15 year old Larry (Lawrence) King was an 8th grader who had come out as gay earlier in the year.
He recently told a classmate that he had a crush on him.
That classmate brought a gun to school last Tuesday and shot Larry in the head.
Larry died later that week.
How do we respond to this? What can each of us do? Here are three things:
STAND UP AND SAY "NO!" TO ANTI-GAY VIOLENCE
Over 1,000 students from the Hueneme district's schools came together ON THEIR OWN to rally and remember Larry. Here's a link to the LA Times article about the giant peace rally held in memory of Larry. That's amazing, and gives me hope.
RECOGNIZE WORDS HAVE POWER, AND STOP USING ANTI-GAY HATE SPEECH
"That's so Gay" is something kids hear all the time in school, as slang for something being lame, or bad, or wrong. Think how YOU would feel if the expression were "That's so black." Or "That's so Jew." Or "That's so Born Again." Try it out with whatever YOUR identity is, and say it out loud, with the same negative inflection you use for "That's so Gay." See how that feels?
Hate speech is hate speech, and accepting and allowing this verbal bashing of GLBTQ kids creates an atmosphere where homophobia is accepted.
READ BOOKS TO PROMOTE UNDERSTANDING
There are so many books (non-fiction and fiction novels) that are available Today that could be life-changing and truly useful - not just for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens but for ALL Teens, to read.
Reading novels with GLBTQ Teen characters can help everyone realize that GLBTQ Teens are just like every other Teenager - with dreams, ambitions, problems, anxieties, crushes, and adventures.
Novels tap into our mythic underpinnings as a culture - we love a good story. American Idol is so popular because it's basically a retelling of the Cinderella Story.
We need to get the diversity of sexual orientation and identity included in the myths we share as a culture and as individuals. To do this, we need to READ!
BUT TO READ THESE BOOKS, THEY HAVE TO BE AVAILABLE TO TEENS - BOTH FOR THEM TO KNOW ABOUT THE BOOKS AND TO HAVE THEM IN THEIR HANDS.
So I've called the school district office, and put in motion my offer to donate these 15 books to the E.O. Green Junior High School Library, in memory of Larry (Lawrence) King.
(It was really challenging narrowing it down...)
books with Gay Teen Characters
Absolutely Positively NOT
The God Box
books with Lesbian Teen Characters
Erik & Isabelle Freshman Year at Foresthill High (also has a Gay Teen main character)
Keeping You a Secret
books with Transgender Teen Characters
books with Questioning Teen Characters
The House You Pass Along The Way
books with GLBTQ Parents/Caretakers
The Manny Files
The Arizona Kid
and one graphic novel
Tough Love: High School Confidential
Hopefully the district will accept the donation and these books can get on the shelves and then into kids' hands for them to read.
It may not be the total answer (and it's certainly not EVERY book with GLBTQ characters and/or content that their library should have), but it's a step - 15 steps - in the right direction.
To Larry's family and friends, my heart goes out to you.
To every Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Queer Kid out there, I urge you to not live in fear. Be yourself. Be proud.
And let's ALL work to change our culture from one of fear and hate of differences, to one of understanding and acceptance of others.