This is 1999, one year before a new millennium, two thousand years since Jesus of Nazareth was staked to a tree and killed, over 600 years since the Dark Ages of Medieval practices. It's also less than two centuries since we bled people to reduce fevers and amputated limbs with a hacksaw without anesthesia, not quite forty years since the "revolutionary" thinking of the Sixties. We think we've come a long way, that we're advanced, progressed, evolved, enlightened. Yet bigotry results in violence and murder - murder by the hands of some of the same people who decry our society's loss of "Family Values." People who are different from our Norm are still being killed in the street and, when all the rhetoric and sophistry has been distilled, the sole reason continues to be that they were different from us. Power continues to corrupt. Absolute power continues to corrupt absolutely
Humans are not difficult to kill. One does not need a weapon. The Shepherd boy was killed without one. But weapons aren't hard to come by anyway. I'm not talking about the irresponsible use of guns (though I might.) I'm talking about a rock, brick, a tree limb, a baseball bat, a tire iron - all common items. If one decides to kill, that's all it takes to steal a life from another human being. But I'm not talking about even that much force. Murder doesn't require a corporeal object. People are being killed each and every day - young adults, men, women and children - with the most intangible of weapons: thoughts, ideas, words. Like they say, "guns don't kill people, people do."
We think we have no blame in these matters, defend that we did not commit these crimes against Life, God and Nature. We didn't swing an axehandle at anyone's head, or pound a young man's face into a piece of porcelain until his tissue was so badly mangled that his own mother literally could not identify his remains. We were sitting right there at home, watching TV or preparing to go to church when the despicable deed was done. We are hypocrites, and liars.
What we condone, by nonfeasance or malfeasance, we contribute to. If we do not argue against someone planning a robbery, or if we fail to report someone's legitimate plans to commit one, we are accessory to that crime. I am sick beyond means of explanation of hearing people defend why they did not become involved. "I didn't think he'd really do it," is very popular, ranks right alongside the "It's none of my business" excuse. Well they don't hold water. Those attempts to deflect blame and responsibility are littered with holes. I didn't used to think so. I used to think that each man was ultimately responsible for his own decisions and actions, and that he, alone, should bare the weight of his crimes. It was part of my Rugged Individualist beliefs. All along, a small voice has whispered to me that there was something wrong with that theory, but since my position was mostly justifiable, I ignored that voice, tuned it out. As a result, I too am partially to blame for the murders of fellow human beings. I had the ability to do something about it, and did not.
Every time we hear a racist joke and do not object, even if we don't chuckle along, we're condoning that racism, encouraging further prejudices that lead to violence. Every time we hear a joke about a handicapped person, an AIDS victim or a homosexual but do not verbally or directly scorn the vulgar criticism so thinly disguised as humor, we contribute to the pains and deaths suffered by those people. But I'm not talking about hurting someone's feelings here. I'm talking about taking their lives.
Teenagers are highly susceptible to peer pressure. This is nothing new. We've all been teens, we all know about it, even if we don't dwell on the fact. But how many of us ever bother to look outside of ourselves, put ourselves in another's shoes as best we can? Teens who happen to be homosexual commit suicide at a rate THREE times higher than their heterosexual counterparts. But this statistic is a lie, and I'll readily admit it. It's not three times higher. It's much, much higher than that. The statistics can only report about the suicides the officials write down as "homosexual suicides." Yet those most at risk are not the stereotypical gay kids. (Those kids are more likely to be killed at the hands of their peers, the Bible-thumping Moral Majority members' children.) The ones most at risk are those who aren't obvious. The secret, much larger majority of homosexuals that you pass by on the street every day, work with, play with, teach, shop with, go to war with, go to church with, and are eventually buried alongside of, these are the survivors, the ones who managed to get through their adolescence without your tolerance or compassion, despite your sick jokes, by sheer willpower and determination. The rest are the teens who died of "accidental" gunshot wounds to the head while placing the end of the barrel in their mouths, pulling the trigger, and scattering their brains all over a wall. They felt entirely isolated, ultimately persecuted, believed there was no place in this world for them, and at this most sensitive and critical of times in a young life, they took what they believed to be the only way out. It was far more difficult for these young people, because they weren't anything like the visible Gay Rights crowd. Dresses, lisps, broken wrists, these held no attraction to them. They were as