Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More late reactions to old news

The other day I found the July 28th issue of Newsweek sitting under some books. The cover story was "Murder in the 8th Grade". The subtitle of the story, right there on the cover (with a picture of the murdered boy) was "At 10, Lawrence King declared he was gay. At 15, a classmate shot him dead. A tale of bullying, sexual identity and the limits of tolerance."

From reading this, even without opening the magazine to the article, I was already angry.

I did go on to read the article, and it just made me angrier. First off, none of us needed to read the story of Lawrence King's life, unless it was to memorialize it. But this article was no memorial. Even though the author claims otherwise, the "tale" of Lawrence King's life is not responsible for his death. Did his being born to a drug addicted mother have anything at all to do with his death? He didn't commit suicide. Another child murdered him.

Yet, we are told all the salacious details of this poor kid's life. And then, to add insult to injury, we are told that his self-identifying as gay at an early age may have made him act out, thus causing other boys to be angry or afraid of him. It is postulated that, in the past (which past?) children didn't hear words like "gay" bandied about so freely, so they would not have identified so early as being homosexual. This is simply not the case. Whether a child has the words or not, they do know, and at very early ages, that they are different or that they are attracted to others of the same sex. This was true one hundred years ago. It is true today. Whether we call homosexuality "gay" or "potatoism" or nothing doesn't change a thing. Are we to believe if we stuff words like gay back in the closet that children will be better off? What a bunch of nonsense!

When I was in the 7th grade, everyone knew that there were two boys who were homosexual in our classes. There probably was more than two boys (and girls) who were gay in our school, for it was large, but I was friends with these two who were "out". We banded together because we were all bullied and teased because we were "different" in some way. But that's not really my point. My point is that there have always been kids who are not "sexually normative". Blaming "permissiveness" for creating a situation where Lawrence King may have set himself up for being killed is just plain wrong.

The real questions are barely asked (because no one knows what they are), and so, they are hardly addressed. Once again, a child kills another child. This time there's "a reason", it seems. No, Lawrence King didn't deserve to die because he was a problem in the school.

Why are there so many school shootings? We've been asking this, half-heartedly, since Columbine. Everyone says "it's because of bullying". Well, there was a whole hell of a lot worse bullying in the past and kids weren't shooting each other. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that bullying is okay and things were better in the old days, but when I read that things may have been better in the old days because we didn't allow students as much freedom of expression, well, I just say "No!"

I have no idea why kids are more apt to pick up a gun and shoot someone in these times. I have some guesses, and none of them have anything to do with childhood sexuality (which exists, has always existed and will continue to exist, no matter how much it unnerves adults).

Today, I'm going to reserve any ruminations about the "whys" for another time. I'd like to encourage anyone who's reading this to sit for a minute or two in silence for Lawrence King.

Image note: I suppose it may be seen as macabre to put this image up on this post. I had tried to find some 1970's gay pride button images, but only found one on someone's blog and since it was his personal collection, felt funny about using it. The reason I wanted to use an image like this is because of a very good friend I had back when I was in high school. At the age of 16, he wore a button that read "How dare you presume I'm hetereosexual?" He also wore makeup on occasion, along with clothes that basically screaming "flaming!" The school we attended was small and it was particularly bully free, but that was probably because almost everyone there had been bullied at other schools (and I suppose that's what landed us in the school for misfits).

Most people who read his button had no idea what it meant. Some of them didn't even know what the word "hetereosexual" meant, never mind the sarcasm. It was 1974. I don't know if my friend ever was the victim of a hate crime, but I've been. Back in 1980, I was walking down the street one evening in New York City and some guys started yelling at me from their car, "Lesbian! Go to hell!" and other assorted phrases of nastiness. They were fixated on the fact that I had a tattoo on my biceps. It was an affront to their sensibilities. One of them got out of the car and punched me in the face, knocking me unconscious. Yes, boys and girls, it once was dangerous for a woman to have a visible tattoo. It appears that it is still dangerous to be homosexual. And Newsweek dares tell us that perhaps the closet is the safest option? I am outraged.

No comments: