Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Bullying of Gay Youth: What Can be Done to Stop It?

What can be done to stop the bullying of gay youth? The horrible deaths of the young men reported recently in the media are very disturbing. What can we do to stop this bullying? Below are some suggestions.

1) Keshet (, the organization that works for full inclusion of sexual minorities in Jewish life, suggests:

Ten Things You Can Do Today to Strengthen Our (LBGT) Community

1. Find truth in the Torah. Ask your rabbi to give a Dvar Torah (or write your own) about the tragic events of the past month and our responsibility as Jews to speak out and work to end homophobia and transphobia. Here's a beautiful example from Rabbi David Mitchell, Radlett & Bushey Reform Synagogue, UK.

2. Speak out. The next time you hear someone say "That's so gay," tell that person why those words are hurtful and can have disastrous consequences.

3. Make your support visible. Post a Jewish GLBT Safe Zone sticker in your synagogue, classroom, camp bunk, office, or website.

4. Take action for equal rights. Contact your legislator to support ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that prevents people from being fired or discriminated against at work for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

5. Keep youth safe and supported. If you are a Jewish educator or administrator at an educational institution, provide training and resources for your staff on how to create safe, inclusive spaces for GLBT and questioning youth. Help start a Gay-Straight Alliance.

6. Come out as an ally. October 11 is National Coming Out Day. If you are a straight Jewish community leader, let people know that you are an ally to GLBT people and keep the messages of support coming.

7. Come out. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and/or queer, come out and keep coming out. This simple act will help others.

8. Talk to your children. Middle and high school students witness homophobic and transphobic bullying and teasing every day. Tell your children you support them and that all kids deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

9. Tell your story. Whether you are queer or a straight ally, upload a video to the It Gets Better Project" and share your story with young people who need to hear your message. Visit the Make it Better Project to see powerful stories about what young queers and allies are doing right now to improve their schools and communities.

10. Seek support/give support. If you or someone you know is struggling with issues around sexual orientation and/or gender identity, know that you are not alone. Crisis support is available 24/7 through The Trevor Project, 1.866-4.U.TREVOR.

Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives. Go to the Keshet website to sign it Now!

2) From the news website, 365Gay, John Culhane suggests many avenues of action. See his column at:

May we find truth in the Torah!


Leslie said...

All very helpful if the bullied victim has some kind of support group but having taught in the public schools for 30+ years, I know that there are many who "get off" on being mean kids and bullying. Alot of kids being bullied are out there alone even when they have supportive families. As a parent, how would you (& me) deal with this?

Pete M said...

Thanks for your comment.
Yes, it's difficult to combat bullying, but that's no reason not to try. How about education, social pressure against bullying, a strong stance against bullying by the school administration, rather than ignoring it or claiming it doesn't exist or claiming that "boys will be boys" and thus giving tacit approval to the bullies. How about exposing kids to speakers who not only condemn bullying, but point out that sexual minorities exist, have always existed, and are part of life. The reason the schools don't do more is that their administrators are afraid of homophobes on the school board and their religious allies.
Stopping bullying is difficult but not impossible.

Kaji said...

Thanks, Peter. This reminds me that we should think about pulling the Visible Witness group together here at Saint Peter's Church to work on the problem of gay bullying. Have you seen my sermon on this?

Pete M said...

Thanks for your comments and thanks for your powerful sermon. Gay bullying reminds me of Don Cupitt's point that our language creates our world. Language has profound effects on us and those we can reach with our language. It is our "life and conversation" that makes the difference for good or ill.

Leslie said...

I completely agree that it's important to do all the things you mention and they are being done in the form of special programs, assemblies, PTSA, etc. So I know it will eventually have an impact but there will continue to be those who take great pleasure in bullying. Those who get bullied whether due to race, sexual orientation, mental & physical problems must learn how to protect & keep themselves as safe as possible and to know who they can get help & support from.

I love yoga and today's front page in the Sea Time had an article on yoga being "demonic"'s a new group of people who could possibly be bullied, tongue in cheek but...

Pete M said...

Thanks for your comment. It's important to work to minimize the influence of that hardcore nasty group. Perr pressure and sanctions are important here.