Protecting Kids and Teens from Bullies

Posted on October 11, 2010 at 9:51 am

A tragic series of suicides has put the spotlight on bullying and other forms of peer abuse of kids and teenagers. It has also prompted the It Gets Better project on YouTube from columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller, who have posted a video telling LGBT teens who are getting picked on that it will get better for them and that support and resources are available. They have invited others to participate and the videos from celebrities like Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres as well as individuals who just want to share their stories and their support are extraordinarily generous, touching, inspiring, and meaningful. The Trevor Project is a hotline for LGBT kids who need someone to talk to. On its website are messages of help and hope from “Glee’s” Chris Colfer and “Harry Potter’s” Daniel Radcliffe.

Today is National Coming Out Day and everyone can participate by coming out for dignity, equality, and rejoicing in the diversity of ideas, perspectives, talents, and beliefs that unite us as humans as much as our shared commitments and experiences.

Vince Vaughn has just agreed to take a gay joke out of the trailer of his new film, “Dilemma.” It is not clear whether it will remain in the film. What’s interesting is that even the the brief clip, the joke is explicitly not related to any person’s sexuality — it is a reference to an electric car. Vaughn’s character makes it clear that he is using “gay” not to mean homosexual but to mean overly careful and concerned about one’s impact on the rest of the world — while in this movie as in others the “bromance” element is more likely to read as gay to the audience. While publications like The Globe and Mail decry Vaughn’s backing down (they might say it is “so gay” to worry about the sensitivity of the audience in making a crude, dumb joke), it seems to me that this is on the contrary a triumph of freedom of speech. After Anderson Cooper and others responded to the trailer with their objections, Vaughn made the decision that the joke was creating more problems than it was worth. I am hoping Vaughn’s experience will help make it clear to impressionable teens that “that’s so gay” and “no homo” references cannot be separated from their bigoted foundation.

I was also very encouraged by the wonderful “no makeup Tuesday” program at a Texas high school, a powerful message of acceptance and the recognition of true beauty. I’d love to see it go nationwide.

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences to prevent bullying and harassment and build support in your community.

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Commentary Teenagers

5 Replies to “Protecting Kids and Teens from Bullies”

  1. There is a movement spreading across the internet to wear purple on Wednesday, Oct 20. It is to be a show of strenght and support against the multitude of bullies in our midst. I rarely make political statements in sermons, but I equated the 527 organizations (that hide behind the screen so nicely provided by the IRS and recent Supreme Court decision) polluting the political campaigns with bullies. It is time to stop the agressive posturing and return to caring for and about each other. Wearing purple on Oct 20 is simply one gesture of awareness and willingness to let the bullies know we recognize their presence and will deny their power. Even if people don;t wear purple that day, I hope that when they someone sporting the color, they will think about the presence and problems of bullies of all sorts. All of the projects work toward that same goal.

  2. The problem is, people are willing to embrace anything and everything except the REAL root of both the problem and the solution, which is the recognition that bullying is not caused by people opposing gay rights, or by racism, or by anything except the failure to embrace the idea that all human beings are entitled to be treated with basic respect and courtesy.
    This might sound contradictory, but it isn’t. By claiming bullying as a gay rights issue, the gay rights community has enabled and justified the existence of groups like “Bash Back!”, and we have seen a huge increase in the number of incidents aimed at Mormons – from houses and churches being torched or vandalized (burning Book of Mormon left on doorsteps??) to kids being *hospitalized*.
    Is that really an improvement? Some would say yes. What disturbs me more than anything are statements from the gay community suggesting that rights violations against anyone who opposes their political agenda is justified.
    Every person has the right to their beliefs. Every person has the right to be free from hate. Every person has the right to the basic security necessary to live one’s life. As long as people feel that the argument is one of deciding who *does* or *does not* deserve basic human rights (“we need to show people that gays do deserve/bigots don’t deserve/this group is good/that group is bad”), then bullying will continue, as violence will be the way two groups mutually judge each other – each believing that they should have the right to judge, but not be judged, by the other.

  3. Kiro
    I agree. Bullying does not have a particular political face – it comes in all guises. Respect and the allowance for civil dissent is all that is asked. But when anyone starts to act like a bully – or respond to one bully with their own bullying tactics, they have defeated any hope for civil-ization. Diversity is strength – not alliance with one group or another.

  4. I agree with you both and am most grateful for your thoughtful comments, exactly the kind of conversation I was hoping for. Kiro, this is why I stressed dignity and respect as the goal and included the discussion of “no makeup Tuesdays” as one way of addressing the overall problem. Increasingly it seems that gay epithets are the all-purpose torture mechanism, whether they are applicable or not. But whether the person is being picked on for being gay, smart, funny-looking, of some unapproved religion (and all of them have inspired bullies), not interested in sports, or just there, it is a violation of the essential human right to be treated with respect based on shared humanity.

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