Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘homophobia’

Walk a Mile in their Moccasins

What does the name of Washington, DC’s football team and the 30-mile ridge along the Allegheny Mountains stretching from western Maryland into Pennsylvania have in common?  The names are considered by some to be offensive. For decades, Native Americans, with respect to “Redskins”, and African-Americans, with respect to “Negro” Mountain, have sought to rid the region of these lingering relics of a bygone era. Recognizing that each group’s separate efforts have resulted in little to no success, Cortland Milloy, a columnist for the Washington Post, called for African-Americans and Native Americans to pool their resources to create a stronger voice, one more likely to be heeded. Http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-29/local/36612601_1_offensive-names-washington-redskins-mount-davis.

On another front, Julian Bond and others are trying to forge “a national constituency for civil rights” that includes all Americans standing together to level the playing field for all Americans in our ongoing momentous struggle against inequality and injustice.  After all, as Mr. Bond says, “[lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights are civil rights” worthy of inclusion in our “historic struggle for civil rights” and justice. A critical mass having the power to cut short a politician’s career or detrimentally affect the finances of a reluctant team owner has a better chance of educating the more callous among us and effecting change.

To speak in one voice, however, requires identifying with another’s feelings. Because intolerance is an equal opportunity victimizer, targeting a wide range of characteristics, including race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual preference, age and disability, almost all of us have had the “slings and arrows” of intolerance leveled directly at us. One would think empathy would come easy. Yet, it is still in short supply where intolerance is concerned.

We feign a failure to notice. We stand apart as if we are safe while the “other” is victimized – a “better him than me” mentality. We defend our prejudices by blaming the “other’s” thin-skin. We may even participate in offensive rituals to mask our own fear of being targeted or to pump ourselves up into believing that we are better than “them”. Even if we can say with all certainty that we are not bigots, racists or homophobes, who among us can say we have not laughed at an ethnic joke or said something stereotypically stupid?

Yet, we seethe when vitriol is leveled against us, and are blithely unaware when vitriol spews from us.  Now is the time to walk a mile in their moccasins. Now is the time to feel someone else’s pain. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on this the 50th anniversary of his historic March on Washington – “No one is free [of injustice and intolerance] until everyone is free [of injustice and tolerance]”.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A lesson of tolerance from the Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the United States of America

Girl Scouts of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a decade of statistics evidencing sexual violence against females in America tell a sobering story that, if we are truthful, comes as no surprise.

  • In 1995, of the 126,000 children who were victims of sexual abuse, 75% were girls.
  • In 1997, girls 16-19 were four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • In 1998, one of every six or 17.7 million American women were the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • In 2003, nine of every 10 rape victims were female.
  • In 2006, 232,960 women or 600 women everyday were raped or sexually assaulted. *

Females are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by heterosexual men.  Nonetheless, to their credit, women, for the most part, do not condemn the entire heterosexual male population for the epidemic of violence against them in this country. If they did, society as we know it would cease to exist. Few women would endanger themselves or their daughters by living under the same roof with a man whose heterosexual orientation was the root cause of female sexual abuse.

To condemn an entire group for the acts of a few is a hallmark of intolerance and prejudice. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, an organization devoted to the well-being of America’s girls and young women, has refused to so broadly blame heterosexual men. Accordingly, membership in the organization as adult volunteers is open to both women and men 18 years and over. The organization uses screenings and reference checks conducted by independent, third-party agencies to protect girls and young women from potential volunteers and staff who might cause them harm. See, http://www.girlscouts.org/for_adults/volunteering/volunteer_faq.asp.   This approach seems to have worked.  We have not heard stories of sexual abuse within the Girl Scouts or of its supporters demanding the prohibition of heterosexual males from serving as volunteers.

On the other hand, by refusing to accept gay scouts or permit gay volunteers, the Boy Scouts of America has condemned the entire gay population for sexual violence against boys. In a change of policy, the organization now allows gay youth as scouts, but continues its prohibition against gay volunteers. Some view this change as a step in the right direction. Others view it with fear and trembling. In actuality, the new policy is morally inconsistent and perpetuates the BSA’s blanket condemnation of gay men. The BSA and many of its supporters use their homophobia as a shield against a simple and, perhaps, inconvenient truth. Sexual orientation is not what makes either a heterosexual or a homosexual man a predator. The BSA’s new policy is only an expression of the organization’s continuing prejudice and intolerance, both of which the BSA has no right to teach our children.

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* Http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims, and http://.now.org/issuew/violence/stats.html.  See, National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998; U.S. Department of Justice, 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey, 2003; U.S. Department of Health $ Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey, 1995.

