School Climate & Safety Opinion

Anti-Gay Violence Should Be Our Call to Action

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — May 23, 2013 2 min read
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On Friday, May 17, Mark Carson died. As reported in the New York Times, he died because Elliot Morales shot him. Morales, yelling antigay slurs, walked behind Mark and a friend, and asked “You want to die tonight?” And then he shot him. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reported, “It is clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay.” On May 20, Dan Contarino was called anti-gay epithets while he was thrown to the ground and kicked and beaten. What responsibility do we have in this continuing, and growing violence against persons who are gay or are thought to be gay? We think serious responsibility.

We lead schools in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children are in attendance every day. They read the newspaper and watch the news. They watch as some states pass laws that allow gay people to marry and as others stand up to say it is not natural to love or want to marry someone of your own sex. They hear passing comments like, “Oh, that is so gay” or “Faggot” and watch no one respond. What are we teaching if we do doing nothing?

As leaders, as teachers, as adults who work with children, we have a responsibility to teach inclusion, acceptance, kindness, and understanding; not only of points of view, but of people, who they are. If we haven’t looked inward to examine our own fears, or ignorance, we should now. As the successful legislation of gay marriage increases, violence against and ignorance toward gay people must not increase. Bullying based upon sexual orientation is well addressed by Violence Prevention Works who use the renown Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. They make the statement, “No child or adolescent deserves to be bullied.” Yes, this behavior against gay children and adults is bullying behavior.

If we can make a commitment to eradicate anti-homosexual slurs and to counsel those who make them to understand the root of their attack...we have begun to address our responsibilities. Why is it accepted that if I have difficulty understanding or accepting who you are I have the right to be violent toward you? Why is that ok? It is not. And verbal violence, when accepted in the school house, can sow the seed of the violence against Mark Carson, Dan Contarino, and all the others who have been beaten, called names, had rocks thrown at them, been dragged by cars, tied to trees, laughed at and killed for being who they are. Yes, all of these things have happened to human beings who have done nothing other than being who they are.

We must sow a different seed. Whether we understand why people are attracted to others of the same sex, or why some are driven to physically change their sex, or why some are attracted to both sexes, we must provide a safe environment in which these children can feel accepted. There is not one story of someone going through this evolution while growing up that is not filled with angst, fear, and confusion. And those standing by while this is happening, and fail to teach the alternative to bullying language, not only hurt the gay child, but may be contributing to the development of one who grows into a hateful, and yes, even violent adult. Violence begets violence. We must teach the alternatives.

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