disgusted by such affectations as you may be. These young people only knew "faggot" or "gay" to mean drag queens or dirty old men chasing little boys in bathrooms. And this was not them either, so they couldn't even claim society with the dispossessed Gay community. They didn't want to wear dresses. They were football jocks, might have been business men, construction workers, scientists, pursued academics, might even have been the ones to find a cure for the common cold. But their potentials will never be realized, and we all suffer from losing them. When you told the funny fag joke, they were in the room, cringing inside, devastated with the knowledge that you were talking about them, and unable to defend themselves for fear of being found out. When in your churches you spoke out against homosexuality, even though your Lord, Jesus, did not think it important enough to mention, the young man sitting next to you believed those words, believed himself to be condemned and loathed by the God you taught him to love, for something he had no control over and could not change. Feeling unfathomable guilt for what you labeled as his sins, he tried to become heterosexual, probably breaking a number of girl's hearts in the process, adding to the damage done by your professed or affirmed prejudices. You lied about what Jesus said, (either knowingly or while caught up in some conservative zealot's fervor,) and someone's child paid the ultimate price for your sanctimonious deception. All of your apologies and defenses of your position will be no consolation to the mother who grieves now over the loss of the child she carried, gave birth to, nursed and nurtured all of those years. They will not make his friends feel any less guilty for not knowing something was bothering him, and they will not absolve you of responsibity when you come before your God to be judged. Neither the Father nor Jesus ever told you to hate. Just the opposite, you were instructed, both by the Word and in your conscience, to love one another, to be compassionate. Yet with your words, you stoned that boy just as surely as the people would have stoned that woman, had Jesus not interceded. With your self-rightous condemnations, each of you played a part in putting that gun into his hand, bringing it to his temple and pulling the trigger. I, too, had my part in the killing. I knew better, but did not speak up.
Suicide is a taboo topic. It's against the most base instinct in us all to actively thwart survival. We dismiss suicides with thoughts like "He would have done it sooner or later," and "Guess he couldn't cut the mustard." I, myself, have thought that perhaps these people were genetically inferior if their survival instinct wasn't strong enough to see them through. After all, others grovelled through those teen years, managed to continue living until they were able to break free of the repression. But the inferiority is not in them. It is within us, within our society. So frightened are we of being different that we laugh at the mention of such variety. So insecure are we in our collective masculinity that we must ridicule others to bolster our sense of machismo. WE are the inferior ones, taking the easy way out to appease our insecurities rather than face our fears and learn to tolerate people who are different from us. Some of you may cling to your barbaric, unevolved positions, citing that it's reasonable to differentiate, natural to do so. Yes, it is... for a chicken. Are you no smarter than the fowl who pecks his fellows to death? More to the point, are you any different? What is Natural is what occurs, both in other animals and in men. Amongst those you would claim are genetically inferior have been some of our greatest minds. Mark Twain, Alexander the Great, and a list literally as long as this tome, these are all confirmed famous homosexuals who made great contributions to society and civilization by their lives' works. Yet you'd have stoned them with your words as well, given the chance, for that they were not like you. Can you pretend to have been anywhere near as accomplished or valuable as these men? Have you contributed anywhere near as much, that you can justify your existence while condemning theirs?
Stereotypes abound. Generalizations like these are devised to pigeonhole people, and inevitably divide us from our brothers and sisters. Some of them may be based on legitimate observations. I don't deny that Gay men are mostly effeminate and sexually loose. But the same can be said of many other people. In the military, I came across a fellow member of my platoon, crying in the showers. Concerned, I asked what was bothering him. He had been acused, he told me, of being homosexual, and was being taunted, subjected to blanket parties, his life threatened. People had made some very inaccurate presumptions about this young man, based their judgement of him on generalizations that insisted on ignoring the fact that the guy was straight, simply because he was softer than most in his ways and woke with an erection. Meanwhile, I was a bonified homosexual but very masculine, and it had never even crossed anyone's mind that I might be a "fudge-packer." So the platoon had persecuted this young man, beaten and threatened him for their presumptions and insecurities, reducing him to fearful tears - wrongly. See what your prejudices have wrought? Judge not, lest ye yourselves be judged.
