Monday, November 19, 2012

An End to Bullying - Full Stop

I have been reading a bunch of blogs and articles on how we need to stop kids from being bullied because they are gay. Today, especially, there are a few articles because Nate Silver (the statistitian who so accurately predicted Obama's re-election) is gay and the news about it went  public yesterday. So, today, blog posts abound about how he was excoriated in the conservative press (before the election) for being effeminate and small of stature and soft of voice and GAY (though it wasn't publicaly confirmed until yesterday from what I understand).

Silver is just as gay today as he was yesterday and as he was twenty years ago when he was undoubtedly bullied not just for being gay but for being a math geek and for being small and likely for being smart. They fact that he is now publicly out just gives another reason that he might have been (and likely was) bullied as a youngster.

To that end, I am about to write something that might be unpopular with my gay friends and loved ones and with many of my non-gay friends and loved ones who care deeply about equal rights for all people. (Please note: I care very deeply about equal rights for all. The point of the following statement is not to downplay the importance of equal rights for lesbians, gays and others but to shine the light on other aspects of this important issue.)

Here it is: I am tired, way tired, of the focus of various "stop bullying" campaigns being on stopping bullying of gay and lesbian (or any members of the LGBTQ communities) kids. 

We must stop bullying of any kind. You can be absolutely heterosexual but because of your size, religion, accent, intelligence, socio-economic status or a myriad other reasons you might be bullied and hurt, berated, teased, beaten, or worse. Hell, bullies don't need a reason to bully. All they need is for the sun to rise. Often, bullies are misunderstood and frightened themselves, I believe. They have little control in their own lives, perhaps, and dominating or hurting someone smaller or less able to defend themselves gives the bullies a sense of order, power and control. Often, the difference between the bully and the bullied is that the bullies choose to act on those feelings of alienation while the bullied do not. 

Sometimes, bullies are frightened of what they don't know and they lash out by bullying that which is a mystery to them. Somewhere, they've learned a certain amount of fear of the unknown and this is how they act out about it. Sometimes, though, they just like it. They enjoy seeing the pain they inflict on others. How and why people bully others is a mystery of the human mind and I will not go into greater detail on it, here.

While I do understand why the focus of so many blogs and posts is on an end to bullying of people in the LGBTQ community  (in many ways, this is the social issue of our times), I am asking for a shift to a broader scope.  I am calling for an end to bullying. Period. I don't want the focus to be the end to bullying of gays and lesbians. They aren't the only sector of the population being bullied. If the focus on stopping bullies remains on that sector of the population, then what are we doing about all the kids who get bullied every single day for being differently sized or from another place or not wearing the "right" clothes, or for being smart? I want all those groups to have equal representation in the arena. And right now, I feel they don't.

A few years ago a young woman named Tempest killed herself because she was bullied so much about her religion. That should have never happened either. Kids who are fat or short or tall or skinny will often get bullied. Where are their champions? I want them to have equal time in the spotlight of this conversation.

 I feel that when the focus shifts to one main group (though, I am sure many in the LGBTQ community would say that there are many groups in this one sector) then I feel we are leaving out all the other people who are bullied and who need someone to speak for them as well. They, too, need a voice in this conversation. They, too, need to feel safe in the hallways of their schools or out in the streets of their towns. 

This is not a one-pronged issue, although, the current media coverage makes it feel like it is. If we illuminate the various types of bullying that goes on and if we illuminate all the groups of people who get bullied, then we dramatically decrease the amount of bullying that happens in any situation because we proclaim that bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.

If we demand equal treatment for all, then we take a stand for true equality across all colors, sizes, sexual orientations, levels of intelligence, socio-economic statuses and whatever other characteristics that spark bullying. In my mind, that could be a world-altering paradigm shift. It would move us to greater understanding, sympathy, and empathy of those around us.

Treating one another with kindness and respect should extend to all people. How different the world would be if we all did that.

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