Homophobia and discrimination have no place in scouting

In 1948, Alfred Kinsey sent shock waves through the heterosexual world when he proclaimed that one in every ten men is gay. See, http://www.gallup.com/poll/6961/what-percentage-population-gay.aspx. The percentage may be off, but the concept is not. Heterosexual and homosexual adults and children walk together through life, inexorably intertwined in school, work and social activities. We mix and mingle and yet, for the most part, we are unaware of sexual orientation. For the homophobic, rather than scare, this reality should console.

No doubt, there are evil homosexuals and heterosexuals who populate our lives and the lives of our children. As parents (both homosexual and heterosexual), we must be vigilant to keep our children safe from them. However, the “them” are not evil because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of America’s latest proposal to change its discriminatory rules on gay participation suggests the opposite. The proposal would allow openly gay youth to participate in scouting and would prohibit openly gay adults from participating as scout leaders. At best, the proposal evidences BSA’s lack of confidence in its own programs. At worst, the proposal is blatantly homophobic, discriminatory and inconsistent in its moral teaching.

The new policy is based on the bizarre notion that when gay boys enter adulthood they suddenly become predators and abusers merely because of their sexual orientation. What is even more bizarre if possible is that the Boy Scouts of America, whose mission is to instill “lifetime values”, develop “ethical character” and teach “citizenship, service and leadership”, is making the proposal. Http://www.scouting.org/. The organization apparently believes that gay scouts will mature into predators and abusers notwithstanding years of immersion in the BSA’s character-building programs.

Since no credible evidence exists to support the theory that gay adults are predators as a result of their sexual orientation, the policy is blatantly homophobic and discriminatory. The BSA’s own experience provides some proof of the inaccuracy of this theory. As Kinsey told us, from the founding of the BSA on February 8, 1910, some percentage of youth participants (now over 2.7 million) and adult volunteers (now over 1 million) were and are gay whether or not the BSA permitted their participation. Consequently, for over a century the BSA’s gay adult volunteers at the very least have met the organization’s requirements and functioned in accordance with its stated policies.

By requiring tolerance with respect to only a portion of the gay population, BSA takes a morally incoherent position that cannot withstand logic. Such an indefensible position, however, is not new to the BSA. Until the late 1940’s, rather than prohibiting racial segregation in scouting, the BSA required segregation for those African American boys living in states having segregated schools. As a result, in those jurisdictions the BSA mandated “colored only” troops having facilities and programs inferior to those of their white counterparts and whose African American boys were often not allowed to wear scout uniforms.  Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Boy_Scouts_of_America and http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/african-americans-boy-scout-movement.

Intolerance and discrimination are not “ethical” or a “lifetime value” in America. It is time for the BSA leadership to get in step with the reality of their organization. Homosexual and heterosexual men have been teaching and training homosexual and heterosexual boys since the day the BSA was founded, and will continue to do so whether or not its leadership finally does what is right.

See, http://wapo.st/14z1rdn and http://www.kansascity.com/2013/04/22/4196737/boy-scouts-latest-misstep.html

Photo courtesy of: http://www.glaad.org/blog/president-obama-announces-opposition-boy-scouts-ban-gay-scouts-and-scout-leaders

Schools are scary places

As if we needed another reminder, the horrendous tragedy in Newtown hits home again. Our children are not safe in school. Once there, they are open to harm not only from intruders, but from insiders as well.

We all now know that the carnage in Newtown occurred when a young, disturbed man from the community committed murder upon murder in an elementary school. Though rare, this type of slaughter is not rare enough, but when it happens it instills a terror that will haunt our children for a lifetime.

Sadly, our schools are also a place where terror of another kind much more frequently occurs. This terror stems from a threat within the social population.  The threat is relentless. It occurs virtually daily. It terrifies our children. It affects their emotional, mental and physical well-being. It results in our children not only hating school, but hating themselves. Bullying is the threat, and it knows no boundaries. It can affect any child who is different from the bully, whether, for example, the child is gay, obese, challenged or of another race or religion.

A 2002 report by Public Health – Seattle & King County entitled Bullying and Biased-Based Harassment in King County Schools, http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/data/youth.aspx , found that:

  • Almost half of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having been harassed based on their perceived sexual orientation; and
  • Students who have been harassed based on their perceived sexual orientation are more than six times as likely as their peers to report having carried a gun to school in the measuring month (10.4% vs. 1.7%).

That means over 10% of our gay, lesbian and bisexual youth who were harassed freely admitted to carrying a gun to school for protection. Gun carrying for protection is not even the worst of the statistics. Here’s one that will bring fear to a parent’s heart:

  • 23.2% of students who have been harassed based on their perceived sexual orientation reported having attempted suicide in the measuring year – more than three times the rate of their non-harassed peers (23.2% vs. 7.1%.).

Because of ignorant bullies, OUR CHILDREN ARE DYING, whether in body, in mind or in soul. As with the threat to our children from outside the school, the threat from within its walls has got to stop. Our precious children deserve no less.

Image courtesy of: http://www.buffaloschools.org/Burgard.cfm?subpage=85471

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