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Friday, October 1, 2010

What Can Straight People Do To Help?

Posted by on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 3:10 PM

A reader asks...

What can straight people who are heartbroken by what has happened to Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas do to make sure kids like them survive adolescence? Do you have any ideas? I'm 33 years old, married but no kids yet to send into the schools to evangelize their friends with messages of love and acceptance. There are a lot of people like me out there who want to help, if we can figure out how.

Well first, and most importantly, you can do what this reader has done:

That was really quite sweet and made my eyes water. I work on tug boats. There is quite a bit of unchallenged race/gay hating, but I have challenged it vociferously for years. I can tell you that after many long conversations over the galley table that some of that hate has subsided. There is something to be said for the moral arc of the universe being long but tending towards justice.

You can also donate to the Trevor Project. You can also—you must—contact your Representatives and Senators and ask them to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act. And if you're looking for something quick and easy and symbolic that you can do with a camera and and internet access, you can Come Out As An Ally.

And, of course, some straight people—including chick-loving straight dudes—have made videos...

 

Comments (21) RSS

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1
This guy has an awesome voice. He needs to be reporting on TV or radio if he isn't already.
Posted by John In Ballard on October 1, 2010 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Lindy West 2
Awww, Kiley!
Posted by Lindy West on October 1, 2010 at 3:27 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 3
Brendan and Bethany have to be some sort of crazy power couple. Or at least that's how I imagine it in my head.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 1, 2010 at 3:38 PM · Report this
4
@ 1. Thanks!

I probably should have added in the video that I left high school after my sophomore year—I was not happy there—and enrolled in the Running Start program, which allowed me to finish my junior and senior years at Seattle Central Community College (without having to pay tuition).

If you really cannot bear high school, investigate other ways to finish your education: Running Start, early admission to university, etc.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on October 1, 2010 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Enigma 5
I think it's important for LGBT kids to hear from straight adult allies as well as LGBT adults.
Right now they probably see the world as straight versus gay because the "straight" kids who are picking on them make it feel that way. (Who knows how many of those bullies are struggling with their own sexuality.)
To hear that there are straight adults out there waiting to be friends and allies too can be a comfort. Afterall, look at how popular PFLAG is.
Posted by Enigma http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org/ on October 1, 2010 at 3:54 PM · Report this
6
Okay! Now what can straight Canadians do?
Posted by Caralain on October 1, 2010 at 3:56 PM · Report this
7
“If you’re being harassed in school because you’re gay, believe me, in a few years you’ll have more friends than you know what to do with. You can be as open as you want… and when you fly Air Canada you’ll get a free upgrade to first class because the guy behind the counter? He’s gay too!”

Rick Mercer (the Canadian equivalent of Jon Stewart) ranted in 2005 about bullies in high schools and how he'd like to say to these kids "after this (the days) get better. And then, they get great!"

Go. Watch. Enjoy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USgEmz5WH…
Posted by thatsfairenough on October 1, 2010 at 4:51 PM · Report this
8
I wonder what happened to the sadistic closeted "Broom handle" Guy and if he ever amounted to anything other than roadkill?
Posted by dakoneko on October 1, 2010 at 5:03 PM · Report this
Eric F 9
Brendan, you just made me cry.
Posted by Eric F on October 1, 2010 at 5:25 PM · Report this
10
WAIT A MINUTE. Dan argues that kids aren't getting the message not to bully gays kids because schools don't want gays talking to kids least they be "indoctrinated" as the conservative assholes claim. That shouldn't stop straight folks from talking to kids about bullying- of any kind.
Posted by alisamc http://amcstubbornturtle.blogspot.com/ on October 1, 2010 at 5:48 PM · Report this
snoozn 11
My rep is Jared Polis, so I'm pretty sure he is supporting his bill! Everyone else, call your reps!
Posted by snoozn on October 1, 2010 at 5:52 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 12
Did I not tell you that Brendan Kiley was something?
Posted by Bauhaus I on October 1, 2010 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Leslie N. 13
Oh, Jesus, Brendan. You look nothing and sound nothing like I imagined you. You can certainly loosen a few thighs with that face and voice.
Posted by Leslie N. on October 2, 2010 at 8:56 AM · Report this
14
Oh my g-d, you are so effing hot. Go Bethany! Okay, that's all.
Posted by Papayas on October 2, 2010 at 9:41 AM · Report this
MLP 15
NO JOKE!!! Where the hell have you been hiding, Kiley?! Holy crap you're smokin'hot!
Posted by MLP on October 2, 2010 at 2:30 PM · Report this
16
Dan, I emailed you (and yes I'm aware you get a lot of emails!)

I want to know: What can straight TEACHERS do? I teach in an urban public high school, and I want to know what I can do to be an ally to my LGBT students. I read these articles, and I see over and over..."Teachers and administration did nothing..."

I'm aware that one of my responsibilities would be to report bullying and abuse. Got it. But what other, subtle and not-so-subtle things could a teacher do to support gay students in a hostile atmosphere?

P.S. I'm looking for responses from former gay high school students...sometimes the things straight people think will help end up doing the opposite. As a gay high school student, what did you need from your teachers?
Posted by DTMFA on October 3, 2010 at 8:21 AM · Report this
17
@16 As a high school teacher you can remind students that life in general gets better after high school for most students and that they'll meet people with similar interests and backgrounds. That's important for most students to hear.