When a heterosexual child is growing up, he feels confused at times, uncertain of himself and his place in the world. It's part of growing up. Even the most "normal" of kids is trying to be a Man (or woman,) mimmicking the behaviors of those they perceive to be adults, role models. Something as fundamental as sexuality is never questioned, though, because when puberty comes they find themselves attracted to the "right" sex. When a homosexual teen comes into puberty, he finds himself filled with curiosities and attractions just as powerfully enticing as his straight peers, but for others of the same sex. He most certainly does not choose this clearly unacceptable and difficult path. It's just the way he is, he has no choice. He knows inside himself that what he feels is good, warm, right for him. He bears no malice in his emotions and desires. The same as his straight peers, he wants security, approval, affirmation, intimacy, import, acceptability... Yet he know as a certain fact that if anyone should ever find out his secret, he would be ostracized, humiliated, stoned... for being the only person he can be. As I've said, some try to avoid this fate by pretending to be interested in the opposite sex. But there's no desire in it, no passion; they may as well be kissing their aunts or mothers. Still, they play the game, try to become the only role models that they had - heterosexuals on television, the world they're able to see around them, their parents. Desperate for approval, willing to betray themselves and suffer a life void of the excitement heterosexuals enjoy - just to fit in - he may even get married. He'll fantasize about other men to sustain his erection, convincing the world by his outward appearances that he's just one of the guys. Often, he'll cling to these outward appearances as shields against the suspicions of others, and to help him keep his dark secret deeply buried. Many men live decades of their lives in marriage, father and raise children to avoid the scorn of society. But then the time comes that they cannot lie to themselves or the world any more, can no longer tolerate so lackluster and unfulfilling a sexuality, a private life as rewarding to him as being partnered with a member of the same sex would be to a heterosexual. Then, or perhaps all along, he sneaks out to the gay bars and pickup places, satisfies his true desires. Eventually he will find he's no longer willing to continue the façade. Finally, decades later, his youth spent on fulfilling your expectations, he divorces his wife. He may be honest with her, or perhaps he begins to produce excuses for his disinterest and dissatisfaction. In any case, the result is the same. The unaware spouse who's likewise given up the best years of his or her life is suddenly left alone far past his or her prime desireability, made to start life again some twenty years late. The despicable culprit here is not the closeted homosexual. He's merely seeking the happiness he's been denying himself all those years. It's you. You, me, and anyone else who allows this senseless tabboo to continue unopposed. WE have caused this man to live that lie, and WE have put his spouse out in her middle age, because we were unwilling to learn to be tolerant, and he was afraid to oppose us.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps this young man or woman's principles won't allow him to lie to another, to use them as part of his deception to the world. Still, he has no positive role models, no one to say he's okay as he is, whomever that might be. No "normal" acceptable or desireable character appears on his television, because even the supposedly enlightened agree that such things should not be talked about in public. "After all, " they argue, "heterosexual kids don't need to see normal sex all over the place either." But they do. They see their role models each and every day. They see heterosexuals at home, at school, on TV and at the movies. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, they live happily ever after.
"The eyes in a magazine... the kiss on the movie screen... the voice on the radio.... this is the story I know..."
Melissa Etheridge, openly gay pop music star
"Dance Without Sleeping"
These images and models which heterosexuals naturally take for granted are all a homosexual child grows up with. Each exposure to this sort of example drives home that he's different, strange, queer, unacceptable... and ultimately leads to the gay teen's death. Nowhere in any of that exposure is the bias tempered by exposure to Boy Meets Boy, Falls In Love, and They Live Happily Ever After. No superhero has ever openly had a same-sex lover. No lead in a TV show has ever been the good guy, the hero, and happened to be homosexual. There's NOTHING out there before the general public to tell these kids that they're okay. Why not? Because some anal, self-rightous, sanctimonious bigots have taken it upon themselves to defend our society from a demon that simply does not exist. They lead their considerable flocks against such things in the name of morality and the supposed love of God. They campaign against equal rights for homosexuals, try to convince the world and Congress that such equality constitutes "Special Interest." When that arguement fails, they cite an employer's right to not pay into something he doesn't believe in. Homosexuality doesn't need to be believed in or approved of to exist. It will exist today and tomorrow as it has for thousands upon thousands of years. Yet they feed this propoganda to their flocks, people rally behind their lies, send them money to support their hateful mission. And our children are dying of it, stoned to death by their words and selfish ambitions.
