What if - at an age when you were least equipped to deal with it - you were handed the biggest challenge of your life? What if it was life-changing, something that would define you, but that you could speak to no one about?
And what if, as you watched your friends run out to dances and teenage parties, you realized that you would never find anything you were looking for there? What if you watched the doors to love and life opening for your friends, but all you saw were doors being slammed shut?
Then things get weirder. Suddenly you became a stranger in your own home. Your parents, once the source of all comfort to you, became potential jurors. Your siblings started to give evidence against you. You start to dread coming home.
The majority of your friends, sensing trouble, became distant or they abandon you entirely. Your religious leaders condemn people like you, your teachers openly mock people like you, your society writes laws to oppress people you, even the kids on the street knew your name is mud.
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And all this before you turned 15? Would you think you had it rough?
If your child is gay and he or she has navigated their teenage years successfully and in one piece then they should be your inspiration for the rest of their lives. You'll never know all the anxiety and abuse they went through, often all day every day, just so they could grow up and be themselves.
And if you don't know how terrifyingly bad it can get, and just how unfair the fight is, it's because you may never have had to grapple with the issue yourself. Isn't that why anti-gay bullying is still tolerated in America's schools, after all? Because it happens to other people's kids?
If your own kid dodged that particular bullet and the abuse that goes with it, you'll probably be relieved and more likely to look the other way. Life's already tough enough, God knows. I mean, how else to explain most parent's tacit acceptance of complete injustice as it stands?
The truth is many parents would rather tolerate or overlook the bulling - and the social cues that drive them to it - than embrace the gay kids for who they are.
Bullying a gay kid is supremely easy because the scales are so tilted: gay kids already have their hands tied, there's a centuries-long history of intolerance directed against them, churches preach against them, politicians speak out against them, many well funded national organizations exist solely to deny them their dignity and personhood, the internet can be a tool of unimaginable hate directed at them, and federal laws and state laws discriminate against them from sea to shining sea. If it was a sport you couldn't watch it.
It's an unfair fight in other words, and unfair fights are what bullies live for. That's why it's an epidemic in America's schools.
If gay kids are being targeted by their peers in the United States in record numbers it's because those kids have already seen them openly targeted and baited by every major political, legal, religious and social organization in the nation. They have usually heard gay people condemned in their own homes too.
And recently they have watched candidates for president stand silent when a gay solider is openly booed on a public stage. You can't imagine the damage that does to a gay child. That recognition even startled the president this week, because on Saturday Obama admitted that if your Commander In Chief doesn't have your back, no one will.
Once your neighbors puts a scarlet letter on someone's back and you say nothing, you really can't claim to have clean hands when the consequences arrive.
Nor should you be terrifically surprised to discover your own kids might have had a hand in driving vulnerable gay kids to suicide. Not taking action is a form of action, after all.
If friends, family and schools are not supportive of gay teens - and lets face it the majority are still openly hostile - it is remarkably difficult for a gay teen to thrive or do well. That fact, and often daily verbal and physical harassment, the perpetual hostile atmosphere, can lead gay teens to despair.
Studies have shown that gay kids are no more mentally unstable than other students, but they are much more susceptible to victimization by their peers. 93 percent of Americas teens reported witnessing anti-gay bullying last year
. That's a shocking statistic that has no equal nationally.
Recently the suicide of 14 year old Jamey Rodemeyer caught the headlines. The slight and softly spoken teen had been bullied daily for years for being gay. Kids to to Facebook to july him writing: 'JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!' Another read, 'I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone WAY more happier!'
When Jamey's 16-year-old sister, at the suggestion of her parents, attended a school dance just hours after she attended Jamey's wake on September 22 some students started chanting that Jamey was 'better off dead.' Jamey was better off dead. We're glad he's dead. Jamey didn't deserve to live, they chanted
He was just 14. His life hadn't even started. He probably hadn't even had his first kiss.
Almost every gay person alive has heard people shout the same evil things at them: sometimes in veiled religious language, other times the hatred is unvarnished, but the message is always the same: you don't deserve to live.
Isn't that what the resistance to gay equality is ultimately all about?
We have to end this. The cruel students who bullied Jamey, abusing him physically and mentally, should be criminally charged. Although Jamey put up a strong front, it is quite clear how deeply those bullies hurt him.
And who do these kids think they are? Who raised them? What law or bible verse could justify their hatred? And after they drove a child to despair, to then exult and celebrate his passing? Is this how we're raising our children? Is this who we want them to become
Bullying is violence, violence done to both body and soul
. Many bullies grow out of it but too many of their victims don't. We need to grasp that message and act upon it. It should be prosecuted like any other form of violence to an individual.