It is important that if you hear a kid saying "that's gay" you speak up in front of your other students and explain why that is offensive. As a former closeted gay high school student, hearing a teacher tell a student not to use "gay" as a derogatory term meant all the world to me. That teacher probably didn't know I was gay and the student used it to describe essay writing and not any person but hearing my teacher speak out against it was very important to me.

As a teacher you have access and the voice to educate other teachers in your school about their language and actions. You can speak to them in ways students and those outside of schools cannot.

Depending on the subjects you can expose your students to important gay/lesbian/queer writers, scholars, and other figures. It might seem strange but hearing my English teacher speak positively about Oscar Wilde made me feel better because I assumed then she would be queer-friendly.

Oh and see about starting a straight gay alliance group. If a teacher makes the request it will be taken much more seriously then if the group is requested by students. (Such a request was denied in my school in part because the school said no teacher would be willing to oversee it.)

I am sure there are other ways you can help and I hope other posters offer some more examples.

Thanks for asking.
Posted by Andrewhg on October 3, 2010 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Gou Tongzhi 18
I'm an elementary, not high, school teacher, and while I don't explicitly address any sexual orientation issues - obviously - I end every single school year by gathering my class around and giving a speech along the lines of:

"You guys got better at reading and writing and puzzle-solving and all kinds of other skills this year, and that's fantastic. But if you remember just one thing from this grade, I want you to remember this. Life is really great and there are more things to do than you could ever do in a life. But then other times, once in a while, life is not very fun for everyone. You may have a lot of advantages. But there will always be someone poorer, weaker, less popular, slower, or lonelier than you. Someone who may not have many friends. Your main job in life is to be nice to those people. Because they have hopes and dreams and feelings just like you. And maybe, one day, you will be one of those people yourself, weaker than the other kids, or less popular, or the one who doesn't understand something. And then you'll want all the friends you can get. So be a friend when you can. You always can."

Well, it sounds more eloquent when I'm saying it to a group of rapt 8-year-olds, but what the hell, you know? I'm trying.
Posted by Gou Tongzhi on October 3, 2010 at 4:50 PM · Report this
19
http://trib.com/news/opinion/mailbag/art…

I write letters to the editor a LOT:) Some of my letters have caused serious problems with my husband's family. Knowledge is power and I truly believe if people understand how powerful their hate is maybe they'll try to make their love as powerful too. Unfortunately I live in Wyoming so it's a constant struggle, but I fight for our LGBTQ youth as much as possible! Join PFLAG or your local GSA to show your support! They appreciate it SO MUCH
Posted by burdlemore on October 4, 2010 at 8:45 AM · Report this
20
Dan,

I wonder if you've given a lot of thought to the contribution Hollywood gives to this climate of hate and bullying against gay kids. There's a fair share of blame to be laid at the feet of so-called Christians who preach fire and brimstone against "sinful" gays and lesbians, but when I think about the kinds of taunts kids receive in high school, a lot of it resembles a far more dangerous Judd Apatow movie than a Sunday morning sermon - not to mention the fact that far more kids are probably internalizing the messages they receive from mainstream movie comedies and TV shows more than they are listening to their preacher.

"Gay" is used as a catch-all insult in movies to mean everything from stupid to effeminate. There's a full scene in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in which two characters trade barbs that start with, "You know why you're gay?" In "The Hangover" the guys pick up Ed Helms from his emasculating bride and yell, "Paging Dr. Faggot!" Just last week on "Community" a character yells "Gay!" at another character who publicly professes his love for a girl in front of the classroom. You know, because being honest is so totally gay. Right, NBC?

The truly tragic case of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers reads like a perverted version of every teen sex comedy from "Porky's" and "Revenge of the Nerds" to "American Pie" and "The Virginity Hit." Each of those movies has a major scene in which holes are drilled into walls or cameras are set up to spy on someone getting undressed or have sex. While they all feature straight characters spying on straight sexual activity, I'd argue that Tyler's roommate Dharun Ravi was as much a product of pop culture cruelty as political or religious cruelty.

I wouldn't let religious leaders or politicians off the hook. Fish rots from the head and it's institutional policy and dogma that creates our current culture of fear, intolerance and outright violence. But how many kids are learning that it's okay to call someone a faggot, not only from what they learn from their parents and community leaders but also from the too-casual way in which "gay" is used in TV and movies? Dharun Ravi, Tyler's roommate at Rutgers, hasn't been identified as an evangelical Christian by any of the news reports. Isn't a simple explanation that he grew up saturated in a culture that thinks it's okay to treat gays as less than human?

Not to get all Tipper Gore on Hollywood, but it seems hypocritical for actors to stand up against gay bashing while starring in movies that routinely use the word "gay" as an insult.

I was gay bashed in high school, and didn't grow up in a particularly religious town. I lived in Massachusetts, not exactly a red state. I don't want to see one more kid hurt because of what is happening in our country. Thank you for your efforts and encouragement. I think you've saved at least a few lives with your It's Get Better project.

Thanks,

Doug
Brooklyn, NY
More...
Posted by Doug G. on October 5, 2010 at 11:52 AM · Report this
21
@DTMFA - Trip them in the hallway and ask them what they are doing. When they make up a stupid excuse. Send them to their next class. The distraction will do them good and you can't get blamed for anything other than doing your job.
Posted by Corx1 on October 5, 2010 at 8:21 PM · Report this

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