Although I mostly think Erica Jong was wrong-headed in her Wall Street Journal piece last week where she said attachment parenting keeps women in a prison and out of politics (see my response and other links here), I do have to admit that, in choosing to stay home with my children, I am not out there in public schools being an active straight ally for LGBT youth as a classroom teacher. And with another suicide now by a boy who left behind a note that he was sick of being called “faggot” and “sissy,” I feel sad to be out of that role.
I used to sponsor the Gay/Straight Alliance at the high school where I taught English, and I attended a handful of Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conferences then and before that while I was an undergrad and a graduate student. I got on the email list for film producer and distributor (and Respect for All Project creator) GroundSpark (formerly Women’s Educational Media) which recently sent a newsletter with this information about the sad story of Brandon Bitner, who took his life last week, leaving a note that said he didn’t want to be called names anymore.
I am so sad for this latest victim of society’s narrow ideas about gender. Since my recent post about gender-typed baby clothes, my 4.5-year-old has reported at least two different people — other kids, both boys and girls — telling him that boys don’t wear pink. And of course after the flap about the 5-year-old boy who was Daphne for Halloween, it’s clear that people still have a whole lot of issues that might negatively affect my son. I already worry that he’s going to get his ass kicked as a short kid, a kid who is sensitive to others’ feelings and assumes that strangers are all as nice and heartfelt as he is, a kid who likes to sing and who uses his hands way too much when he talks.
I even have a poem that references these concerns in the current issue of Hip Mama. It’s called “White Male,” and in it, I grapple with my having created such a privileged creature. Although the poem sort of dismisses the notion that it’s as much of a hardship to be short (and red-headed) as it is to face racism or sexism, and the poem wonders if my son will ever “get it” about systemic discrimination and about his own privilege, I do have to realize that he is going into a heterosexist world where gender-based expectations can do plenty of harm. I can already see trouble coming, with boys at the neighborhood Halloween parade wielding guns and getting off of the power play. I wish parents would take a stand for peace.
In writing that poem about white male privilege, I think I lost touch with the intersectionality I studied in grad school in women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati. I just wish crappy stuff didn’t keep happening to remind me that no one is free when anyone is oppressed.
About the photo:
Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power is highlighting “wear the shirt” next week as one of the 9 ways to “embrace your power,” to make your passion known. She’s inviting people to send in their photos. This shirt was created years ago by high school students for an LGBT dance when I was part of the Northern Virginia Safe Schools Coalition.
There are, indeed, no excuses for bullying, period.
And I wish it was really all good.
Check out the It Gets Better Project to let LGBT youth know it doesn’t always suck this hard.