Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bullying, Homophobia and Oprah

So when I woke up from my customary afternoon nap and after I watched Around the Horn and PTI, I watched Oprah. Not intentionally, in the, "Oh Oprah's on!" nature, but it caught me as I was flipping by.

She was talking with the families of two young males who had killed themselves after dealing with bullying and name-calling in school. Both reported frequently being taunted with calls of "fag" or "gay," which one of the experts on the show claimed to be some of the most harmful things you can say to an adolescent male.

Two things struck me and had me glued to the television for the rest of the hour:

1. How is it that in 2009, being called "fag" or "gay" is one of the most harmful things you can say to an adolescent male?
Honestly? Maybe I'm more open-minded than some, but being gay or called gay doesn't carry the same stigma it did decades ago when homosexuality was such a taboo lifestyle. Shit, Sean Penn just won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk and Ellen is one of the most widely beloved people on the planet...

2. Having shows like this actually does more harm than good for gay rights in my opinion.
Spending an hour talking about how young men become suicidal when repeatedly called a fag gives the impression that being called a fag is something horrible, like being called a murderer or rapist or pedophile.

Now, I know I'm probably taking a much more different angle at this than some and I, of course, have not spent a minute in the circumstances any of these parents have been in, but if your kid is telling you how much they hate school and never want to go back, regardless of their wishes that you don't go to the school to investigate further, get your ass to the school.

Back in my day, my old man used to call the parents of this kid I constantly fought with to see if there was some way they could mutually work out the situation for us. Some of these parents didn't even take that step and that is unbelievable to me.

Even more crazy to me was the assertion one of the parents made that cyber-bullying is even more dangerous and harmful than actual face-to-face confrontation.

I'm sorry, can you not turn off your goddamn computer? Can you not stop going on Facebook and MySpace? I agree that repeatedly being called names sucks balls big time, but it's not as bad - IMO - as getting punched in the head or slammed head-first into a steel door, trust me.

And I have no understanding of how life can ever be so bad that you want to kill yourself. I'm sorry, I just don't, especially not when you're 12,13,14-years-old.

If your kid is that depressed, alienated and / or removed from normal social life, get them as much help as humanly possible, starting with you as parents doing everything you possibly can. The school councilor or a shrink you're paying X dollars an hour isn't going to care for your kid as much as you are, at least I hope not.

I know I've probably stoked the fire with a few people on this one and maybe pissed a few more people off with my views, but to me, that's what life is all about. Discussion, expanding viewpoints and seeing things from another perspective.

I'd love to hear what you think, as always...


Cam said...

Amen! Thank you Spence for bringing this up... You said it perfectly. Parents must get involved in their children's lives. I truly believe that their complacence to these issues hinders development and socialization amongst our youth... I just wish more people (kids and parents included) would be more willing to accept the current social morales and culture (as we see it)...

Newt said...

It seems that a lot of parents think that the school system is there to do your job for you and that is a huge mistake. I dont know if that is the case here. Either way they dont deserve what happened. If anything, with the growing class sizes teachers will miss the bullying and name calling because it is buried 30 to 40 kids deep. Parents are going to have to dig that info out of their kids at home and then march right into that office and ensure things change.

jennifer <3 said...

Totally.. 100% agreed!