A Glass of Sass

Kick My Ass, Please!

Posted by on November 20, 2011 at 7:57 am » 30 Comments

It may be hard to believe but I was bullied in school.

You’re probably struggling with that confession. After all, who would bully the loud mouthed, four eyed, red headed, chubby teacher’s pet/drama geek? To top it all off, I had a lisp. These days we refer to this speech impediment as a “sibilant S”, which is ironically comical considering those diagnosed with a “sibilant S” cannot properly pronounce “sibilant S”. For these crimes against junior and high school societal expectations, I was bullied.

Inconceivable!

I was the kid who couldn’t climb the rope, the kid with the dog that ate her gym shorts. The “teacher, teacher, I know the answer” hand flailing in the air with the “I’m so much smarter than the rest of you” smug look on her face kid. The Value Village clad when everyone else was wearing Bootlegger jeans geek who sat at the front of the class and picked the spit balls out of her waist length, mangy, carrot orange hair at the end of the school day. I danced like Elaine from Seinfeld, read Margaret Atwood while the other girls read “The Sweetheart Romance Series” and marched for Nuclear Disarmament on the weekends. I was the kid you beat up by the bike racks at 3:15pm. On the dot. In fact, I had “daily ass kicking” pencilled in my precisely kept “must get done today” schedule insert in my perfectly organized binder.

“That” kid.

Growing up in a small, west coast farming community in the 1980’s era of “head bangers” and “punk rockers” wasn’t exactly a joyride for a devout, tea totaler religious girl who dressed like a cast member of “Sister Wives”. We didn’t have Facebook back in those days. We had “slam books”, year books and the bathroom stall wall. We didn’t have Twitter, we had the lunchroom, gym class and sock hops. And I was the kid “most likely to be ridiculed” in every one of those settings.

My sharing of this with you isn’t a desperate cry for pity. In all honesty, when I look back on the kid I was I think of a line from a recent Eagles hit: “If I could find your inner child, I’d kick its little ass.” I would have seriously kicked my own ass. You can take comfort in knowing I had my ass kicked literally and figuratively a lot in those days. And I mean a lot.

A “good” school day was making it to my driveway without being shoved into a locker or physically threatened by a girl with a roach clip feather in her hair and “Bon Jovi 4-Ever” scrawled in permanent ink on her Adidas bag. A “good” day was getting home without a rip in my out of date, high waisted polyester pants as a result of getting into a fight behind the math portable in the soccer field.

A “bad” day isn’t something I want to share. In the end the “bad” days didn’t count for anymore than the “good” days. I survived them all, as did every other geek, misfit, nerd, devoutly religious, fat, “different” kid I went to school with. We got up every morning. We put on our “flood” pants, grabbed our pocket protecters and our perfectly organized binders and we walked to school hoping we could at least make it to the front entry before anyone came at us. We faced the barbs, hid out in audio visual club and the drama room at lunch hour and walked as close to the lockers as we possibly could when we made our way down the hall. We dealt with everyday of those years without being pacified, placated, protected or comforted. Teachers didn’t listen to our complaining in those days. Guidance counsellors would drag us into small, dank offices that reeked of burnt coffee and cigarette smoke (teachers could still smoke in the staff room back then) and tell us to get over it. Or to look at our own behavior. Or to just ignore it.

We survived it without “anti bullying” initiatives.

There were no “anti bullying” policies. And unless blood was drawn or teeth were lost on school property, school administrators turned their heads. Our fathers told us to learn how to fight back. Our mothers told us to “try to play nice with the other children.” Through it all the adults in our lives maintained the same mantra:

“Kids will be kids”.

Since the days of my high school experience we’ve been witness to Columbine in the United States of America and to the nightmare that happened in our own backyard, the Taber school shootings. These events were terrifying. As a parent of young children when both events occurred I can tell you I lost plenty of sleep and peace of mind during those dark days. Like many parents I worried not only about what could happen to my children but also the possibility of one of my own “misfit” boys being one of “those” children. The children who are bullied and eventually crack. The children who don trench coats and semi-automatic weapons on a Monday morning and gun down their classmates.

What I didn’t realize at that time was that my fears, nightmares and loss of sleep were not caused entirely by those isolated events but were fed by a media that refused to move on from those events in an attempt to hang on to the ratings the horror of school shooting stories brought them. In reality, those events were anomalies. Abhorrent, yes. Worthy of our attention, yes. The “norm” – absolutely not. The result of our terror and discomfort was the “anti bullying” initiatives that sprung up in the wake of these media fed anomalies. Rather than examine the true root of the cause, we handed everything over to the school boards, pointed our collective finger in their direction and told them to make us feel “okay” when we dropped our kids off at the front doors every morning. “Fix it!”, we said. And they answered back with pointless initiatives that addressed a somewhat non existent issue.

