Friday, March 14, 2008

Making the Connections

I’ve avoided writing about last month’s murder of Lawrence King, a fifteen year old gay middle school student in California. Partly it is because I am so sad and angry about it that I hardly know what to say and partly because it does not directly relate to sport. If I start blogging about all of the incidents related to LGBT people in schools, I fear I would be blogging 24/7.

However, two other news events in the last few days prompted me to make some connections that I think need to be talked about: the anti-gay comments of Oklahoma state legislator, Sally Kern and the opposition to an anti-bullying program that includes sexual orientation in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

On February 12, Larry King was shot twice in the head by another student in a classroom at E.O. Green Middle School in Oxnard, CA. Larry was gay. He liked to wear make-up and jewelry. Not surprisingly, Larry was the target of anti-gay bullying and harassment from other students and, according to the few friends he had in school, he spent much of his school time trying to avoid the bullies who found his gender expression and sexual orientation unacceptable.

Brandon McInerney, the 14 year old student who shot Larry, will be charged with murder and a hate crime. He will be tried as an adult. This shooting is a double tragedy for Larry and his family as well as for Brandon and his family. Larry is dead and Brandon has had the rest of his life irrevocably changed.

Sally Kern’s anti-gay tirade was audio-recorded and posted on YouTube. You can listen for yourself. I don’t want to put the link on my blog. She has defended her comments by wrapping herself in the Bible and free speech to justify her ignorance and careless slander of all lesbian and gay people. Her stunning display of bigotry in the name of Christian belief is an outrage. There is no love in her words, only fear and hate.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools’ anti-bullying proposal is opposed by some community members because they believe the program is a front for the “pro-homosexual agenda in schools.” I assume, because the language is so typical of anti-gay Christian rhetoric, that these community groups are led by people, like Sally Kerns, who have religious objections to non-heterosexual people. They don’t want the policy to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality” or encourage “respect for homosexuality.”

If a “pro-homosexual agenda” means making schools a place where gay and gender non-confirming kids are safe, then count me in. If the “pro-homosexual agenda” includes the demand that all students, including those who are or are perceived to be gay or express their gender in non-conforming ways, are treated with respect, then let me be the first to support the “pro-homosexual agenda.”

Unfortunately, people like those who oppose the anti-bullying program in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and state rep Sally Kern are offended by any positive portrayal of, support for, or legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of any age. They are so driven by their own irrational anti-gay fears and prejudice that anything other than silence and invisibility poses a threat to their fragile and narrow view of the world.

I think people who oppose programs that try to eliminate bullying in schools because they include protection for gay students and elected public officials who proudly spew anti-gay nonsense should some bear responsibility for hate crimes and the violence against LGBT people in and out of school. Where do they think Brandon McInerney and other child perpetrators of anti-gay violence learn this hate and fear?

This is not about a “pro-homosexual agenda.” It is about decency and humanity. It is about protecting all children who are perceived to be on the margins and therefore targeted by bullying. People who oppose anti-bullying policies apparently would rather see a child taunted or even killed than permit a program to explicitly protect LGBT students from bullying. Maybe Larry King would still be alive if someone in his school had stopped Brandon McInerney and others from tormenting him day after day.

It is not so far from North Carolina to Oklahoma to California. We need to make the connection. We need to stop the hate.


calugg said...

A fast way to "de-pants" their opposition is to have them explain, explain, explain. Finally, after minutes of tortured rationales, you'll get "because the Bible says so."

Fine. But opponents can't ask the state to enforce religious dogma (And there are all manner of relevant court cases on this point).

I also like to point out to opponents to anti-bulling policies that, with a quick change in demography, they might end up with a dogma they don't like in public schools.

BTW: Their statements in upholding theocracy also makes it easier to go after this opposition in court.

J. Ross Roth said...

Thanks Pat for your posting! Although Larry King's death nor Sally Kerns comment relate directly to sport, it is within the homophobic and heterosexist atmosphere of our society in which our students are being educated and sport is being played. I second your support of a "pro-homosexual agenda" if means that students, teachers, and staff feel safe at school as I truly believe everyone has the right, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression to feel safe!!!

Unknown said...


I can say this about Charlotte, NC. Parks Helms is a county Commissioner there. He has been a supporter of Gay rights. He had a campaign manager who is gay. He proposed domestic benefits for County workers but was shot down by other commissioners. He is a Deacon at Park Road Baptist church. He is a heterosexual.

Many pastors and government officials in Charlotte are trying to break this homophobic wall. I hope you can write about because this man has done a lot for the LGBT community while suffering abuse to himself and his family by conservative politicians and local writers. They are trying to make the image of Charlotte as being ultra-conservative so outsiders like you will give yup which gives them the power to pass anti-gay laws. There have many internal clashes with writers, officials, and clergy for many years but it seems that ignorance wins out.