Just as it seemed rights for LGBTQ people had begun to normalize with marriage equality and the death of DOMA, new battles have begun as conservatives passed odious bills in North Carolina and Mississippi.
But there is another battle that never went away, and it was driven home to me twice recently, prompting this blog.
Most of you probably know that the television show “Once Upon A Time” aired an episode that included a storyline in which Red (Riding Hood) fell in love with Dorothy (Kansas/Oz Dorothy), and had to wake her from a sleeping curse with true love’s kiss. It was a fantastic, tender moment, but of course, it also triggered protests like THIS ONE.
It’s funny, I don’t remember those same moms protesting the show when Regina was sneaking the sheriff into her bedroom during Season 1 or when she and Robin Hood spent a romantic night together in her cemetery vault (how’s that for mood-setting?). It seems their protests are reserved for two women sharing a kiss.
When I posted about the protest on my Facebook page, a friend commented that she wondered what the gay kids of those moms would take away from their mothers’ outrage over a kiss, and how many of them would eventually be a suicide statistic because of it?
That sentiment echoed my own thoughts, partly because I had just been friended on Facebook by a woman whose twenty-year-old gay son just committed suicide this past January. She is turning her grief and heartache into a campaign to help bring awareness to this fight that is far from over.
I’ve been hesitant to blog about this because the very last thing I would want to do is seem to be using this mother’s story as a marketing ploy, but all of these events tie in too closely with each other and with the themes in my novel, Turning for Home, in which a forty-ish woman is still dealing with the lingering effects of the bullying she and her best friend, Hobie, had to deal with growing up gay in a small Ohio town.
The effects of bullying on kids is well-documented in numerous places, as is the fact that LGBTQ youth suffer bullying and physical violence at a higher rate than other groups of kids. Here are a few sources on that topic:
The Centers for Disease Control – statistics on LGBTQ youth
For every kid who actually attempts suicide, three or four more have contemplated it.
I remember what it felt like as a teen. Every bad thing that happened felt like the end of the world – and my “bad things” were so mild compared to what some kids deal with. I had a great circle of friends, all of us middle-class in a well-funded school in a nice middle-class neighborhood. I can’t imagine what it must be like for kids who come from more violent schools and neighborhoods, or households where they are sure their parents will disown them if they come out. It’s estimated that about 40% of the homeless kids out on the street are LGBTQ kids who were thrown out of their homes.
The important thing that Turning for Home does is to show the adult aftermath of bullying, as we go through the school years with the protagonists, watching them grow up, and then see what became of them years later. There are a number of other books that deal with the issue of bullying and teen suicide from a more current point of view:
Those of us old enough to have made it through our teen and young adult years, realize that almost none of the things that seemed so terrible back then truly are earth shattering in the larger context of our lives. Things really DO get better.
Of course, to get to that point, you have to get through those teen years and it can be horrific for some. HERE is a heart wrenching suicide note from a teenage boy who attempted suicide because of the relentless bullying he was subjected to.
If teens could only see far enough ahead to realize that suicide is not the answer to their problems. It tears their families apart, and leaves unanswerable questions for those left behind to deal with. It may seem like the only solution at the time, but there is help out there.
TEEN LINE – an organization for teens helping teens
Another documentary that is fantastic in helping to deal with religious fanaticism is For the Bible Tells Me So. It really deals with the topic in a loving and positive manner.
With all of the advances in acceptance and tolerance in recent years, kids remain the most vulnerable among us. This a battle still very much needing to be fought.