Why I’m Not Wearing Purple on “Spirit Day”
As you may know, there have been a recent spate of suicides by LGBT youth due to bullying. “Spirit Day” is today, October 20th. It is supposed to be a way to honor those dead youth, and to show support for the many thousands of LGBT kids who face discrimination due to orientation on a daily basis.
You can read more about “Spirit Day” on GLAAD’s website.
The idea behind Spirit Day, first created by teenager Brittany McMillan earlier this month, is a simple one, not dissimilar to the idea of “Spirit Week” held in many high schools, and can be summed up in three words: Everyone Rally Together.
Spirit Day honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it’s also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.
Here’s the problem: by singling out gay youth, we aren’t rallying together; we’re rallying separately. No one wants to read another tragic story of a young person killing him or herself due to being targeted by the predatory tactics of mean kids. Or mean adults. But honestly, the idea suicide is somehow more tragic, or even noble, when committed by a “sexual minority” is just … stupid.
There is no question gay youth face additional challenges. There is a lot of pressure put on those who have just passed puberty by their peers. Much of it has to do with sexuality: from going to the prom with the perfect date to fitting in at school dances. Gay youth often feel like fish out of water. The statistics I’ve read do, in fact, show that suicide and drug abuse are higher among gay youth than other groups.
Being bullied is a very personal experience. I know. I was the target of bullying all throughout my public school years. Was it because I was gay? Certainly, lots of bullying in high school was gay oriented, but so it was with lots of teen males who were bullied, gay or not. Calling someone a “fag” is a popular put down in American society among men. I don’t know much, but I can guarantee if that’s going to change, it’s not going to be because of a t-shirt or a purple “twibbon” on one’s Twitter avatar.
Kids are bullied because they’re different. I know many of the people I went to high school with who turned out to be gay or bi were … popular. They were the jocks. The debate team captains. They weren’t bullied. Nor were they the ones doing the bullying. They were universally liked because they had great social skills and knew how to fit in, even among people with whom they must have felt they had little in common.
Or did they?
There’s this idea that gay people all have to stick together. That our orientation is such a defining characteristic that we must form a community around it. A community of otherness because society at large won’t accept us. There’s some truth to that, but that’s a two-way street. I’ve met countless gay people who don’t like “the breeders.” Who will only date people of the same skin color, or only those of a different skin color. And, as I’ve pointed out numerous times, you better buy into the politics of the movement, or be estranged by your new found “community.”
Many liberal ideologies are founded upon good intentions. But we all know what Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – and others – had to say about good intentions and the road to hell. The problem is this: these ideologies never go any further, and often end up doing as much damage as they do good, if not more.
What “Spirit Day” teaches gay youth is that they are different. That their lives are so fraught with peril simply for being gay that they need special t-shirts and special awareness programs. They are being singled out for a life of continued divisiveness that will last far beyond high school. It also teaches kids that those who aren’t gay, who aren’t “different,” have no reason to feel bad on the inside. That their troubles and turmoils are somehow less than those of others because they don’t have the same obstacles to overcome. But, on a personal level, if one is treated like crap, does it ultimately matter why? The personal experience is still awful.
You can’t teach divisiveness and unity at the same time. The two ideas are diametrically opposed.
Kids who are taught they will be bullied for being gay now are much more likely to grow up and be the victims of tomorrow as adults. They will be the ones marching in parades demanding marriage “equality” while wearing thongs, wondering why society doesn’t believe they, too, could have traditional family values. They will be the ones who think anytime anyone is less than kind to them, it is because of “teh ghey,” and not because, well, sometimes people just aren’t nice.
Sure, there probably thousands of kids out there targeted by bullies because of their sexual orientation, real or simply perceived. Given that gay people are a small percentage of the population, how many kids are being targeted by bullies for completely different reasons? Because they’re black. Because they’re Christian. Because they wear glasses. Because they’re poor, or rich. Where are their t-shirts?
Also, what message are we sending to troubled youth when we “honor” those who choose to kill themselves? Certainly, we can agree the deaths were tragic. But honorable? How many future suicides are we inducing by immortalizing those who have died at their own hands? Suicide is … selfish. It leaves a giant hole in the lives of others. Often times, people who attempt suicide are looking for a type of immortality. “They’ll be sorry once I’m dead.” In one’s fevered imagination, there is a lingering sense of self to enjoy the pain of others at one’s loss of life, but in reality, dead is dead.
So, no. I won’t be wearing purple for “Spirit Day.” The death of Tyler Clementi was tragic, but so was that of Phoebe Prince. You remember her, don’t you? Or maybe you don’t. After all, she wasn’t gay.