Posted on April 20th, 2012
Today is usually the day that I post some kind of DaveToon showing solidarity with those students taking part in the National Day of Silence. It's a worthwhile demonstration (in its seventeenth year) which calls attention to those who would silence the effects of anti-LGBT bullying in schools.
But I'm just too saddened to stay silent this year.
Maybe it's because the epidemic of gay youth suicide hit very close to home earlier this year when a guy going to my high school alma mater killed himself as a result of bullying.
Maybe it's because I learned that friends of mine have a brilliant, funny, amazing child who is being so badly bullied at school that they're only option is to home-school him because they are starting to fear for his life.
But probably it's because I came back from vacation and one of the first news stories I read is how 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. comes out as gay, immediately became a target of unrelenting bullying, and is dead a month later by his own hand...
I look at this photo and my heart breaks at the thought of him waking up each morning trying to find the courage to get through just one more day. I look at this photo and try to fathom just how bad his life was that killing himself was the best solution he could think of to escape it. I look at this photo and wonder for the millionth time how somebody could be so cruel as to torture somebody over something that's not their fault, something they cannot change, and something that shouldn't matter. I look at this photo and die a little bit more inside because we live in a society where kids are killing themselves because they're different.
Was there nobody who would stand up for this poor kid?
If not for hearing this same story play out dozens of times before, it would be inconceivable.
New videos are being added to the It Gets Better Project all the time, and yet telling these kids over and over again that they're lives will be okay if they will "just hang in there" doesn't seem to be enough. In some cases, it doesn't matter how great things will be in the future, life is just too difficult for them to go on right now. And never was this made more clear than when looking at Kenneth's "When I Get Married" Pinterest page. He lived in Iowa where same-sex marriage was legal, had envisioned a bright future for himself where he would be married and happy, but didn't survive long enough to see it.
Which means that things need to BE better right now.
Kids need to know that they are accepted and valued right now.
Which is tough to get across when every time you turn around there's yet another attack on LGBT persons. Religious leaders screaming that being gay is an abomination... politicians saying that gays getting married will doom society... news pundits saying that gay soldiers will ruin our military... hate groups saying that if kids see gay people in public they'll turn gay... the dumbassery never seems to stop. It's all fucking bullshit, of course, but that's the kind of environment which is corrupting today's youth and turning them into bullying hate machines. It's horrifying how something so grotesque could ever become acceptable to society, but history is replete with examples of this kind of hatred going "mainstream." We just never seem to learn from it.
And yet... in small steps, things are moving in the right direction.
And more steps are being taken every day. Sadly, some of them are steps backwards, but ultimately we are inching ahead. Which means we're making progress. Which means things are getting to be better for school kids right now. But not nearly fast enough. Because Kenneth Weishuhn deserved to live to see the future he saw for himself, and any society which would deny him that doesn't deserve any future at all.
Rest in peace, Kenneth. And forgive me for not being able to stay silent on a day where silence is meant to improve things for people just like you... innocent kids who deserve far better by our hands.