Watch What You Say

February 10, 2010
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Okay, who knows anyone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual? Have you always known that they were? What happened when they told you? Did you stop being friends with them? Call them a faggot or a dyke? I doubt it. So why is it different if they aren't your friend? I'm not going to try and change your mind about homosexuality. I'm going to share what I know, and what I've learned, which will hopefully make you think about things a little differently. Who knows, maybe you'll end up learning something too.

Homophobia is one of the leading problems in high schools. Most teachers are ill-equipped to talk about gay and lesbian identity. They can talk about inclusion...and racism...but not many about sexuality. An article by the Rainbow Support Service tell about a 16 year old boy and girl from the mid-west being forced out of their schools, and even their homes after 'coming out' about being homosexual. I don't know about most of you, but I don't want to live in a community that throws students out of their schools and homes because they are homosexual. Or because they are any orientation for that matter. I believe that everyone needs to be treated fairly, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or straight. Equality...everyone says that it's why are people still judging based on sexual orientation? Does it make someone less important if they are homosexual? If so, where's the proof.

Teen suicide, everyone knows of it, yes? Well did you know that the suicide rate among homosexual teens is six times higher than that of heterosexual teens? Even though there is a higher acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in today's culture, LGBT teens still suffer from bullying and abuse from other students. With the increasing technology, the abuse goes beyond the classroom and into texting and chat-rooms. So when an LGBT teen feels that suicide is their only option, it's like they were bullied to death...

The 2007 National School Climate Survey had some great information, that I had no idea about actually. Like the fact that 86.2% of all LGBT students reported being verbally harassed in school, and 44.1% reported they were physically harassed. How would you feel, if you were a LGBT student trying to get through high school...and everyday you were made fun of...and assaulted...because of your sexual orientation? 73.6% heard things such as "faggot" or "dyke" often at school. "That's so gay." The single most used biased slur heard in high school hallways. The survey also states that the slurs are, "usually unintentional, and a part of teens vernacular." But the casual use of slurs often becomes more, intentional harassment. 60.8% of LGBT students felt unsafe in school...because of their orientation.

Brian Picone, a graduate of George Mason University, at graduation gave a speech about going through life as part of the LGBT community. In his speech he says, "We live under the threat of violence; and when we carve out a space for ourselves, people charge us with exclusion. Our sensitivity to exclusion--something that has helped us survive-- is used as a weapon against us when people say "I don't feel welcome in Pride" or "I don't walk around wearing Straight Pride Buttons." Yet, as queer people, we continue to live the lives of people who keep their eyes down to the sidewalk when we walk the streets. We continue to live the lives of people who look over their shoulder when holding hands with a lover. We continue to live the lives of people who keep their hands down in class because we know that so many of our fellow students don't want to hear us speak."

The National School Climate Survey also shows that schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance reported hearing fewer homophobic slurs, had less harassment and assault, and when harassed the student was more likely to report it to a staff member. GLSEN...Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network...the most widely known GSA there has ever been...the people who work with GLSEN, work to help teach students, and adults, about homosexuality...and that it's okay to be different. The color purple, and rainbows...the top symbols associated with LGBT. If you see a car with a rainbow stripe across the bumper, you know without question that it's Pride. Why a rainbow though?...Because a rainbow is a mix of all the colors...side by side. No exclusions...just simplicity...Every GSA uses the rainbow as a symbol of Pride, and it's become a national symbol of LGBT people, as well as supporters.

Most people aren't homophobic in the obvious sense. They go by the saying "I don't care what they do, so long as they don't bother me" or "So long as they don't come on to me." October 7, 1998...not that long ago right? How old were you _____? Did you know that on that day, in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was found tied to a fence, beaten, and left to die? It was an act of brutality and hate. Matthew Shepard's death became a national symbol of intolerance. He was murdered by two other young men, both drunk. One of which told his girlfriend that Matthew had 'come onto him at the bar'. The two men made plans to pretend to be gay, get Matthew in their truck and rob him...they wanted to 'teach him not to come on to straight people.' It was proven after the murder that the two men had gone over to Matthew and began talking to him, and not how they had said, about him coming on to them. I have a section of The Laramie Project, a play by Moises Kaufman and the members of Tectonic Theater Project, and it's the morning they found Matthew tied to the fence.

