BEATING THE BULLIES: ‘IT GETS BETTER’


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:

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I really liked this one too, just an ordinary guy, talking about his experiences growing up gay.

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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…

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com. When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

10 Comments

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  2. kim

    October 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

    thanks for posting, rene. i keep saying if only i knew one of these kids and could be his friend and let him see that it’s not only okay to be gay but it can be great! if only, if only, if only. sharing.

  3. Angela LUcas

    October 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you Rene! I just found out that a young woman I met in Oct 09 at a conference committed suicide in January because she had no support and no one to talk to about her breakup with her girlfriend. She was an instructor and writer with a very promising future. A highly intellegent young black woman. She was only 24.

    Her death was swept under the rug … maybe because the lives of black women is not worth the attention; and to add to the fact that she was a lesbian. Thank you again.

    http://www.thelantern.com/campus/instructor-s-suicide-shocks-students-1.1077456

  4. bob

    October 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    you’re right on, rene – i think every parent has an obligation to use these tragedies as a teaching moment for their kids – make sure they know that:

    1) They are loved unconditionally, and they can talk to you about anything. but if they can’t, then find someone else to talk to.

    2) They are expected to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of how different they might be.

    3) They are expected to not tolerate bullying when they witness to it – report it to school authorities or to you.

  5. M.E. Johson

    October 3, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you, Rene, for bringing this to the forefront. For years I have been so hurt to read about such incidences. I and my kids (well, they’re almost old people now) have done what we can ~ talk, sympathize, protect, whatever. More people have to step up and put a stop to this tragic ignorance.

  6. sandrine

    October 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Hi Renee, I think this is awful, but to be expected. Middle school was the worst time for my daughter. She did not get bullied herself, luckily, but there were so many cliques, and that’s a very difficult time when adolescence starts. Teenagers are very confused, have to cope with a changing body, hormones, and plus, bullying. This is more than one can handle. I talked to my 14-year old yesterday and although she is in that “don’t want to confide to the parents” phase, I asked her (begged her) to find an adult to talk too (the counselor at school for example) if she ever feels desperate about something. They have to know where to go or who to go to BEFORE anything happens and they can’t think straight. Now she is in High school and it’s getting better, I think.

  7. Pingback: BACK ON THE BULLY BUS

  8. Rene Syler

    October 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Great idea to let them know you are cool with them talking to someone other than you..

  9. Chrissy H.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Rene, try to wear purple (surely you have some TCU purple garb from your sis!) on Wednesday, Oct. 20 — Spirit Day to honor the LGBT kids who committed suicide.

    Here’s the link to the Facebook site:
    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=144778572233301&index=1

    Love reading all your posts!
    Chrissy Heinke

  10. Pingback: ASK RENE: SPITE NIGHT!

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