act (following then-Focus On The Family head James Dobson’s lead), when it was thoroughly debunked on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Following Ms. Ditty’s lying testimony Tuesday, the LGBT workplace protections bill was killed by Georgia House subcommittee. She was the only witness who spoke against it.

So here’s my question: How many newscasts have featured this prime example of what T Lo are talking about? How many national news sources have shown Ms. Ditty’s lies? What the hell, let’s open it up to Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, and all the rest. Tanya Ditty’s blatant, pre-debunked, harmful, hateful lies most certainly contribute to the atmosphere of scape-goating and hatred and death of gays; how many times have they been shown for what we know they are?

The answer is none, and I’ll bet you a nickel it will remain none. Unless you’re pretty doggone plugged into LGBT political blogs, you haven’t seen this video because quite frankly, it’s still okay to tell these kind of lies about lesbians, gays, bi, and trans people. Worse, telling the truth about us is still a liability. The network heads know what we all know. There is no “THIS SHIT HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW” movement in America, nor will there be. Americans just don’t have any righteous anger about the mistreatment and dehumanization of LGBT people, and with It Gets Better‘s transformation from first aid to supposed cure, the gay community has let them know that being a little sad when our kids kill themselves is close enough for us.

WATCH: Extreme Makeover Features Family Of 11-Year-Old Suicide Victim Carl Walker-Hoover

On April 6, 2009, eleven-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover completed suicide as a direct result of peer abuse (stop calling it bullying). Since then, Carl’s Mom has been on a mission, joining with GLSEN to bring about change in laws regarding peer abuse. Just three months after her son’s death, Ms. Walker went to Congress and challenged our elected officials to protect children.

So far, they haven’t listened.

Carl, Sirdeaner, and Gloria in happier times
Carl, Sirdeaner, and Gloria in happier times

More than most people could possibly imagine, the last two and a half years have been difficult for the Walker family, so I was glad that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featured Sirdeaner and Carl’s siblings on the show last Friday, sharing his story and perhaps giving them a tiny bit of karmic (or is it mokshic?) payback for the nightmare they’ve been through.

You’ll be surprised by the lasting effect of Carl’s death. The family has abandoned the third floor of the home where they found Carl, choosing instead to sleep on cots in the living room. Carl’s room is exactly as he left it, his backpack still tossed half-open on the steps the way 11-year-old boys do.

I was so glad to see GLSEN, The Trevor Project, the It Gets Better Project, and of course the Carl Walker-Hoover Foundation spotlighted. These important organizations are vital resources for kids like Carl.

(Sorry for the ads; they aren’t mine. Also sorry for the Kardashians.)

[CORRECTED] Ohio High School Had Anti-Bullying Assembly Just Days After Anti-Gay Attack

[box type=”note”]Josh Gunderson sent me a note correcting the date of the attack. His program at the school was two days after the attack, not before. I have corrected the headline accordingly. Thanks, Josh, for the correction.[/box]

By now, you’ve probably seen the news report from Chillicothe, Ohio (about 75 miles from me) that rocketed across the internet yesterday (hat tip to Equality Ohio) about a 15-year-old student who was brutally attacked in school this week because he’s gay. (Trigger warning, just to be safe.)

See Dan Savage’s column for my reaction to this story. Cosigned, 100%.

Coincidentally, the school had a big assembly (screencap) about online and offline peer abuse just last Wednesday. Speaker Josh Gunderson addressed the students, ending his presentation by directly addressing suicides caused by peer abuse. Here is Gunderson’s It Gets Better video:

See Gunderson’s Youtube channel to get an idea what he does. It looks like a good program, and we need more of that kind of thing to reach students, but the abuse won’t stop until the adults in charge recognize that this is a real and urgent problem, not one you can just talk about for an hour and then forget for another year.

It’s important that adults treat peer abuse and the accompanying physical attacks without kid gloves. These are serious life-and-death issues. Zach has a concussion and is in a danger zone for self-harm and suicidal ideation right now because of this attack by a peer.

In fact, his attacker is probably back in school today, potentially sitting in the same classroom as his victim. Obviously, this will only exacerbate the attack’s long-term effects.

Union-Scioto School officials must act swiftly, both to make Zach whole and to make it known throughout the community that peer abuse, specifically peer abuse against LGBT people, are not accepted in their schools. Local officials in the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office must treat this attack seriously and seek real penalties in order to rehabilitate the attacker.

Failing to do that will send the opposite message that attacking and abusing LGBTs is okay, and that’s a message we can’t afford for them to send.

