"Last one is a sissy!"
The parent said: "Sure enough, the last kid was called a sissy by several players."
I couldn't get this out of my mind.
So the next day, instead of working on my novel, I found myself writing this piece to my local paper. It was printed in yesterday's edition.
Here's the text:
WHERE GAY TEEN SUICIDES START
Five Gay teenagers killed themselves in September.
Billy Lucas, 15, in Greensburg, Indiana, bullied for being Gay, killed himself on September 9th.
Seth Walsh, 13, in Tehachapi, California, bullied for being Gay, killed himself on Sept 19th.
Tyler Clementi, 18, at Rutgers University in New Jersey, killed himself on Sept 22nd, after being publicly outed as Gay.
Asher Brown, 13, in Houston, Texas, bullied for being Gay, killed himself on Sept 23rd.
And on September 29, openly Gay Raymond Chase, 19, at Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island, killed himself.
Five suicides in three weeks.
And suddenly the media’s on the case, the country’s paying attention, and headlines (like in People magazine) shout: “Why did this happen, and how can it be stopped?”
And then I read in last week’s two cents column about the father at a local soccer game, who challenged the players on his boy's team to race to the goal and back, telling them, “The last one is a sissy.” The Two Cents caller said, “Sure enough, the last kid was called a sissy by several players.”
This is where hate starts. In small moments like this. A thoughtless comment, meant to motivate, but what did it actually teach? Being last is bad. Being a “sissy” is the same as being a loser. You don’t want to be a loser. You don’t want to be a sissy.
Similar to “You run like a girl,” this is the kind of lesson that teaches our kids to hate and look down on those different from themselves – girls, gays, the weak, the slow – and teaches our kids who are different that maybe they should hate themselves, too.
Why do these Gay teen suicides happen? They’ve been taught to hate themselves. They couldn’t hear the messages of hope over the noise of hate. They didn’t know about the books out there for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning teens. They didn’t hear the voices of out, proud and happy GLBTQ Adults, telling them “It Gets Better,” an important project Dan Savage started on youtube. They didn’t call the Trevor Project’s Lifeline (1-866-488-7386) to talk to someone who could help.
How can these Gay teen suicides be stopped? We can start at the AYSO games right here in Pacific Palisades – when our kids are 5 and 6 years old. We can start by thinking before we “motivate” children by teaching them to feel better about themselves by putting others down or beating them in a meaningless foot race. We can start on the path to a better world, today, just by changing what we say.
We need to.
(Lee Wind, a resident of Pacific Palisades, writes “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?,” a blog about books, culture and politics for GLBTQ teens and their allies. He leads Smashing Stereotypes Workshops in middle and high schools, and can be reached at www.leewind.org)
I'm so pleased to get the word out about this. And I want to thank the Palisadian Post for running my piece in this week's print edition - on the top of page 2!