In more recent years the glare of the media spotlight has been repositioned to shine on “gay teen suicides” and as a result these stories have become the new cause for “anti bullying” initiatives. Just as in the case of the Columbine and Taber school shootings the media has focused on a few, tragic suicides of gay teens and bombarded us with the heart wrenching stories of these bullied, emotionally tortured lives lost before their time. These stories sadden us. They pull at our heart strings. These stories make us stop in front of our TV’s, put down the dirty plates from our table and shake our heads. These stories make us watch the six o’ clock news. But what the media doesn’t tell us while the leftover roast beef congeals on the dining room table is this:

On a per capita basis, gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a 44 year old straight man with a wife and a family.

Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a widower in his late 80‘s.

Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a 24 year old first nations male living on a Canadian reservation.

Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a member of the RCMP.

In fact, on a per capita basis in this country, gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.

Don’t believe me? I suggest you read this Statistics Canada link

Surprised? Of course you are. Because the mass market media has convinced you that gay teen suicide is an epidemic in this country. We willingly accept the outcome of these stories, the “anti gay bullying” initiative brought forward by the Edmonton Public School Board because supporting this initiative satisfies us. We placate ourselves in the face of these tragic tales by saying “we are making a difference! We are protecting these kids!”

“We support the gays!”

In truth, by supporting these initiatives, by placating ourselves with the “protect those bullied, weak, gay teens” outcry we are insulting, segregating, objectifying the very same people we profess so proudly to be protecting. We are showing ourselves to be exactly what we say we are not; a society of homophobes. Our protective initiatives do little more than perpetuate the image of the LGBT community as victims. It’s an insult to them. It’s an insult to ourselves. It’s an insult to any young person, gay, straight or “different” that has survived the barbs of high school and come out stronger for it. How dare we consider them so weak, so victimized?

How dare we deny their strength?

In a recent interview, Scott Thompson, openly gay comedian of “The Kids in the Hall” had the following to say when asked of “gay bullying” initiatives:

At first read Mr. Thompson’s comments may seem inflammatory and Perez Hilton had plenty to say about it on his website. But if Scott Thompson’s comments are disturbing to us it is most likely because we are conditioned to see gay men as victims. We are conditioned to see gay men as effeminate, weak, incapable of fighting back, incapable of defending themselves and entirely reliant on the protection of self professed liberals and self interested politicians. We couldn’t be more wrong in these assumptions.

Case in point:

Had I been on the bus when my friend Matthew stood up to protect himself, I would have organized a parade in his honor. A fabulous, well coordinated parade.

My closest circle of friends includes more than a few “gays”. Their sexual orientation means nothing to me until I’m confronted by a media that tells me I must understand them. I must recognize that they are “different” and need me to stand up for them, to fight for them, to ensure none of my straight friends judge them or bully them. I must ensure, without them ever verbalizing the request, that I am willing to go to battle for them against any homophobe that crosses their path. I never think of them as “gay” until such time as the media reminds me that they are gay and I owe them something because of that.

Bullshit.

If I were to attempt to stand in front of one of my friends when some ignorant homophobe chose (unwisely) to “get up in their face” about their sexual orientation, my friend would kick my ass out of the way so he or she could kick the ass of the ignorant loser who got up in their face.

Equality means no special exceptions. No initiatives that protect one faction of society from another. Fat, gay, transexual, transvestite, straight, geek, genius, pretty, ugly – EQUAL. When we legislate in order to protect “those gays” we deny them their equality.

Ignorance cannot be legislated. There will always be homophobes. There will always be people who are uneducated, insecure, wounded in their own world who find some faction of society to lash out at. There will always be victims who will cry and request special treatment because they believe they are at the mercy of the ignorant. By legislating how the ignorant can behave, what they can say, we not only cause them to be more angry and defiant, we strip those we have defined as in need of our protection of the right and the motivation to stand up for themselves. We pacify those who choose to be victims, enrage the ignorant and shine a light on the anomaly as opposed to the norm.

In the end we who so proudly announce ourselves as “protectors” are the very people who victimize those we profess to protect.

My comment on Matthew’s status update was as follows:

Matthew didn’t need me or anyone else to stand in his way, but he appreciated our applauding his willingness to stand up for himself.

Do Matthew a favor. Stop creating initiatives based on what you perceive to be his weakness. Because if you don’t stop treating him like he is a victim, he might be forced to kick your ass.

