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E.J.

Rolling Stone: One Town's War on Gay Teens

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One Town's War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann's home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.

"Dyke."

Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.

"Whore."

Like many 13-year-olds, Brittany knew seventh grade was a living hell. But what she didn't know was that she was caught in the crossfire of a culture war being waged by local evangelicals inspired by their high-profile congressional representative Michele Bachmann, who graduated from Anoka High School and, until recently, was a member of one of the most conservative churches in the area. When Christian activists who considered gays an abomination forced a measure through the school board forbidding the discussion of homosexuality in the district's public schools, kids like Brittany were unknowingly thrust into the heart of a clash that was about to become intertwined with tragedy.

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OMG, I am so glad that I went to a high school in a high school district that had an iron-clad no-bullying / no-abuse-of-any-kind policy that each student and their parent or guardian had to sign. The school was and is still gay-friendly and kids, and teachers and administrators if they were nearby, stepped in when someone was being bullied or called fag or dyke or any other demeaning slur.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Nine teenage suicides in less than two years, in the same small town. Jesus...

The town might be small, but the school district is the largest in the state according to the article. That makes it even more unbelievable IMO. And they continue to deny they are doing anything wrong and they protect all of their students. Bullpucky!

Colin :icon_geek:

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There has to be a better way, a way to get people to listen, a way to make things better.

There must be a way to reach the phobic people, shake them, and say, look, your words and actions are causing untold suffering and it's hurting and killing innocent kids. How can that be what you think God wants? What would God think of your man-made actions to make others so disheartened that they'd commit suicide, or that others would hurt them so badly? How dare you!

There must also be a way to reach the at-risk kids, to say, there is a future out there, a lot of people who don't believe you're bad for being gay or bi or even leaning a little that way. There must also be a way to let them know that there are people out here in the real world and online who are allies, friendly, and have been through it or have loved ones who have been.

There must also be a way to reach us, those of us who say we care, we are committed, and make us strong enough to do something real to help. ...I wish I knew the way to get that quiet minority-majority of us to refuse to take it anymore, and speak out and act to improve things. ...And yet it is a very fragile topic, how to reach someone at risk, someone whom you don't know for sure is gay or bi or any of those other letters. And yes, I have argued with people who refuse to understand, who refuse to believe what they're doing is wrong and hurtful. ...And yes, I remember too well what it was like to be a questioning (and eventually suicidal) teen who had such trouble dealing with being gay.

But there must be something better. I am so, so tired of hearing political candidates, religious leaders, and ordinary people putting down, even villifying, gay people. The last time I heard that nonsense, connected with a lot of other nonsense, it pushed me past the point where I'd tolerate it. I've become more radicalized than I ever was. (Oh, I'm not some model protester; I'm all too normal and quiet for that.) But -- The next time someone spouts off about it, I may spout off right back at them. My "gay agenda" is to make it through the year without losing what I still have. So I have lost patience with the people whose nonsense I used to tolerate somewhat. Life has changed around me. I have had to change and still am changing, I hope in the right directions. ...I don't have the answers, but I long for a better world. I hate seeing yet more news of how some other teen has succumbed to the disillusionment and given up, or been pushed into it.

Perhaps the answer isn't, "It gets better," although that's a good effort, but instead, "How can we make it better together?"

I have an unworthy small wish: I wish that all those small-minded, hurtful people so convinced that being gay (etc.) is so wrong, would see the true harm they are doing to kids and teens. They. Like Pontius Pilate or Lady Macbeth, refusing to acknowledge their complicity. I wish they could understand that, the next time some poor gathering of family and friends have to escort the casket of a middle school or high school kid to that final resting place. (And please keep in mind, I am quite aware, since it's now almost two and a half months since my grandmother's funeral.) Though she didn't understand being gay, she would have been horrified that any teen died as a result of other people's goadings and malice, or of the loss of hope for something better.

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Bear in mind that bullying is not exclusively a gay problem. I got the crap bullied out of me when I was a teenager, just because I was short, wore glasses, and was a real obnoxious smartass. (Hard to believe, I know.) Nobody suspected I was gay. I just got pummeled because I was there. And I know an awful lot of guys who got bullied worse than me.

I have to admit, the statements by the school superintendents and other officials in that town are horrendously distant and uncaring. I pray to god the families of some of these students file a class-action wrongful death suit against the school system and drags their sorry asses into court. Once they have to pay out a couple of million, maybe they'll pay more attention to violence and bullying of all kinds in school.

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