Michele Bachmann Still Silent on Local Suicides

Last week, I posted an article about Tea Party Nation’s Rich Swier and his dangerous position on the bullying of LGBT youth. I didn’t think anything could upset me as much as reading his interviews, but obviously, I was wrong. For those who read this blog regularly, you know that advocating for gay…make that human rights is one of the things I speak most passionately about. The only thing that makes me angrier than small-minded people belittling any minority is when they target that minority’s youth. We spend so much time arguing on these issues that sometimes we forget that this fight isn’t just affecting the adults in this world, but also our children.

 I have always said that as adults, it’s our duty to protect our nation’s youth. There are enough things to fear in this world without having to deal with being terrorized at school as well. In the last two years there have been nine suicides in Minnesota’s biggest school district, which also happens to be Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s district. All nine of these students were either gay or perceived to be gay and all nine had dealt with relentless bullying. Michele Bachmann isn’t the only one who’s remained silent on this matter. This is one of the districts that has enacted the “don’t say gay” rule, which means that teachers and counselors aren’t allowed to bring up homosexuality in the school. They call it a “neutrality” policy, but unfortunately this policy protects those that bully more than those who are the victims of bullying.

The Departments of Justice and Education have opened a federal investigation into the overwhelming number of student suicides in that district in recent years. The situation has gotten so bad that state public health officials have deemed the district a “suicide contagion” area, but it’s not clear yet whether or not the district’s neutrality policy will play a part in the investigation. As I stated previously, Michele Bachmann has yet to utter one word on the recent deaths. She has been an anti-gay advocate for her entire career. She signed a pledge earlier this month stating that homosexuality is a choice despite all the scientific studies that have proven the contrary. In fact, she owns a Christian counseling center with her husband that allegedly performs reparative therapy. A member of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit that fights anti-gay religious extremism, went under cover in the clinic to show some of the services that are offered.

 

 I don’t understand how in this day and age anyone can still have this archaic view. Even if she doesn’t believe in equality for all, how can she consistently put our youth at risk like this? She has, time after time, rejected anti-bullying laws. In 2006, she said that passing a bill that prevents bullying “wasn’t worth the time.” (Saving those nine lives wasn’t worth the time?)

 She was also quoted as saying: “I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies. Always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance… What does it mean? … Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

We’ll never get to the point of zero tolerance if we don’t start somewhere. Ignoring the problem is just as dangerous an attitude to take, as Rich Swier thinking bullying is “healthy.” There are children dying next door to her and she still refuses to speak out.

Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth do have a higher rate of suicide attempts than heterosexual youth. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30% and 40% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide. More than 34,000 people die by suicide each year making it the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds, with LGBTQ youth attempting suicide up to four times more than their heterosexual peers. Those numbers are terrifying themselves, but even worse is that at least three of the children who have committed suicide in the last couple of years were only thirteen years old!

For a perfect example of how dangerous bullying really is, take a look at Seth Walsh, a thirteen year old who took his life in September of last year. According to friends at school, the day he died, he was bullied by classmates who told him “the world doesn’t need another queer. You should go home and hang yourself”…and he did. How can anyone claim that this type of behavior isn’t dangerous? It’s been going on long enough.

 

 Something needs to change and it needs to happen quickly before any more lives are lost. I think the “neutrality” policies in these schools are just as dangerous as the bullying itself. Bullying is a result of ignorance and if we aren’t allowed to educate these kids, they’ll never learn and the same mistakes will keep being made. I’ve talked about a few of my favorite non-profits recently, such as the HRC and the Trevor Project, but I want to mention another one that’s close to my heart.

 The only thing that I’m more passionate about than LGBT rights is the rights of LGBTQ youth. A 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment in school. The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes towards creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

As with most non-profits, the GLSEN depends on donations and volunteers, so please consider helping out if you can by clicking on the image below

 

 I’m a big advocate of the It Gets Better Project and I support all they are trying to accomplish, but sometimes just the message that it does get better isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to act to make things better. One voice can start a revolution, and that revolution needs to happen now.

 So please, reach out, get involved…and remember the next time you think bullying is a harmless prank…a child’s life might be on the line.

 

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Tea Party Activist Claims Bullying is “Healthy”

Lately, I’ve been following the HRC’s (Human Rights Campaign) Call it Out campaign which aims to “call out” homophobia and transphobia and promote respect and civil discourse. Their latest target is Tea Party Nation’s activist, Rich Swier.

