Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It Gets Better, Ninja Style

We're purple today for a very good and very important reason. There have been a rash of suicides in the LGBT community due to persistent and pervasive bullying and harassment. These poor children, and they are children, have to go through the gamut that is puberty and attempting to find their place in this world. They have to endure what all of us have gone through before them. Growing up. 

Growing up is one of the most powerful, one of the most painful periods of time that we all must face. We cannot avoid it, no matter how hard we wish it, no matter how many times we scribble into our journals late at night how much we loathe it, no matter how high we crank the volume in our iPods to drown out the sound of the voices in our heads. It is there. It is the proverbial right of passage.

The current right of passage is mean. 

When I was growing up, I was bullied, picked on and made fun of practically on a daily basis.I dressed weird. It was the 80's. I loved Duran Duran, neon clothing and lots of jewelry that was big and loud and didn't match. I literally stuck out. I didn't have the strength in me to stop it until my mother (God bless her) told me to swear at the kids who were doing it.

I remember to this day, being in Mr. Erhardt's 9th grade math class. I heard them all snickering in the background of my latest ensemble. I had HAD it. I was done. I let out a powerful booming, "FUCK YOU!" to the entire class. I didn't care who was blanketed with that phrase. The whole class GASPED. I was immediately sent to the principal's office where I was served two days in school suspension for swearing. (This was 1986, and who knew swearing would get you that?)

But you know what? NOBODY and I mean NOBODY ever never tried to mess with me again.

I was very lucky. I know my mother was probably tired of me coming home every day, weeping into my pillows about how miserable I was and my inability to stop it. She gave me the tools, and the support (i.e. I didn't get grounded at home for swearing at school) to help me through a very difficult time in my life. 

There are alot of kids who do not get that in the LGBT community. There are alot of kids in this community, in the SPED world, who do not get it from their parents or their peers. They are wading through already unchartered waters, the growing up part, and then on top of that, they haven't yet mastered the difficult rocks and crags of social pragmatics and facial expression. They are teased, picked on, beaten up, hazed at the back of school buses (this happened to Nathan, by the way), cyber bullied, tormented on FaceBook and sent harassing text messages. The list is endless and its GOT TO STOP. 

Awareness is just the start. We're getting there with awareness. The Tolerance must begin. We must preach and teach tolerance. Did we not come to America for religious freedom, for the right to practice our different religions as we chose? Did we not fight for our independence in the Revolutionary War? We are a country of believers of individual freedoms and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Somehow, in this technoheavy world, where we live in that protective and Big Brother 1984 esque bubble, some people are able to dictate what is normal and what isn't. We have thrown what our Founding Fathers worked and died for, away. We need to get back to the idea of Tolerance, of Acceptance and of loving our fellow man, no matter what they look like, what religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability they may have or if we don't agree with their lifestyle. As long as people are doing no harm to themselves or to others and are essentially good people, who are we to say that they are wrong?

I see this every day with the kids that I work with and with the way that children will interact with Nathan. I teach them to see from another person's perspective, to start revving up that theory of mind engine to make them think about the words they use before they use them. To make them see that their thinking, and consequentially their words, can potentially hurt someone. I understand that kids will pick on kids, that's part of life. But bullying, harassment and hazing is not. Depression and suicidal thoughts for children is not. Mothers and fathers having to bury children that took their own lives after being tormented and bullied every day is not. 

And it DOES get better. You may be afraid to reach out, to tell someone that you're being bullied or teased incessantly. That is NOT okay. And you are NOT at fault. Find a friend, an adult, a teacher that you trust and TELL them. Bring them into the fold. Let them know you are suffering and that you need help. You deserve to be happy and to live your life the way that you want to and to BE who you ARE. There is nothing wrong with being YOU. YOU are fantastic and unique. If we were all the same, it wouldn't be interesting. I'd much rather have interesting, and I know that the world does, too. I want you to be a part of it for a very long time and for you to contribute to the tapestry of life. Your threads, your words, your experiences and your voice add to the texture and depth of that. We couldn't have that brilliant and gorgeous diversity without YOU. 

Awareness and tolerance is key. Knowledge is power, it truly is. The more we know about something or someone, the less we fear it. The adage is true, "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself."

I am fond of what this PSA has to say:

Please, let us all work together to bring Tolerance and Awareness to the forefront of this epidemic. We have the power to make change. Let's start now.