As a group, W.E.L.L. has started its Y.E.L.L. programming in response to the bullicides in the last year. We are pitching ideas to the Algiers school board about starting a free chess club and book club/writing workshop for jr high students in the public schools. The chess club is important for several reasons, and while I did help start the chess club in my high school, the book club is dearest to my heart in this facet of Y.E.L.L. I believe in the power of literature, just like I believe in the power of “It Gets Better” and BMP T-shirts. Reading about others can help open our own lives to an amazing degree. We have books that highlight LGBT issues, like Totally Joe by James Howe, and After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson. Reading about kids their own age who know someone who is gay or are gay themselves will help our kids see it as a non-issue. Gay happens-it’s not threatening or harmful, it just is. If you’re straight, then no one is going to make you gay. If you are gay, no one is going to make you straight. I want that to be the idea kids grow up with. That they are safe in whoever they are, and no one will force them to be something other than that.
Unfortunately, kids today do not have that piece of mind. Kids believe what their parents believe, and parents can range from open-minded and peaceful to belligerent and violent. I can’t say I understand this chasm of difference, because I do not. What I do believe is that kids today don’t understand the huge spectrum any more than I do; they believe what they’ve grown up believing. Until they can move out on their own, and really see the world without distraction, they won’t be able to decide for themselves. So the problem becomes, what can we do in the meantime, while the kids bulling others are still blind, and the kids being bullied have no hope of it ending before high school ends?
I don’t have a quick-fix answer. I wish I did. All I have are the questions that I think we all have right now. Can we fix it? How? What can we do today-right now-to make it better?
I know one thing we can do: we can talk. We can talk about the kids who are gone now, and why. We can talk about bullies that we had in our school days, and how it didn’t last forever. We can talk about peace and acceptance, and prove that in our own attitudes and lives. We can talk about characters that survive in books, we can talk about role models making stands, we can talk about legislation being written and fought for, and we can wear our shirts and make our video clips. This is all something that any one of us can do, right now, today. You can do it at work-during your lunch break, you can mention the idea. You can do it on the street car, but explaining the LGBT friendly book you’re reading. You can do it silently in line at the grocery by wearing your self-affirmation t-shirt proudly. You can do it by passing this blog on to someone who needs to know they’re not alone.
People are working to make things change. You can be working to make things change. It doesn’t mean you have to tattoo “LGBT” to your forehead or only wear rainbow colors. It means you open your ears first, and your mouth second. It means you risk being looked at sideways. It means that you make a comment to one possible parent, who in turn opens up to one kid, who is then safer from cruelty. Be a part of the change. Save a child’s life, by opening your own.
For more on the references made, check out the following:
BMP T-shirts: http://www.bitchmodeproductions.com/selfaffirmation.html
Forum for Equality in New Orleans: http://www.forumforequality.com/
Y.E.L.L. Booklist: http://astore.amazon.com/wellwoemanlol-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=5