Saturday, October 23, 2010

Belated Thoughts On Wear Purple Day, Suicide, and Bullying

I realize that this is written several days after the actual day this happened. However, I'd like to explain what I felt on that day and it's taken me some time to analyze the thoughts and decisions I made.

This Wednesday, October 20, 2010 was Wear Purple Day, where people dressed in the colour purple to honour the students who killed themselves over the past few months because of their sexuality and to spread awareness about anti-gay bullying, and bullying in general. Several weeks before, I had thought about what the day meant and decided I wouldn't wear purple. These were my reasons:
  • Although I was angry and ashamed that there was an increase in anti-gay bullying and that people still believe that homosexuals are out to eat your babies and destroy the world, I didn't condone the suicides of those teenagers. I also thought that those suicides could have been prevented, if the proper measures would have been taken in time. Let's take a look at the victims-Asher Brown, 13 shot himself in the head. He started being bullied two years before because of his small size, that he didn't wear designer clothes, and that he was Buddhist. He was taunted with gay slurs and with mock sexual acts. Those were two years in which no one did absolutely anything. Two years in which his parents did notice that he was getting bullied but did nothing to prevent it (yes, they did send a note to the school and tried to talk to the school officials, but after they realized that nobody would prevent the bullying, couldn't they have enrolled him into another school?). Two years in which there could have been measures taken, both by the school and by Brown's parents to stop the bullying and the suicide. Seth Walsh, 13 hung himself. The bullying started in fourth grade because he was more comfortable with girls, not interested in sports, and not aggressive. He was more feminine than his male peers and...gay. When one of his classmates found out, he spread it around the school, and the abuse became more centralized and more intense. His family was aware of the bullying and they tried to prevent it by moving him to another school and homeschooling him. Unfortunately, that didn't help. However, if you look at this case and others, Walsh could have been much worse off. There was no physical harm done to him (although he was followed and verbally abused). Justin Aaberg, 15 came out as gay when he was 13. His parents were supportive but only knew of one instance where he had been bullied. He had told them that it was no big deal. In reality, he had been harassed since the eighth grade when a boy went up to him, grabbed him by his genitals, and asked him "You like this, don't you?" He was found crying in the hallway but didn't go to the school counselor. This suicide, I believe, is Aaberg's own fault. His parents were supportive of his sexual preference and if he had told them what was happening to him, they would have helped him. His friends could have helped him. This wasn't a hopeless case where everyone around him despised him. Billy Lucas, 15 started being harassed a year before he comitted suicide. He hanged himself after he called 911 and told the police that they should come because he was causing his mother trouble and that something would happen. His mother dismissed the emergency and told the police not to come. Tyler Clementi, 18 jumped off George Washington Bridge after his roomate secretly filmed him while he was having sex with his boyfriend and posted it on the Internet. This case reminds me of the event several years ago where a high school student killed herself because her ex-boyfriend sent nude photos of her to all of the colleges she was applying to. This could have been easily prevented also. Transferring to a different school until the tumult died down could have saved him. What did his boyfriend do? I didn't hear of him killing himself. Basically, my point is that all of those suicides could have been prevented, either by the victims themselves; their parents, family or friends; or the school. Bullying can't really be prevented, even by caution, awareness, and preventive measures. Kids will be kids will treat others like shit unless they don't. You can't stop that unless they themselves choose not to bully others.
  • Wearing the colour purple might spread awareness to others about (anti-gay) bullying and reach out to others who are being bullied at the time, but what truly does it do? It's not effective enough. It won't really do anything. Even though victims might see that there are others who support them and are willing to help them, they may still suicide. Action is what must be done. And in my school, a more-or-less liberal school, wearing a purple ribbon won't really change anything. It would be more effective in a conservative, homophobic school, but not here.
  • I'm seventeen years old. I can't vote, I'm in high school, and no one takes me seriously. I am really unable to do anything to help the gay rights movement.
These were the thoughts that were going on in my head before I got to school on Wednesday. The day before, however, these thoughts had been ruffled up greatly by quodmenutriut and what she had said in a response to one of my terribly pessimistic and cynical comments. She had said that even though it might not be action, wearing purple, even in a liberal school, will help spread awareness and show those who are being bullied (even in an open school, there are still homophobes) that you support them. Basically, that if you don't try, really nothing will get done. So, as I got to school, I saw my friends who are very open-minded and pro-gay, so they were all wearing purple pins. One of them asked me why I wasn't wearing one and I explained to her the three above points, but in less detail. She repeated what Khai had told me the day before and told me to wear a ribbon. In my confusion of what I truly thought of this situation and the meaning of this day, I took the ribbon and wore it all day. One person asked me about it and looked away once he realized what it was all about. The entire day I felt as though what I was doing wasn't helping at all until as I was walking to my last class, I saw someone who wasn't in the Gay-Straight Alliance wearing a ribbon. I literally stopped in my tracks, my face fell, and watched him walk past me and away. At that moment, I realized that:

Yes. Wearing a purple ribbon is useful. Not because it means you condone suicide, and not because the people who you are trying to help might kill themselves anyway, but because of those who you do reach out to, some of them will realize that there are people in the world who support them and will stand up for them and not let them kill themselves so easily. All of my points that I thought had supported my 'Don't Wear Purple' argument actually completely killed it. Even though I am seventeen, I can help prevent bullying. Because I am seventeen, I can. I personally have gone through it, and I am at the age where it is perfect to help my peers on a personal level. In my liberal school, I have personally been insulted by homophobes and even though I would have insulted him right back, and much more scathingly than he did me, there are others who can't do that. Although I do not honour the victims and don't condone their actions, I believe that that is the point of wearing the ribbon: to tell those who are being bullied "Look. Don't do that. It's not worth it and you can live through it. We're here to help. Truly."

Edit: As quodmenutriut commented, the way that my thoughts actually changed is proof of the power of group action. I'm living proof that thoughts and actions can change because of such an event.
And as a happy ending to this post: start wearing purple for me nowwwwwww

1 comment:

  1. Sends a message to those who are being bullied but also to the bullies! My guess is that is a very efective message since bullies are probably cowards and mostly look for social validation.

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