|Subject: fyi: Safe Schools Coalition letter to the
From: Beth Reis
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008
March 25, 2008
Neal Broverman asks the important and provocative question, “Who’s to blame [for Lawrence King’s murder]?” http://www.advocate.com/issue_story_ektid52689.asp His answer seems to be, at least partially, the adult allies who, he says, encouraged Larry to be out. First, I would ask, “Did they?” Telling him he had a right to be himself and still be safe at school is not the same as encouraging him to be out or promising that he would, in fact, be safe. We weren’t there. We don’t know what grown-ups said to Larry.
Here’s what I would recommend to the teachers and allies of youth: It’s not adults' role to push someone in either direction (to be more out or to be more closeted). It's the adults’ responsibility to make sure every young person feels valued just as they are and to help young people to appreciate the possible costs of both openness and hiding. Because neither is without costs. Youth deserve to be supported in whichever choice they make.
Besides, I would question the assumption that being out increases a child’s risk. Gay and, especially, gender variant children are often harassed at school long before they are consciously deciding whether to be out or not. I doubt very much that the bullying Larry endured at school began in eighth grade when he went to live at Casa Pacifica. I would be flabbergasted to learn that it hadn't been happening since he was in kindergarten or first grade. Gender variant little kids don't "choose" to be defiant about the larger culture's gender straight-jackets; it’s how they’re born. They may become more overt about it as they become more aware, at puberty, of its meaning and of their rights, but the harassment is hardly something they bring on themselves. In fact, whether you’re gender variant or gay/lesbian/bi or both, coming out sometimes even reduces the harassment you experience. It's not so much fun to hurl the vicious, "What are you ... gay or something?!" at a person whose response is a simple, non-defensive "yes."
If adults did anything wrong, I doubt it was “urging” Larry to come out.
Maybe there were family dynamics that shaped Brandon; maybe there were mental health issues. Do we, as a culture, value family support and mental health care enough to provide it when it’s so crucially needed? Maybe Brandon had too easy access to a gun. Do we, as a culture, value freedom to shoot more than freedom to live? And, yes, the schools should be teaching about bias. Violence reduction and prejudice reduction must go hand-in-hand and the teaching shouldn’t stop at 5th grade. I agree with Kevin Jennings that schools, in this era of No Child Left Behind, are being forced to focus almost exclusively on test scores, to the exclusion of teaching pro-social skills and addressing prejudice. Are scores really what we, as a society, most value? How are Larry’s and Brandon’s test scores this year?
Let’s not, as a community, decide to encourage closets. Closets kill, too.
Planned Parenthood of Western Washington
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FUAH's Letter regarding the shooting death of Lawrence King in Oxnard CA by Steve Schalchlin - here
Information On Two Memorial Funds for Lawrence King and Other Responses to the Killing of Lawrence King here