When it comes, however, to the mistreatment of kids who identify as gay (or are perceived to be gay), it is different. We must teach that gay is OK. We must encourage preteens in middle school to discover their true sexual orientation, providing Gay Straight Alliances where they can “come out” to their peers without parental notification. We must even allow a boy who identifies as transgender to come to school wearing a dress, giving him access to the girls’ bathroom and locker room. (This is official school policy in San Francisco.)
Yes, if we want to stop the spate of gay-related suicides, this is the action we must take – or is it? The truth be told, not only have some groups politicized the deaths of these young people, they are also sending the wrong message. That is to say, if it is wrong to bully gay kids because gay is OK, what if gay is not OK? Is bullying of gays no longer wrong?
Gay activist educators should also ask themselves if, by encouraging kids to “come out” at earlier and earlier ages, they are adding to the social confusion of young people, perhaps even leading to more mistreatment at the hands of their schoolmates. We have even missed the main point of the tragic suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, namely that cyber-invasion of privacy is nothing less than criminal. (Rutgers, it should be noted, is well-known as a gay-friendly campus.)
To be sure, this is a teachable moment in America, but we are teaching the wrong lessons, also focusing on one bullied group to the neglect of the rest. So, rather than making our message “Gay is good,” let’s make our message “Bullying is bad.” And rather than launching a crusade against those who do not want to promote homosexuality in our schools (or, wear purple on Spirit Day), let’s join together to fight against cruelty and hatred, determining to treat all people with kindness and respect, thereby modeling this behavior for our children. Can anyone call this a bigoted proposal?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.