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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Will Phillips is a 10-year-old 5th grader in West Fork, Arkansas who refuses to stand up and say the pledge of allegiance at school (Arkansas Times article here). His reason? LGBT people do not have the same rights as other people, and as he says “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.” Let me just reiterate two important points: (a) he’s 10 and (b) he lives in Arkansas. This brilliant 10-year-old wants to be a lawyer when he grows up, and to him freedom of speech means “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.” His parents, who also sound like amazing people, are totally supportive of Will and are not trying to stifle him or prevent him from speaking out at all. Unfortunately for all of his bravery, Will is facing homophobic teasing from his classmates and threats from homophobics everywhere.

I think we can all learn a big lesson from Will. At 10, this little boy has more courage than many (or most) adults in this country. He has the courage to act against the beliefs of his teachers, classmates, and many in his community, because he truly believes that we, as Americans, are not living up to the meaning of the pledge of allegiance. Will deserves our full support, and he has something to teach all of us. If we all started acting like this on a regular basis, people will start to notice and change may just start to happen even faster. I hope Obama learns a lesson from Will as well – that if one little boy can stand up (or sit down as the case may be) against so much evil in this world, then the President of the United States can certainly push back against the conservatives who are trying to keep him from making policies that support the rights of women and the LGBT community in this country. Furthermore, Will is also sending a message of hope to all of the LGBT youth in this country who may be afraid to speak our or reveal their dissatisfaction with their lack of rights.

I am in awe of this little boy, and I hope that we all can start following in his example by questioning authority and refusing to participate in certain “patriotic” acts just because we are told we have to.

Watch Will (and see for yourself how brilliant and fabulous he is) on CNN:

Read Kate Kendell’s post about him here.

You can become a fan of him on facebook here.

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My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.

 

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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