"OFFICER REGGIE FLUTY: 'When I got there, the first-- at first the only thing I could see was partially somebody's feet, and I got out of my vehicle and raced over-- I seen what appeared to be a young man, thirteen, fourteen years old because he was so tiny laying on his back and he was tied to the bottom end of a pole. I did the best I could. The gentleman that was laying on the ground, Matthew Shepard, he was covered in dry blood all over his head, there was dry blood underneath him and he was barely breathing...he was doing the best he could. I was going to breathe for him and I couldn't get his mouth open-- his mouth wouldn't open for me. He was covered in, like I said, partially dry blood and blood all over his head-- the only place that he did not have any blood on him, on his face, was what appeared to be where he had been crying down his face. His head was distorted-- you know, it did not look normal-- he looked as if he had a real harsh head wound. He was tied to the fence-- his hands were thumbs out in what we call cuffing position-- the way we handcuff people. He was bound with a real thin white rope, it went around the bottom of the pole, about four inches up off the ground. His shoes were missing. He was tied extremely tight-- so I used my boot knife and tried to slip it between the rope and his wrist-- I had to be extremely careful not to harm Matthew any further. He was bound so tight-- I finally got the knife through there-- I'm sorry-- we rolled him over to his left side-- when we did that he quit breathing. Immediately, I put him back on his back-- and that was just enough of an adjustment-- it gave me enough room to cut him free from there-- I seen the EMS unit trying to get to the location, once the ambulance got there we put a neck collar on him, placed him on a back board, and scooted him from underneath the fence-- then Rob drove the ambulance to Ivinson Hospital's emergency room...they showed me a picture...days later I saw a picture of Matthew...I would have never recognized him." This happened 12 years ago...that's not very a young man, because he was gay.

Homophobia...intolerance...bullying...murders....suicide...where does that get us? Absolutely no where. We will not move forward without being able to accept people the way they are.
As straight. What's the difference? Is it really that big of a deal..if she likes another girl, or if he likes another guy? Is it worth destroying ourselves over? Worth the murders...and suicides... All that the intolerance and harassment will get us, is right back to Matthew Shepard in 1998. Is there a solution for it all? I don't know. Maybe we'll never know, but there are things that we can do ourselves. For around the hallways and classrooms....think before you what you say...because you never know who you will hurt...and what the consequences will be.

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This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

gReatpretenDer16 said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 10:50 pm
hI sARAH!! Your article really made me cry and cheered me up!!! I am a Filipino living in a place where you cannot find belongingness easily, there's plenty of discrimination here, though we can actually live here with freedom of expression but you cannot force people to respect you. Its really annoying to know that there are some individuals who really can't understand my identity. This is not my choice actually, I just have to be true to my self. For me Theres nothing wrong being LGBT as long ... (more »)
MarinaOreo said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm
Wow, that is absolutely crazy. People are so stupid these days, and always have been but I don't see why people assume that if a person is gay , they will automatically come onto them. It's not like they are "out to get you" or any of that non-sense. They are regular human beings just like the rest of us. I mean is it really so much better (for example, if a guy is trying to hit on a bunch of girls?) Being gay / lesbian is natural to me, I am not myself, but I accept it. M... (more »)
Sara-Lynn replied...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 7:10 am
i totally agree love :) and thank you ^^
NotYoursFroever replied...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm
wow. Literally, reading this I nearly cried. I am bi, it was hard reading this. It is so true. So many people don't even know that their saying something so offensive to me. And actually, I did loose a friend coming out, and people do say things that offend me every now and then. I never thought that it could get that bad. Great article though. Very powerfully written...
Andrea said...
Feb. 24, 2010 at 10:36 pm
Sara, I found this searching my son's name (Brian Picone). Thank you so much for using this quote - it's great to see him quoted. I don't know if you were aware, but he passed away last Oct 26 following an asthma attack. He would have been proud to be quoted in such a nice way in your paper.
Sara-Lynn replied...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 7:10 am
I'm sorry to hear that, his Lavender Speech was a big part of the reason I wrote about this topic.
koalabear said...
Feb. 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm
thanks that really cheered me up!
Sara-Lynn replied...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 10:19 am
Aww! Glad to help hun! :)
ChildoftheSky said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 11:24 am
Great information and grammar! I love this!
Sara-Lynn replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 11:40 am
Thanks :) it was a speech that i wrote for my english class
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