So. It wasn’t newsworthy that a 15 year old boy who had been the target of relentless bullying and threats because he was “feminine” was publicly executed by a classmate – nor did the slaying of another “too feminine” teenager, barely a week later, even register a blip in the national media.
Only now, when thousands of community members in Oxnard and thousands more across the country have held vigils, launched websites, written letters, and otherwise recognized the significance of what happened at that school is the execution of a child for having the temerity to honestly express himself worthy of notice by the Washington Post.
The article is really about what we already know: That many schools – in particular middle schools, where gender-based bullying tends to be the most intense – do not “have programs that promote tolerance among students, provide training for educators, or include policies that specifically prohibit harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation.”
Naturally, the usual suspects weigh in with their mewling that sexual orientation is an “inappropriate topic” for students:
“The vast majority of parents believe it’s their role and their responsibility to teach their kids about sexuality,” said Bill Maier, vice president and resident psychologist for Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization. “The way you handle the problem is that you crack down on any sort of bullying or aggression on any child. You don’t single out sexual orientation as this somehow special status.”
Oh, my. So many lies in such a small space. First of all, the vast majority of parents support sexuality education in schools, so Bill receives an F for accuracy. His syntax and logic aren’t much better. How could “sexual orientation” possibly be a special status, when everybody has one? Let’s be charitable and acknowledge that that’s not really what he meant.
What we are actually talking about are children who have been given the impression that gay people, or as is more often the case, people who don’t conform to gender expectations, have a special status that allows them to be the target of bullying. This is the problem that needs addressing, the incorrect notion that some people have a special status that renders them unworthy of the same safety, dignity and respect to which other people are entitled. This problem is not, of course, limited to any one flavor of bigotry, but it is the flavor of bigotry we are discussing at present. It is undeniable that Lawrence King’s killer believed that Lawrence had a special status, one that made it acceptable to kill him.
And where do children acquire beliefs like this? From adults, of course. The adults they hear using language like “pervert” and “faggot” and “abomination,” the adults they hear making demeaning, ignorant statements about other people they know nothing about, perhaps around the dinner table. Adults like Saturday Night Live’s Dennis Miller, who “joked” about Brandon Teena‘s murder that “everyone in this case deserved to die,” and adults like the Montgomery County showerheads (h/t to Emproph). This sort of adult hasn’t been showing themselves much publicly in Loudoun any more, but they’re still out there, spreading their toxins. Some of them in the little group that hangs around NoVA Townhall felt emboldened to come out today, in response to this story.
Naturally, the willfully ignorant (but happy to be judgmental anyway) Sophrosyne is “speechless,” but for all the wrong reasons. Did we not just go through a learning process in this community where the core lesson was that what’s important about a family is the love and security it provides, not what it looks like? I’ll admit that I’m somewhat speechless too – but because of the sacrifices that Thomas Beatie is willing to make to become a parent. That fact – that he and his wife really, really want to be parents, and are willing to sacrifice so much – indicates to me that this couple will be outstanding parents. Sophrosyne, your concern is badly misplaced. It’s the people who conceive by accident that we should be worried about. You just don’t get it. You should try learning something you don’t already “know.”
And naturally, Donna Rose does get it:
No matter who you are, this story will likely affect you in some way. You just don’t know it yet. It will refocus discussion on what, exactly, constitutes a man and a woman. It will raise questions about family and marriage that will transcend transgender. It will spark any number of moral debates. There will be pushback and it will not be pretty. It may even cause you to ask questions about your own open-mindedness and acceptance that you thought you had answered but somehow may now realize you haven’t.
Although some are seeing mostly doom and gloom from this I’m not there. In fact, I see rays of light that seem like hope to me. The same way that the disappointments of ENDA got people saying the word “transgender” in places I never imagined hearing it, so too will this situation spark conversation. To be sure, much of the conversation will be negative and will make our blood boil, but that’s the nature of social change. This is how it happens. But there is a positive side as well. We just need to give it time to brew.
So please, go right ahead and talk. The more everybody talks, the more everybody learns – and that’s a good thing, because ignorance kills.