 Last month, People for the American Way (who preach against intolerance) reported on the anti-gay diatribe of TPN’s Alan Caruba, who claims that the “queering of America” is “one more factor in the destruction of America.” Now they’re launching another attack on the LGBT community, this time in the form of Rich Swier, an activist for TPN and the anti-Muslim group Act! For America. Recently, when Gulf Coast Gives launched an anti-bullying initiative, he rallied against the Florida group, saying that bullying of LGBT youth is a “sham” because “this is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy.”

Gulf Coast Gives is working to raise funds to bring homosexual activist Hudson Taylor to Sarasota, FL. According to their website:

“77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either. LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. ALSO Out Youth is the only LGBT youth organization serving both Sarasota and Manatee Counties, providing advocacy, leadership, support, and outreach since 1992. Please support ALSO in bringing Hudson Taylor to Sarasota. Hudson, an outstanding athlete, is a committed LGBT advocate and founder of Athlete Ally.”

 The problem is the entire bullying campaign is a sham created by radical gay activist Kevin Jennings. Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As MassResistance.org reports, “The homosexual movement in the public schools has always been based on lies and deception. But until the mid-1990s, they were still having difficulty getting into the schools. Then they found the key to their huge success – what they call ‘re-framing the issue’.”

 …

This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure peers to stop it. In Sarasota County over 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males.

I agree with Gulf Coast Gives that “LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.” Homosexuality, like drugs, harms young people if they experiment with it. That is the greatest tragedy.

I have several issues with his stance. For one, he states himself that he agrees with GCG’s findings that LGBT youth are more likely to attempt suicide. The Trevor Project has corroborated that figure, also stating that for every one that attempts it, twenty more try. Swier seems to think that homosexuality itself is to blame. However, study after study has shown that the majority of kids who attempt suicide, whether or not they succeed, do so because of a lack of support and acceptance. They feel they have nowhere to turn and therefore, suicide is their only way out.

In the majority of other bullying cases, students can turn towards teachers, counselors or parents. I’m in no way diminishing the difficulty kids face in these other cases, but there is a support system that can help. However, when it comes to LGBTQ youth, the fear of abandonment from their peers and family often keep them from speaking out. The problem is that they’re not always wrong.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless:

–       20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT.

–       While homeless youth typically experience severe family conflict as the primary reason for their homelessness, LGBT youth are twice as likely to have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 12 (as their primary reason for homelessness).

–       LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth.

–       LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth.

–       LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%).

Seeing these statistics and knowing how fragile the psyche is at that age, I don’t see how Rich Swier can claim that LGBT bullying is “healthy.” I recently wrote an article on the Trevor Project and sited ten standout suicide cases from last September alone. Two of those boys were only 13! The families of Asher Brown [who shot himself on September 23, 2010] and Seth Walsh [who hanged himself on September 19, 2010] claimed that they were “bullied to death” and that the bullying began even before they came out. Their parents spoke with the School Board several times, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Rich Swier needs to understand that bullying is never ok, no matter what the circumstances. He calls it “peer pressure,” but the last time I checked, those words didn’t have a very positive connotation either. He equates homosexuality to a drug problem or smoking. But as far as I know, you don’t come out of your mother’s womb with a cigarette in your mouth. Homosexuality is not a “bad behavior.” It is not a choice. Unless you’ve been there, you might not completely be able to understand it, but most of us went through periods of denial and trying to fight these feelings when we were younger. Seth Walsh is proof of that. His grandmother Judy Walsh, a retired schoolteacher was quoted as saying: “Initially he wanted to have a girlfriend. He wasn’t happy with his orientation. He read the Bible a lot. This was not the way he wanted to live his life, but that’s what he was dealt with.” So, does Swier honestly think anyone would choose to be on the receiving end of all this hatred?

As adults in this country, it is our duty to protect our youth. Right wing activists like Rich Swier are making this increasingly difficult. All he is doing is fanning the flames of hatred, and it needs to stop. We need to take a stand against this intolerance. Please take a moment to send this letter to Mr. Swier and let him know that his comments are harmful and potentially dangerous to our country’s youth.

And as always, if you or anyone you know are having thoughts of suicide or just need someone to talk to, please contact the Trevor Project by calling 1-866-4-U-Trevor or by clicking the image below.