Why Values Voter Summit 2011 Should End Presidential Campaign 2012

Last weekend, every Republican Presidential candidate with a chance of winning (plus Rick Santorum) appeared on stage at the Values Voter Summit, a meeting sponsored by two certified hate groups on par with (and one with ties to) the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Family Research Council and American Family Association have both been considered hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for some time now, and with good reason; both groups push their shared agenda with dangerous propaganda and outright lies about LGBT people.

To repeat: Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all accepted the invitation of these hate groups (as they have for years), hoping to get their endorsements and the votes of like-minded individuals.

Do you really need more information before you cast your vote in the 2012 presidential election? What stance on which issue could possibly make it okay to vote for a candidate who has actively courted bigotry?

choice-highway-sign

Jamey Rodemeyer’s Second And Final ‘It Gets Better’ Video

It’s been a week since Jamey Rodemeyer completed suicide, and like many of you, I can’t get him off my mind. I’ve been looking through Jamey’s tumbler blog, and after sifting through hundreds of Lady Gaga gifs, I found this video. He uploaded it on September 13th, just five days before his light went dark.

I see in this video the same cognitive dissonance as in his earlier It Gets Better video. In both, he said the words he was supposed to say, but he didn’t even convince himself. “It gets better, hold your head up high, you were born this way” was his mantra; the lines he repeated to get through the long days and the longer nights until the reality of his life became too strong.

As Harvey Milk famously said, “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living.”

Jamey had run out of hope. I could fill the page with words (about 1,000 before I started over) trying to explain what happened, but it all comes down to that.

This is what the It Gets Better Project is all about. That’s why I’m From Driftwood, GLSEN, and all the LGBT rights groups exist. Ultimately, they’re here to nudge the rest of us into the hope and reality of a better tomorrow, so that one day there won’t be a 14-year-old kid who cuts and cries and finally completes suicide.

Jamey Rodemeyer March 21, 1997 - Sepember 18, 2011
Jamey Rodemeyer
March 21, 1997 - Sepember 18, 2011

I hope to see that day soon. Until then, as Jamey said, paws up.

Forever.

Mistrial Declared In Lawrence (Latisha) King Murder Trial: Gay Panic Defense Still Works

CBS is reporting this hour that the judge in the case of Brandon McInerney has declared a mistrial after jurors told him that they were deadlocked.

Bringing a gun to school and shooting someone in the back of the head — TWICE — doesn’t count as premeditated murder. At least that’s the case in the minds of some of the jurors in the trial of Brandon McInerney, the boy who murdered 15-year-old Lawrence (Latisha) King in broad daylight in front of a room of witnesses in February 2008.

A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a California teen accused of murdering a gay classmate at a junior high school three years ago.

Jurors on Thursday told Judge Charles Campbell they were unable to reach a unanimous decision whether Brandon McInerney was guilty of killing 15-year-old Larry King.

The brazen shooting in front of stunned classmates in a computer classroom gained wide attention when authorities dubbed it a hate crime because King was gay and evidence suggested McInerney had white supremacy leanings. Extensive news coverage persuaded Campbell to move the case from Ventura County to neighboring Los Angeles County.

The prosecution contend McInerney, who was being tried as an adult, made a conscious decision to kill King during a computer lab class. They said McInerney told others he wanted to hurt King in the days leading up to the slaying and he hid a .22-caliber handgun in his backpack before pulling the weapon out and shooting his classmate twice in the back of the head.

Defense attorneys do not deny McInerney killed King, but they said their client snapped when he heard moments before the shooting that King wanted to change his first name to Latisha.

Prosecutors now have to decide whether to re-file murder and hate crime charges against McInerney.

Latisha (née Lawrence) deserves better.
Latisha (née Lawrence) deserves better.
Gay panic. Works every time.

EVERY.

TIME.

You want to know why trans and gay people kill themselves? This is why. We are seen as less than human. We are seen as less than real.

You want to know why straight people kill trans and gay people? This is why. We are seen as a nuisance to be snuffed out, and if someone actually pulls the trigger (FUCKING TWICE), it’s because the fag scared him by being faggy or something.

This is why, and honestly, I don’t even know what to do about it anymore.

To call this an appalling failure of justice and human decency would be the height of understatement.

I wish long and miserable lives for the jurors in this trial who aren’t convinced that planning and methodically carrying out the death of a gay kid is murder. Very long, and very miserable. May the memory of Latisha King’s murder haunt them the rest of their lives and into the next.