Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Disturbing rhetoric in wake of gay suicides

One would think the much-publicized suicide of a Rutgers University student - who jumped from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly webcast him in an intimate moment with his male lover - would create a degree of sensitivity over gay bashing and the bullying of gay people.

In some respect it has. There was a candlelight vigil over the weekend on the Rutgers campus to remember Tyler Clementi. And his suicide has pushed the issue up the mainstream media's agenda. All this week, for example, CNN is doing a series of stories about the bullying of gay people.

If sensitivities are raised as a result of this coverage - then lives may be saved.

But the discourse is also resulting in a backlash as well. One that is quite disturbing.

Less publicized than the tortured end to Clementi's life were the suicides of four gay students in one year in a Minnesota school district. Like on the Rutgers campus, the Anoka-Hennepin School District community is struggling for answers and for ways to prevent more deaths.

Enter the Minnesota Family Council, which asserts that "homosexual indoctrination" - not the bullying of gay students - is to blame for their deaths.

And author Phil Kammer has posted an article at Stumpreport.com where he proclaims that "homophobia is a badge of honor" and argues that homosexuals should be cast from Christian churches and the Republican party. Homosexuals, he writes, "will infiltrate the most conservative of church or most conservative of Republican organization only to foment discontent: remove them."

This kind of rhetoric, while protected speech, carries with it the danger that it could encourage even more bullying - or worse. Even here in progressive New York City there have been a number of attacks on gay people, including one Sunday outside the Stonewall Inn, a famous gay bar in Manhattan's West Village.

It should go without saying that no one should be bullied or attacked because of his or her sexual orientation. Sadly, given these few examples and many others, it bears repeating now.

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