November 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
Jay McDowell, a high school teacher in Michigan, was recently suspended for reprimanding a student who allegedly walked into his classroom and said: “I do not support gay individuals.” (I agree with the linked Queerty writer who doubts that “gay individuals” was the actual word choice; it’s likely that some colorful slurs were used instead.) A 14-year-old student was videotaped speaking in defense of McDowell at a school board meeting. Graeme Taylor (or possibly Graham Taylor — there’s some discrepancy regarding his name, forgive me for the uncertainty), who is gay, delivered a beautiful speech. I’ve transcribed it below.
My father is Kirk Taylor, he’s a teacher at Hartland, and he tells me about things that go on in this area. It seems like a nice community. I myself am gay and I’m a young person, and that can cause lots of trouble. And when you hear of things like Dr. King’s speech that one day he wanted his grandchildren, his posterity, to not be judged on the color of their skin but the content of their character, I hope that one day we too can be judged on the content of our character and not who we love. Howell [Michigan] is the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan. Does that really sound great on your racism record? The fact that they chose this city to come into? And you probably want to get rid of that. So how would you like more headlines of “Howell denies gays,” “Howell doesn’t protect them.” This teacher, whom I fully support, finally stood up and said something. I have been in rooms, in classrooms, where children have said the worst kinds of things. The kinds of things that helped drive me to a suicide attempt when I was only nine years old. These are the things that hurt a lot. There’s a silent holocaust out there in which an estimated six million gay people every year kill themselves. Is this really the environment we want for our school? Do we really want this on our record? Now, I’m saying that the best thing you can do right now is just give him his pay for that day, and just reverse the disciplinary actions. He did an amazing thing. He did something that’s inspired a lot of people. And whenever, ever, I have a teacher stand up for me like that, they change in my eyes. I support Jay McDowell, and I hope you do too.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Today is National Coming Out Day. Why do we mark this event? Because coming out is awesome! What could be more delightful than celebrating your identity? I’m a fan.
The queer community at my school organized an event in the main plaza with music, rainbow flags, and a physical closet door that you could open and walk through. They also made a bunch of OUT and ALLY pins. I had class but was able to swing by towards the end of the event, hoping to pick up an ALLY button. Which means that I didn’t get a pin, but also that hundreds of my peers were excited about publicly declaring their alliance with the queer community. Sweet.
One more thing: This day is a wonderful opportunity to come out and to talk about the process of doing so. What’s not so wonderful, but what I’ve seen illustrated on more than one occasion, is the subtle implication that if you’re not ready to come out, you’ve somehow failed at the equality cause.
But sometimes that pressure can be negative, and I’d just like to say that rushing someone “out” is not constructive. It’s okay to still be questioning, still figuring things out. It doesn’t make you less of a member of the queer-and-allied community. Those who are questioning deserve our support just as much as those who are queer.
October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
- On September 21, the Senate failed to pass a bill that included the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ They were four votes short, despite the Democratic majority.
- On September 22, gay college student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death after his roommate Dhuram Ravi twice posted videos online of him making out with another man.
- On September 9, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school freshman hung himself in his family’s barn after intense bullying for his perceived sexual orientation from his classmates. In interviews, his principal, the person that’s supposed to have the best interest of all students at heart, said that Billy sometimes created “that atmosphere [of teasing] around him… Kind of like a little tornado because he went around doing things that made dust fly, I guess.” After Billy’s suicide, hateful and accusatory remarks were posted on his memorial page.
- The cases of Tyler Clementi and Billy Lucas are not anomalies.
- Andrew Shirvell, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, has decided to take a voluntary leave of absence after getting nationwide attention for creating a website devoted to the shaming and bashing of University of Michigan’s openly gay student assembly president, Chris Armstrong. Despite the fact that Shirvell has clearly expressed his bias against a significant group of people–not to mention an oppressed minority that is in need of defense–when a large part of his JOB DESCRIPTION is to uphold the rights that everyone is granted by the constitution, Attorney General Mike Cox has refused to discipline or dismiss him.
- According to a ten-year study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 9 out of 10 LGBT students are harassed in school. 72.4% of students hear homophobic remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently at school. In the last month 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30% missed at least one day of school due to safety concerns.
Have I depressed you enough? The list goes on and on and on.
What, if anything, can we take from all this? America has a serious problem. A problem of heteronormative expectations about sexuality and gender expression and a problem of viciously attacking those who don’t fit into these norms. While this problem is damaging to everyone, it predominantly affects young people. From the White House to the playground the message is clear: You’re icky, you’re different, you’re wrong, you’re not like us. We wish you’d go away.
So what do we do? Do something! Do anything! Post on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better youtube channel. Attend an upcoming event. Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school. Support GLSEN, The Trevor Project, Matthew’s Place, Angels and Doves and Stomp Out Bullying! Participate in Ally Week.
Be active, be kind, and be hopeful. Hope is what we need more than anything. To use the eternally relevant and powerful words of Harvey Milk: You’ve gotta give ‘em hope.
September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment
by KATIE E.
Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.
Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans, non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?
None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.
You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?
Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.
The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.