Bullying, intolerance toward gay teens must end


University of Kentucky student Shannon Frazer, pictured in the Kernel office on 10/14/09. Photo by Ed Matthews

Column by Shannon Frazer. E-mail

Bullying is never O.K., no matter what.

But the latest hike in suicides among gay teens has brought the gay bullying issue to national attention.

In the past month, Americans have had the misfortune of learning through tragedy about this bullying surge through newspaper headlines.

For instance, 13-year-old Seth Walsh hung himself in his Tehachapi, Calif., backyard after his peers taunted him endlessly at school.

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate ousted him for being gay via the Internet.

Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas reportedly faced ongoing verbal abuse as a gay student and hung himself Sept. 9.

And 13-year-old Asher Brown, Texas native, shot himself after facing ongoing taunting at his middle school.

It’s devastating to realize that it took these publicized suicides to bring this topic to the forefront.

What’s more devastating, though, is that the suicides were preventable. The wall of intolerance prevalent in American society is to blame.

Famed gay comedian Ellen DeGeneres recently addressed this issue in a message for all Americans.

In her speech, she said, “This needs to be a wake-up call to everyone that teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic in this country, and the death rate is climbing. One life lost in a senseless way is tragic, four lives lost is a crisis.”

I couldn’t agree more.

According to an Oct. 3 New York Times article, gay activists have recognized the need for federal officials to step in.

“This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms,” Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said Friday.

While efforts expand nationwide, local concerns remain unaddressed.

In my experience, the most troubling display of this intolerance comes from the preachers that deliver their anti-gay messages in the free speech area outside of the UK Student Center. Even though the taunts aren’t directed at me, I’m still offended and confused why preachers feel the need to call out against — and ultimately judge — students.

Personally, I think it’s inappropriate to express intensified and pointed hate toward a particular group, whether a person agrees or disagrees with that group’s message.

Even if homosexuality is against these preachers’ beliefs, if a mere difference in perspectives is justification for constant torment, then I don’t understand their argument. Sexual orientation is not a legitimate cause for verbal abuse.

More people need to stand up against this intolerance, no matter their stance on gay issues. They should learn to have the heart to appreciate and value others’ lives as much as their own. Ideologies may differ but should never be exploited, especially by invective means.