Most of us have a bullying story–our story, a friend’s story, a family member’s story…
I went to a Christian school that boasted a high school (7th through 12th grade) of 40 students. Some years it was close to 30. Other years it was 42 or 43 students. But it was small.
I was never one of the cool kids, even at a high school of uncool Christian kids. My uncoolest year was a toss-up between the tenth and the eleventh grade.
I was a young looking 16. (I looked about 11-years-old.)
I weighed roughly 109 pounds. (And that was while holding a large Bible with a concordance.)
I was hairless. (Almost. I could count the strands of hairs under my arms with one hand. And I did that often, hoping God would answer my prayers for more.)
I wore a brace around my back. (I have scoliosis. When I was 4, I started wearing a brace between 16 and 23 hours a day to control my spine’s curve.)
Oh, and on occasions when I answered the phone, there was a 66% chance that I would be incorrectly identified as one of my sisters or the wrong number of a female stranger.
So I was teased. A lot. I was shoved into lockers. My books got knocked out of my arms at least twice a week. Sometimes it was just one student. Sometimes others joined the teasing. On three occasions, a teacher joined the fun, too. Often those who called me “friend” avoided taking up for me because they feared the retaliation. And you know what? I didn’t blame them for doing that. In addition to getting put in lockers (and etc…), I was called names. Some of the names I was called included: Sissy. Fairy. Faggot. Queer. Penis lover. A couple of the names I got called I can’t reprint.
On many evenings I’d lie in my bed at night and cry myself to sleep. And then I’d get mad at myself for caring. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents what was happening. And feared that it would become worse if I had. I was insecure so I blamed their teasing on myself. On a few occasions, I was scared to go to school. And while I never attempted to hurt myself or even make plans to hurt myself, I did occasionally wish I was dead.
In no way am I trying to sensationalize my story. And I’m certainly not trying to suggest that my experiences are equal to those of others. Compared to many people I know my story is tame.
But I’m writing about my experience because bullying is in news.
As you know… this time bullying is back in the news because several recent students (high school and college) known to be gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender have committed suicide. It’s believed that teasing and bullying and other forms of mental and emotional abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) played a role of some kind in the students decisions to take their own lives. Because it got that bad. Because they felt that lost. Or ashamed. or hopeless.
They had nowhere else to turn. Nowhere.
And most of them probably wouldn’t have considered running to a church to find hope… or going to a Christian to find acceptance…
Celebrities, communicators, politicians, and other high profile names are on a campaign to let GLBT students know that they are not alone, that they don’t have to hide or feel shame or exist in fear. What a beautiful message. And I hope it’s not simply a gimmick. I hope it lasts; I hope the noise becomes loud enough that it’s difficult for people to forget, that it’s impossible for us to forget…
Are any Christians willing to stand up alongside these other voices and speak out against the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students? I know some Christians have spoken up. But not many. Not many at all. And very few big names. Why? (I know why. Or I think I know why.)
But why? Really. WHY?
And why should Christians be speaking up?
Because we love people. Because we stand up for the broken. Because that’s what we do, right? Or that’s what we’re supposed to do…
And let’s face it; we as a group or population or “American religion” need to own some of the hate that GLBT students experience. Yes. Own it.
All across this country, every single day, students who identify as GLBT are experiencing hate, being bullied, getting teased, or being treated unkindly… and some of those situations are our fault.
Because of our theologies.
Because of our sermons.
Because of what we say from our pulpits.
Because of what we don’t say from our pulpits.
Because of the way we have treated people who identify as GLBT. Because of the way we haven’t treated people who identify as GLBT.
It’s not all our fault. But some of it is.
Our history… Our track record… Our judgments….
Are we going to remain silent like we don’t hear the media? Like we’re not paying attention? Like we can’t hear them? Are we really going to do that?
Because doesn’t the God we worship love all people? Isn’t it our Christian message–you know, the one that says “God loves you no matter what!”–the only way that a student can truly NEVER be alone? (Isn’t that what we believe?)
And rather than shouting that message at the top of our lungs during a time when it needs to be heard loudly by a group of people being bullied at high schools and colleges all across the country… most/some of us have chosen silence.
Because like my friends who wouldn’t stand up for me, many of us are fearful of the consequences that may occur if do stand up… we’re afraid of what people will say… we’re afraid that people will question our theologies… or question our beliefs…
And some of us just don’t really care…
Let’s not be silent. Let’s speak out against those who make fun of people for being gay or lesbian. Let’s teach our children to love people–ALL PEOPLE–no matter of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. As people of influence–any influence–let’s stand up against hate and for the oppressed!
Let’s speak up.
Let’s be the good voice of God in a culture who needs to hear that God is good, that God loves them, that we love them… and that we’re not going to be silent.
Let’s speak up.
(Stepping off my soapbox now.)