Enough is Enough: Time to Make it Better
Another teenager has lost his life as a result of the cruelty and intolerance of his classmates. Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, asked for help, but no one really listened. His classmates taunted him and made every day a living hell. Some told him that he was better off dead, that he should kill himself – so, two weekends ago, he did.
When I heard the news, I felt lost. How could this happen? Had he not seen the It Gets Better videos? No, he had; he’d even made one. Our fault, as a society, was not in failing to tell Jamey that “it gets better” – rather, it was in not making it better. Unlike many other youth, Jamey had even been able to recognize that he needed help, and had asked for it. What did the adults do? Nothing helpful. As Jamey wrote on his blog: “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?”
Even if he had received more help, would it have been enough? Adults often fail to understand exactly how serious bullying is or how to respond appropriately. The only advice that Jamey had received from school officials was that he should avoid talking about his sexuality on social media sites – essentially, that he go back into the closet . Of course, this wouldn’t have stopped the bullying and harassment, and, more importantly, this advice sent the message that the problem was Jamey’s sexuality – not the cruelty of his classmates.
This approach leads bullied LGBT students to feel that they have nowhere to go for support, especially when they are young and especially when they have not yet come out of the closet to their parents and family. All too often, LGBT youth fear that their parents and friends will not accept them, and it doesn’t help when we adults demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be young, LGBT, and bullied.
In addition, the bullying of LGBT youth operates on multiple levels. Not only must they endure the taunts of their classmates and live in fear at home – they are also forced to endure campaign after campaign seeking to deny LGBT individuals of their civil rights and sending these youth the message that they are broken and worth less than their classmates.
Moreover, it is rarely a single event that causes someone to attempt suicide – instead, it is the cumulative effect of years of bullying, the perception of a bleak future, and the lack of a support network. Our “It Gets Better” videos, no matter how moving they may be, address only part of the problem.
To truly address this epidemic of bullying, we need to pass important pieces of legislation: the Student Non-Discrimination Act (HR.998/S.555), which prohibits discrimination against LGBT students and requires administrators and teachers to act on reports of bullying, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (HR.1648/S. 506), which mandates the development and implementation of student conduct policies that include clear prohibitions on bullying and harassment. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 today to urge your Senators and Representative to support these bills.
IMPORTANT: If you are in crisis, feel isolated or alone, or are
considering suicide, call the Trevor
Hotline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).