Archive for the ‘Bullying’ Category

>Bullied

November 30, 2010

>Tonight is a free film screening of the documentary Bullied followed by a panel discussion. The film is being presented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is sponsored by the UAB Safe Zone and Co sponsored by the UAB Gay/Straight student alliance, the Alliance for LGBT Equality at UAB, UAB Chi Sigma Iota, and Alabama Safe Schools Coalition.

The film will be shown at Hill University Center Auditorium at UAB, 1400 University Blvd, at 7:00 PM November 30 (today).

Here’s the trailer to the film.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see this important film. It should be shown in every school, and Southern Poverty Law Center will see that you get a copy for your school.

>Deep Purple

October 19, 2010

>Tomorrow I’m going to be purple.

You should too.

Wear purple on Wednesday as a way of demanding safe schools. Let people know why you are wearing purple. Teens gotta feel safe.

Specifically, in Alabama, the Student Harassment Prevention Act which was signed into law last year neglected to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression while offering protection for such things as race and religion as characteristics about which students should not be harassed or bullied. In other words, kids can get away with calling fellow students fag or queer or pansy until that kid begins to skip school or harms them self. But use a racial slur, or challenge someone’s disability, and it stops right there.

“Oh, the gays are screaming again about a perceived problem that really doesn’t exist,” you might say.

A survey by the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition of Alabama high school students revealed some startling facts.

59% have been verbally harassed at school (called a derogatory word)

22% have been physically harassed

58% have had mean rumors or lies spread by other students

Remember, these are Alabama students. These actions have consequences.

34% felt unsafe at school

18% have skipped school because of harassment

60% report they have been unable to concentrate in classes

36% report they have had lower grades because of harassment

43% report they have had thoughts of suicide

These are students in our schools. 43% are thinking of suicide.

Harassment and bullying is affecting their grades.

And the problem is not just with other students.

29% felt that they had been treated unfairly by their teachers or administrators.

Over 50% reported problems with anger, self esteem issues, and increased problems interacting with peers. Significant numbers also report feelings of spiritual isolation, eating disorders and headaches.

It could be your kids, or your grand kids, or your niece or nephew being harassed. and it affects all the kids, not just the gay ones.

So do this.

First, go here to send a message to your state Senator. Over 180 messages have already been generated, including a good number from Bessemer. Priscilla Dunn will be getting the message, but I am 100% sure that she is already on the right side of this issue. But we want the Alabama Senators to know that they can fix this problem by passing an “upgrade” to the bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression..

2. Wear purple on Wednesday, and tell people why.

Now, you don’t have to go this far. This Brit boy turned his whole self purple.

Now I am about to make a major upgrade to my laptop. So I may come back here tomorrow very happy, or I may not come back at all. But regardless, I’ll be (wearing) purple.

And, I’m reminded of my favorite Deep Purple song from the days in my parent’s basement when there was a smoky haze in the air. You might be more familiar with the Tina Turner version, or even Celine Dion, but this is the original, and the instrumentals at about the 3:00 mark are unbelievable.

River Deep Mountain High

>Coming out

October 11, 2010

>

Coming out as a gay person, or a lesbian, a bisexual, or transgender, is not an event, it’s a process. A series of events, actually, because one must choose whether to share that information again and again and again.

One might be out to friends and not to family. Or out to friends and family and not at work. Or out to friends and family and at work but not at church.

Today is National Coming Out Day. That is a day, according to Wikipedia, for civil awareness for coming out and for discussion of LGBT issues.

It’s also Columbus Day, but that’s a bit controversial since Christopher came over here as what may be called an illegal immigrant and as a result the Native Americans had their land taken away.

So I’ll avoid controversy and write about being gay and coming out.

I came out to a co-worker (an employee of mine actually) 15 years ago on this day, by coincidence. I didn’t know it was National Coming Out Day until the next year. What a relief, to finally be able to say what I had bottled up inside for years. Of course, I knew that this person I told would be OK with it.

But in actuality I had come out a couple of months prior to that when I(figuratively) knelt before God and asked forgiveness for lying to Him and others about my sexuality and for strength as I sought to finally become the person He wanted me to be). That is when the big burden was lifted off my shoulders.

Then I came out again; to my family. At 40 something years of age that was difficult enough. I can’t imagine doing so at 13 or 17 or 20 like kids are doing these days. My hat is off to them and I offer them all the encouragement in the world.

But for some of them, in fact, even for some who do not come out, things are not rosy. Some are harassed. Some are bullied, some think they have have no where to turn, some take their own lives.

