‘It Gets Better’- But Not Until We Step Up

by Intern Sarah

I actually had to take a deep breath and compose myself before sitting down to write this blog post. That’s how angry I am about this (and I’m a pretty level-headed, non-emotional sort of gal). What am I so angry about, you ask?

I just read this article from Rolling Stone’s website. It’s an incredibly detailed history of certain recent events in former Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s home district in Minnesota. Apparently, the school system and general community in that county has created a climate so hostile to young people who are gay (or perceived as LGBT) that nine students committed suicide in the span of two years. That’s an astounding number. Finally, these brave teenagers are beginning to fight back, battling the culture of fear that had students being committed to mental institutions for suicidal thoughts and weeping in the hallways for fear that they’d never see their friends again the next day because so many people were killing themselves. Though the authority figures are still being completely ineffective in solving this problem, parents and the students themselves are making positive change, starting gay-straight alliances and speaking out against discrimination and unfair policies.

That’s just a 30-second summary; the article goes into a lot more detail and is well worth a read, even though I had to walk away from it a few times in frustration at the situations it described. Thing is, I don’t think anyone’s personal feelings about whether or not homosexuality is acceptable really matter in this situation. I mean, yeah, I’m ultra gay-friendly. I grew up in a progressive, gay-positive household and was an executive board officer of my college’s GSA for 3 of my 4 years there. I also have a strong connection to kids—I have had many jobs over the last few years (editorial intern being just one—there was also church pianist, college tour guide, and grocery store cashier) but my life’s work is teaching. In particular, I teach high school, so my students are the same age as the students in this story. But in my opinion, this issue goes way above those affiliations. It’s not about your feelings towards today’s youth, or whether you approve of same-sex relationships, or whether you care about bullying.

This is what it IS about: teenagers—13, 14, 15-year-olds—are in desperate need of help. They are dying, in massive numbers, and the people who have the power to change their lives are not doing anything. I don’t see how anyone can let a single other belief get in the way of this simple fact. In two years, nine young people have taken their own lives, and that’s just in one district of one state. There are so many more. And these deaths have taken a toll on other kids, causing depression and fear in their fellow students, while the lack of intervention encourages more students to continue their cruelty and bullying. The fact that people use anything—at all—as an excuse for why they didn’t help a kid who was in that kind of danger is inconceivable to me.

I’ll tell you what I really want to do: I want to write a letter to Michele Bachmann. I want to tell her what I’m telling you right now: do something. You can’t let kids die like this. It’s a tragedy, and it’s heartbreaking. I just wish the rest of the world would realize that.

(Image credit © Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMApress.com via rollingstone.com)

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