Some may try to weasel out of responsibility by claims about the exceptions. "If we start with all that 'everybody can do what they want' bullshit, pretty soon there'll be serial killers comin' out of the woodworks," is a pretty fair example of such excuses. Pedaphiles, serial killers and other dangerous deviants do not come into existence because of a tolerant society. If anything, the likelihood increases as social pressures are put upon an already unstable mind. "But they ARE different," is another. So what? What makes you so full of hubris, so arrogant as to presume that your way is the only way for a human being to exist and live a rewarding, worthwhile life while being a contribution to society? The natural order of things? If THAT were in play, everyone would be homosexual. We've already populated the earth beyond its capacity to sustain human life, and orphanages are overfilled with unwanted children. We're not talking about statistics or stereotypes here, we're talking about living, breathing, feeling people with parents and friends who love them and will mourn their passing. We're talking about your children, your students, your church members. Homosexuality is not a choice, it's either randomly or specifically genetic. It occurs in a certain percentage of all people born, and the variations from one society to another reflect nothing more but the extent to which their persecution of the homosexuals in those societies has repressed them, caused them to live unhappy, unfulfilling lives full of fear behind a closet door... or to commit suicide.
Perhaps some ten years back, I saw a paid display advertisement in a Los Angeles newspaper. It was from a pastor, telling the tale of how he'd unwittingly pushed heterosexuality on his own child, preaching of the fire and brimstone hate God supposedly feels for homosexuals, and of how his beautiful, talented, sensitive and caring child took his own life. In a 1/8 page ad, this repentant Man of God tells a heartbreaking story, shares how none of that sophistry matters to him now, and how he'd give anything to have his boy back alive, how if only he could, he'd wrap his arms around his son and console him, not let him go until his child knew for certain that his father still loved him. He talked about how he grieved, mourned for the boy for years after, how he now recognized that he was responsible for taking his own child's life. And he makes a plea: that we not do such things to our children, that such a terrible tragedy never have to happen again. As I read the confession, tears streamed down my face, wetting the printed paper. How terrible and ironic that this Man of God should have to endure such pain and guilt... and how noble of him to confess his sins to the world in hopes of preventing another such death. I encourage you to heed his experienced advice, consider carefully what message you're sending to your children, beause you have no way of knowing if your child may hear your words of scorn and disapproval for the homosexuals in the world, think you're talking about how much you hate him.
I think I've made my point. What do I want you to do? What CAN be done? Stop buying into it. Stop laughing at the jokes, stop spreading the lies. I've met very few people who've known of a friend's homosexuality and not been forever changed by the knowing. Those who have gay friends see first-hand that the myths are not true. Perhaps if you don't know a homosexual, it's time you found out for yourself, first-hand, what the truth is.
The next time a vote comes up about what some call Special Rights, examine it. Weigh it out carefully and fairly. And if you find that the bill requires an equal amount of money be spent in exchange for equal work, support it, and require that your legislators do the same. The next time a TV station is considering airing an episode with "homosexual content," bother to let them know that you've come to see that the kids who happen to be growing up as homosexuals need to know that they're okay too, or at least let the station know of your support. So far, the Moral Majority has been the squeeky wheel. Don't allow your silence to be interprited as support of their narrow, controlling positions. I tend to think such contacts, such changes in our actions are small price to pay for the thousands of lives that might be saved. Wouldn't you do that much just to save one teen's life? Then do it, do it now, because at least one teenager is going to kill himself right now - today - because the world he perceives, the world he knows, the world she lives in, is a place that hates him deeply for what he is and cannot change. Let them know it isn't so.
"Remember how they taught you, how much of it was fear? Refuse to hand it down, the Legacy stops here..."
Melissa Etheridge, openly gay pop music star
Nothing else is so critical, so valuable to a person as knowing that they're loved, that they're accepted, that they're okay. This applies to us all, no matter what age. Regardless of our differences, we're all very much the same. Each of us is trying the best we know how to be happy, safe, and feel loved. Don't let unfounded fears keep you from giving that to each other. We're all in this together, every one of us. So reach out a little further, dig a little deeper, find the compassion, consideration and understanding to be tolerant. Gay teens aren't the only ones who commit suicide. Everybody hurts. So share the love, put aside the hate. Lives really do depend on it.
John Taylor 1/10/99 - 3:22 pm
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©1999 John A. Yezeguielian - This document may be freely distributed for non-commercial purposes ONLY, so long as it is presented in its entirety and not edited or altered in any way without the expressed permission of the author.