There seems to be several people out there lately who have been perpetuating intense hate towards gays. Carl Paladino, a republican running for governor of New York, has publicly said that he found gay behaviour “disgusting,” and that he didn’t march in the gay pride parade because “that’s not the example we should be showing our children.” He also said “there is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”
Considering this man has a 10-year-old daughter from an extramarital affair, Paladino is certainly no one to be setting an example of what is functional and what is dysfunctional. We can ignore him all we want, but people like him are continuously given a platform to say hateful things, and this encourages others to do the same. Lately, however, the problem has become much bigger than just some politician running his mouth off.
In Canada, even though same-sex marriage has been officially recognized since 2005, hate crimes against gays have doubled from 2007 to 2008. They account for 15 per cent of all discrimination cases, with 85 per cent committed towards men, and three-quarters of them being violent attacks.
A large amount of these cases are coming from high schools. Imagine what it’s like getting shoved onto the lockers on a daily basis, or being called a faggot every time you walk down the hallway to your next class. How about being too afraid to leave the school because some bullies said they’d follow you and beat the crap out of you? For a teenager growing up gay, life is already extremely hard and confusing. Throw in the torments high school already brings, and life becomes unbearable.
In just over a month, there have been no less that six suicides of teenage boys because of bullying. The latest, a young man named Tyler Clemeti, jumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommate broadcasted Clementi’s sexual encounter with another man on the Internet.
With everything that led up to Clementi’s death, people have been realizing this really is a growing problem and something needs to be done about it. Vigils have been held across North America in Clementi’s memory. Dan Savage, a gay love columnist, has started the “it gets better” campaign to relay messages of hope from celebrities and everyday people alike.
Joel Burns, an openly gay member of the Fort Worth, Texas city council, gave a speech regarding the devastating hike in teenage suicide, and he had some good advice. He said “I know that the people in your household, or the people in your school, may not understand you, and they may physically harm you. But I want you to know that it gets better.”
There are a number of things you can do to help the cause. You can write a letter to Parliament encouraging them to increase funding to causes that help reduce hate crimes against gays. Urge them to speak out for harsher punishments towards people who commit hate crimes, especially in high schools.
The biggest impact you can have starts at home. The words we choose to say have an effect on the people around us. It’s not OK to use the word gay when really you mean dumb or stupid, or use it to laugh at, or dismiss someone. Teach your children and younger siblings that everyone is different in some way or another. Tell your friends not to discriminate against someone for being who they are. Perhaps if everyone makes an extra effort and speaks out against hate, people like Tyler Clementi and the five other teenagers that tragically took their own lives will no longer be driven to suicide.