Such must have been the case for 19 year old Zach Harrington in Norman Oklahoma, the most recent young gay person to be in the news for taking his own life, reported yesterday.

Yesterday, as vigils were being held, across the country and in Birmingham, to highlight the problem of anti-gay bullying and teen suicide. Read about the Birmingham vigil and view pictures of the speakers here.

So here we are urging people to come out, but with the knowledge that some will put their relationships, their jobs, their lives, in jeopardy.

I admire those brave kids like 16 year old Garrett Hopkins who attends Vestavia Hills High School, where I graduated way back when, who has been a target of bullying at his school, yet bravely attends last night’s candlelight vigil in memory of bullied kids who took their lives and speaks to the media with no apparent reservations.

I’ve been urging kids by telling them “It Gets Better,” and for me it certainly did. Who knows what my life would have been like had I come out at 16 years of age. But at that time in Vestavia there was nothing to come out to. No support groups. No Equality Alabama, no Trevor Project, no cell phones to text my friends, no facebook and no internet and not even a cordless phone where I could get out of the kitchen to talk to someone on the phone. How was I to learn that being gay is OK?

Everyone is in a different situation and each individual must take many factors into account when deciding who to confide in. But as far as confiding in oneself goes, the first very important step, that can, and should, be done by anyone.

Now a word to the parents out there. If you have a child, that child could be gay. “Gay” here means any sexual minority. Go ahead, regardless of the age of your child, and tell yourself, “I will love my son or daughter regardless of who they chose to love or who they are attracted to.”

And let your kids know at a young age that you are accepting of all people and they will feel more comfortable if and when they let you in on the secret they’ve been hiding.

Like most gay people, I knew as a kid that I was somehow different.

Maybe not quite this young, but a couple of years after this picture was taken I knew. I love that shirt by the way, think I could find one in my size? And I realize there’s a little phallic element to the picture with the rocket and all…but I digress.

But even after I went off to college, I still could not admit to myself what I actually knew. Does that make sense? It will to some of you.


I immersed myself in religion, Campus Crusade for Christ to be precise, while submitting to secret urges on the downlow. I was as big a hypocrite as Pastor Eddie Long, I guess. Well, not really. I didn’t preach or speak against homosexuality, I just shared the Four Spiritual Laws.

I only share this information in order to let questioning people of any age know that where ever you are there are steps you can take to gain self confidence and eventually to come out.

And I hope that when you do, it does get better, just as it did for me.

>Western Tribune Column February 4 2009

February 4, 2009

>This is my column from today’s Western Tribune.

Update: The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care bill (medical marijuana bill), which I mention in this column, will be before the Judiciary committee Thursday. Go to the link to see how you can support this effort. Priscilla Dunn of Bessemer is one of the members of the committee. Urge her to support the bill.

The political arena will be more active than usual over the next few months, as potential state senators scramble for the seat recently vacated by E. B. McClain. And when the special election is over, there may be a vacant state representative or Bessemer Council seat to fill. And if a certain state representative wins, a certain Bessemer council person will most likely run for that seat.

Fruit basket turnover.

Then, this month, Artur Davis is expected to announce his run for Governor. Various office holders, including one who is planning to run for McClain’s seat, have expressed interest in that office as well.

In the meantime, the Alabama legislative session begins this week. Last year, the senate shut down, who even remembers why? What we remember is a group of elected officials putting their differences above the interests of the people they represent.

As of this writing, 216 bills have been pre-filed in the house, and 59 in the senate. This includes a bill that would prohibit the cloning of humans as well as one that would require the owner of dangerous dogs to post warning signs on their property.

Wouldn’t it good to add this: prohibit the cloning of dangerous dogs, and require dangerous humans to post warning signs on their property?

A bill will once again be introduced to outlaw salvia, a little known plant that has even littler effects. As Loretta Nall says, if they want to go around outlawing problem plants, let’s start with kudzu.

Seriously (if the Alabama legislature can be taken seriously) there are some important issues that will be addressed during the session. Budgets and taxes and things like that. Let’s hope the legislators will be big boys and girls and play nice.

A bill that would legalize medical marijuana will likely be introduced. The American Medical Association recommends relaxing restrictions on the medical use of the plant, and science backs this position.

Marijuana is already the biggest cash crop in the state, with almost three times the production value as the runner up, cotton, according to the most recent numbers I found. We might as well regulate it. And put it to good use.

Other bills that should be passed include a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation and an anti-bullying bill that would protect kids in school. Our streets and schools need to be safer.

The upcoming weeks promise to be interesting.