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OH-MY-GOD THIS HAS TO STOP!
Good Enough Mother has just been reading more about the lives of three kids who committed suicide within the last several weeks because they were gay and subjected to unimaginable bullying.
Asher Brown, a beautiful 13-year-old boy out of Houston shot himself after being teased unmercifully by school kids. He had told his stepfather the morning of his suicide that he was gay. Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old from Tehachapi, California, hung himself in his backyard after another bullying incident. His mother found him (can you imagine?) and then had to endure watching her beloved boy linger on life support for a week before dying. And then there’s the tragic story of Tyler Clementi, the bright, musical student at Rutgers University who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate taped him and another man in a dorm room sexual encounter then put it online. Seriously, what the hell?
This is so heartbreaking because who knows what these kids would have gone on to accomplish in their lives. How difficult it must have been for them to be different at a time in their lives when everyone is trying to conform. I know that feeling all too well (but not to that extent) growing up and going to school in an area without a lot of minorities. You just want to do the stuff everyone else is doing, dating and hanging out, getting invited to parties, normal teenage activities. But adolescence is such a precarious time, fraught with intense emotion and kids just don’t have the life experience to draw from to get them through it.
So Dan Savage an openly gay columnist has started a YouTube channel called IT GETS BETTER. Using a combination of famous and not-so-famous people, the idea being to reach out to gay youth who may be struggling with their sexuality, trying to figure where they fit in the world. I loved this one by Joel Madden of Good Charlotte:
I really liked this one too, just an ordinary guy, talking about his experiences growing up gay.
You know what struck me? The tapes from around the world with people describing similar experiences. I think it will be comforting for gay kids to know that others have been down that path before and made it. It does get better!
So why should I, a straight old lady, care? Get involved? Because this is not a gay or straight issue, this is a human issue. My life is bursting at the seams with people I am proud to call friends; people who have been there for me when the chips are down and I will do the same for them. Some are gay, some are straight but they all truly care about me and for that, I love them.
I want my own kids to have those same, rich and fulfilling experiences. I want their lives to look like a wonderful tapestry of friends of every size, shape, color and sexual orientation. As a result, I have spent a lot of time talking to them about tolerance and what sort of behavior we will accept as part of our family’s moral code of conduct. Bullying because someone is gay or different has no place in that. I think because of that Casey and Cole understand that sexuality is not a choice and furthermore, WHO CARES? That isn’t the primary characteristic we look when picking friends now is it?
This can best be summed up with the words of Shawn Walsh, Seth’s younger brother. After proclaiming Seth to be the best brother in the galaxy, straight from the heart he added “I just wish people could have been nice to him like my mom taught me.” We must teach our kids to show grace, tolerance and to stand up when they see someone being bullied because they’re different. Like that eloquent eleven-year-old said, we need to be nice.
What do you think? What do you tell your kids about people who are different from them? And how can we as a society prevent these kind of tragedies from happening again…