If you look at the ratings, the crazed fans (“regular Suzy homemakers” many of them) in the audience, the 4.5 million followers on Twitter, her No. 3 position on the Twitter ranking (behind Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears *Yes, I know* BUT ahead of POTUS), you’d be convinced that Ellen DeGeneres has gone mainstream. For goodness sake, Ellen is a CoverGirl! She is able to mention her wife Portia de Rossi in the mundane way that spouses mention each other in their conversations with other people without raising any eyebrows.
Wanda Sykes has a show on Fox.
The primetime TV show “Modern Family” on ABC includes in its main characters a suburban couple with an adopted daughter who happen to be gay without any trace that would possibly remind you of Jack from Will and Grace.
If you put your blinder on (and force yourself to forget about Prop 8), you can tell yourself that, yes, gays and lesbians have been accepted as “one of us”. Or at the very least, homosexuality is now broadly accepted as yet another piece of fabric weaved into this complex, multi-faceted world that we live in.
You would be wrong.
First of all, as you are well aware of, there is a fight raging on in Washington over “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. I can’t do my frustration justice without simply asking you to watch my beloved Jon Stewart proposing a ban on Old People from serving in the Senate. Naturally “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” would apply also should this ban go through…
Earlier we were outraged by what happened to Constance McMillan, the lesbian high school student in Itawamba, Mississippi who wanted to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the prom and was denied this request by the school board. At the same time we were amazed and impressed by this young woman’s poise, resolve and courage when she didn’t take the easy way out by simply backing down and instead took her case up with ACLU. Such a story naturally hit close to home for Ellen: She invited Constance to be on the show to tell her story and presented Constance with a scholarship of $30,000 (from an anonymous donor) at the end of the interview. Later when a federal judge ruled that the school board violated her rights by cancelling the prom (without ordering the district to hold the prom as planned), Ellen sent yet another strong message to Constance, and also to her viewers.
You’d thought such outrage would have taught the school district, the parents and the students involved to rethink their position and learn a lesson from this. But no…
Last Friday, Constance was sent to an effectively “fake” prom which was only attended by 5 other students. The principal and teachers were also there as chaperons. Two of these students were reportedly disabled. (One had to assume that they have also been directed to this “fake” prom). In the mean time, a privately-held party organized by parents was held in another location attended by, you guessed it, the other students. “The parents didn’t want Constance there, and they didn’t want to get sued.” Some reports said.
The "Secret Prom" Constance McMillan was not invited to. She lucked out judging by the photo...
You’d think that people would eventually wake up one morning and realized such cruelty is unbecoming of a human being and relent. But no…
The other students have been identifying themselves as victims because Constance ruined the prom and their memories of senior high school. As a normal teenager would do when they have an ax to grind against somebody, they started a Facebook page called “Constance quit yer cryin.” (I just spent an hour reading some of the things being posted on that Facebook page. My jaws are still on the floor…)
All this is unbelievable isn’t it? Well, no worries. Because our fellow human beings never disappoint. What is even more unbelievable, more outrageous, more horrifying, and more saddening is the case of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA, who killed herself in January after cyber and emotional bullying. The most un-fucking-believable part of this? Her tormentors went to her Facebook the day after she hung herself (and discovered by her 12-year-old sister!) and mocked her. Right there on the memorial page.
It’s been two months and every time when I think of her and this story, I cannot stop cursing and crying.
Finally on March 29, nine teenagers were indicted for their involvement in this case. I sure hope I will not hear about Facebook page set up by supporters of the Hadley 9 bemoaning how Phoebe Prince has ruined their lives.
What happened here?
The teachers have been blamed for Phoebe Prince’s death; the school district/board has been blamed for the prejudiced decision against Constance McMillan.
How about the parents?
What I am seeing is a severe case of Undeserved Sense of Entitlement and Lack of Accountability.
Teachers don’t teach you this at school. Nor should they be responsible for building characters and moral fortitude for the kids. It is the parents’ job, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong: I am not so smug as to assume that I will be able to understand my children when they turn teenagers. But as a parent, you have got to try as hard as you could. Now I know you did not try hard enough if you were organizing a private party just so you could exclude the gays and the disabled. The disabled? WHAK? Does the Bible say something against the disabled too?
Candace Gingrich-Jones on HuffPost put out a call for action:
“We can all learn a lot from Constance McMillan and how she has handled herself — when we see something that doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. And it is the responsibility of every one of us to take some kind of action on behalf of fairness. Whether you bring up bullying at the next PTA meeting, write a letter to the Itawamba County School District, or call out your friends or co-workers when they say ‘faggot’ or ‘that’s so gay,’ you are improving the climate for queer youth — and adults. Do something.”
Let’s tell our kids that “the buck stops here.” The buck has got to stop with them. Let’s tell them that we understand peer pressure and how hard it is to survive high school, but they have to be the one that speak up. If not to their peers, then to an adult. If malicious rumors are being circulated about someone, the least they have to do is to NOT continue the chain. Break the cycle of cruelty. Sometimes all it takes is one person to stand up or stay back or speak up.
LET’S DO SOMETHING.
Baby steps. All of us.
One Ellen DeGeneres is not enough.
Let’s start with the word “Gay”.
Let’s start with banning the usage of the word “gay” as a substitute for “stupid, dumb, ugly, undesirable, etc.” from your schools.
Since I wrote “That’s so Gay” is NOT so funny! This has nothing to do with sense of humor… last February, “That’s so gay” has been gaining popularity as just another common expression. I am hearing (and seeing on Facebook) this phrase more and more often, from children younger and younger who have no idea what “being gay” means. As the phrase takes on the facade of familiarity, moving into the realm of the vernacular, taking on the identity of an idiom (because what exactly does it even mean in this context?! Children or the immature adults only know to prevent this phrase from ever being used on them… but what exactly does it mean?!) it is becoming harder and harder to fight it off.
I am tired of hearing “That’s so gay.” I really am. There are so many words in English to choose from to denote your distaste for something. Get a thesaurus. Get a book of classic insults by Shakespeare. Wilde. Because when you are so concerned about being called “gay” that “That’s so gay” becomes a popular insult, you know, you sound like a Homophobe to me. And you know what they say about Homophobes… How about this, let’s give “That’s so Beck” a try.
p.s. Here’s my angry musing on the increasing popularity of the usage of “Gay” as an insult…
The increasing popularity of the usage of “Gay” as an insult is indicative of the underlying homophobic mentality permeating in our society, despite decades of working towards acceptance by the “mainstream”. This is, the way I read it, part of the backlash against the gains made by gays and lesbian. They have co-opted the word “queer” so that now it conveys pride in self-identification in some specific uses. It is then not too far off to see the co-opting of the word “Gay” as revenge by the not-so-enlightened amongst us: they are trying to turn the previously neutral and PC “label” (for lack of a better word) into a slur. “You took an insult word from us so that we can no longer hurt you with it. Guess what? We are going to turn how you have been identifying yourselves with into a insult equivalent of anything undesirable…”
Clever maneuver by the not-so-tolerant.
What does this say about how we really feel about those who are different from the “norm” deep down, behind the door, if we allow the use of this word on the playground and in the school hallways as part of the litany of insults that our kids can hurl at each other?
And, like a bad infomercial on TV, THERE IS MORE!
The drama continues here on the Facebook page set up by the adults from Itawamba, Mississippi. It is easy to see where the kids have learned their prejudices and bigoted attitudes. I don’t want to sound naive to say that I am shocked by the ugliness found there. But despite all my cynicism, I am still shocked.