Homophobia Is Killing Our Youth

Today is a significant day for silence, youth, and our schools. Today, across the country schools will participate in a National Day of Silence
to protest the homophobic bullying that is killing teenagers and honor
those whose lives have been taken by the barbaric hands of hatred.

In less than two years there have been four brutal teenage deaths
resulting from homophobic bullying. Just last week Carl Walker, an
eleven year old in Springfield, Massachusetts , who never actually
identified as gay, hung himself with an extension cord from the 3rd
floor landing of his home. This was after his mother repeatedly
implored his school to do something about the homophobic bullying he
experienced. Last summer a transgendered teenager, Angie Zapata, was
brutally murdered in Greeley, Colorado. Last February Eric Mohat, a
17-year old student from Ohio, who also never identified as gay,
committed suicide after being repeatedly harassed with anti-gay
epithets such as "fag" and "homo." His school went to trial last month
as a lawsuit was filed by his parents, not because they want the
school's money, but because they want to know why the school didn't
respond to several requests for action. Also, last year, Lawrence King,
a fifteen year old who identified as gay, was shot in the head twice in
his English class. He died a few days later. His heart was donated the
day after Valentine's day.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network) and Harris Interactive recently conducted a study called "From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers."
The study illustrates that 33% of teens report that students are
frequently harassed because they are openly or are perceived to be
lesbian, gay, or bisexual. It also shows that LGBT students are three
times as likely to say that they do not feel safe at school and 90% of
LGBT students state that they have been harassed or assaulted.

Watch these homophobic teenagers in action:

San Juan High School Gay Protest (Anti GLSEN) - The most popular videos are a click away

The FBI shows hate crimes based on sexual orientation to be the
third most prevalent type. Regardless, George Bush vetoed the Matthew
Shepard Act when it landed on his desk in 2007. This legislation would
have protected people from hate crimes on the basis of perceived
gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Wyoming,
the state where Matthew Shepard was tortured and left tied to a fence
to die in 1998, along with 18 other states, still does not have
legislation that prosecutes hate crimes towards LGBT people.

Change has been a pervasive concept in our country over the past two
years. Barack Obama's presidential election, along with the dissolution
of our economic institutions, are catalysts for significant change. We
need to start applying this same principal of change to the institution
of hatred entrenched in our culture. The Greek philosopher Aristotle,
and social psychology pioneer Albert Bandura have both shown that
aggression and hatred are learned behaviors. If a child is taught to
hate and fear diversity, then the next place he or she expresses that
hate is at school. Ten percent of all hate crimes occur at schools and
colleges. If hate is learned, then it lies on the shoulders of our
schools, church officials, parents, teachers, and communities to teach
our young kids acceptance before they continue hurting each other, and
before they become adults who will likely pass their hatred to the next

Dissolving hatred in our society starts with each of us on an
individual level. Whether we are straight, LGBT, black, white or all
shades in between, if we want to heal hate among youth we must engage
in a process of introspective exploration to reveal where we ourselves
have held onto hatred, ignorance, fear, and anger. Amidst all this
homophobic murder, and without dismissing accountability; even those of
us who feel justified in our animosity towards those who hate, must
forgive our judgments. Hate in any form is still hate and it
contributes to its survival. In the story of the crucifixion (whether
myth or fact) Jesus says himself, "Father forgive them, they know not
what they do."

I believe a direct result of my own marginalization has been the
choice I have made to look inward and heal patterns of my own judgment
and fear of those who choose to hate. My experience as a gay man in
this society has generated in me a depth of compassion and empathy.
This facilitates my understanding that people who choose to hate in the
name of "their" God are simply immersed in a human experience that is
built on irrationality, fear, hatred and ego; but for them, truthful,
nonetheless. I choose to remember that those who choose to attack are
attacking an illusion they have crafted in their own minds. Even those
who have died in the name of self-love and expression have not truly
died, because love that has known itself as long as man has existed
cannot be destroyed. I cannot say when, but I have faith that one day
those who attack in the name of "their" god will discover that they are
also attacking themselves.

When we heal the hatred and anger that lies in our own hearts and
come to stand steadfast in our loving we become a beacon of light for
the youth of our world. Youth who deserve to live long lives fully
embraced, nurtured, and loved in the truth of who they are, regardless
of seeming differences among sexual orientation, race, or gender.

On this day when our youth silently protest violent homophobia, and
honor those whose have been murdered or committed suicide, I implore
you to take a few silent moments to begin to ask the tough questions:
"Where in my own life do I harbor hatred, fear, anger, and what steps
can I take to begin to resolve it?"

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