 

 

Footnote:

Following my post it was requested by many that I cite my sources for the broad statements I made with regard to those demographics more likely to commit suicide than gay teens. The sources I used are as follows. Many of these sources contain more information than just the simple table provided by Stats Canada.

With regard to the rate of suicide amongst police officers, it is difficult to find precise numbers for RCMP members however many sources site inadequacy in those numbers that are published due to an unwillingness of police forces to be transparent when disclosing suicide amongst law enforcement members to the public. Many of the sources I used for this information clearly state that the suicide rate amongst law enforcement members is actually quite higher than the general public is made privy to due to a unwillingness of police forces to be open about that rate. I’ve done my best to weed through the information available on those rates.

All of that having been said, if you view only one of my “sources” for this post, please make it this video by Cornell’s Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams wherein he describes the fallacy of “gay teen suicide” rates: http://www.cornell.edu/video/?VideoID=988

I also highly recommend this series in Psychology Today by Izzy Kilman who suggests “anti bullying” policies of any type do far more harm than good and suggests alternative courses of action to deal with school “bullying”.

 

 

 

Stats Can Information on Suicides and Suicide Rates

http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/hlth66a-eng.htm

http://www.imfcanada.org/article_files/Canadian%20Suicide%20Statistics.pdf

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/mh-sm/pdf/suicid_e.pdf

Demographics most at risk for suicide in Canada:

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/meas-haut/mu_y-eng.php

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/CanadaAM/20111003/suicide-series-facts-statistics-111003/

Suicide rates amongst law enforcement source information:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-02-08-police-suicides_x.htm

http://www.officer.com/article/10232405/2009-police-suicide-statistics

http://www.policesuicideprevention.com/id48.html

Suicide rates amongst aboriginals source information:

http://www.med.uottawa.ca/sim/data/Suicide_e.htm

Suicide rates amongst elderly males source information:

http://www.theinterim.com/issues/euthanasia-suicide/suicide-rates-on-rise-for-elderly-canadians/

  • http://twitter.com/habanerogal habanerogal

    Love Love Love your perspective on this issue. In the long run we all have to stick up for ourselves whether we are the “runt” or the “nerd” it feels good to stand up for yourself and proudly walk home with a bloody nose.

  • Matthew Edmpetlover

    All I have to say is “thank you”

  • http://twitter.com/jessieradies Jessie Radies

    Kiki, two years ago my girls (then K and grade 2) were getting pushed around on the playground at school.  We live in the inner city, and life can be a bit rough.
     I gave them three things to do to stop it 1 – say “stop I don’t like that”2 – Push back hard, hard enough to knock the bully on their butt (we practiced pushing, so they could do it)3 – If they got hit, hit back hard and don’t stop until the bully stops or is crying.We also told them they could never ever ever, hit or push first.My girls were afraid to do these things, because they would get in trouble.I went and spoke to their teachers and shared my instructions and told the teacher to call me, if there were any issues, but my kids were not to be punished for defending themselves.That afternoon I got a call from the principle of the school.  He was appalled at my instructions for the girls, and read me the riot act for encouraging violence.  (remember they are in K and grade 2)I told him my instructions stood, and if he wanted to reduce the violence, perhaps they should increase the level of supervision on the playground.
    Two days latter, my daughter in K, came bouncing to the car after school, she had been pushed, followed my instructions and after asking for it to stop, pushed back and made the bully cry.  She was proud and empowered and the bullying stopped.
    Life is not always easy and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.  You might as well learn that young.

  • Kbigelo

    Awesome article Kikki. I couldn’t agree with your views more. I’ve never been a fan
    Treating anyone special because there are “different” in any way.
    We are all different in our own way. It’s when we get treated differently that we feel different.

  • Miss Ella

    Great article and perspective Kikki! I too grew up in a time where I was bullied as well and my dad taught me how to fight. Now in my later years I thought I had grown from the experience, and I have.  But lately I have found myself reverting back to that door mat thinking it is ok to let my MATURE friends still bully me. This article is a nice reminder for me to not let others diminish me and perhaps do a little ass kicking myself ;) And certainly not call those few people in my life friends. It’s a nice wake up call and it has been heavy on my mind lately! Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/TricommStrategy Carla Howatt

    Oh Gosh, where to begin? Well, the obvious place is assuming that anti-bullying initiatives say that gays or others are victims. That is a pretty big assumption to base your entire argument upon. I don’t know about all anti-bullying initiatives, but I checked out the one in Sherwood Park and discovered that, as I suspected from previous encounters with the centre, that there is nothing about victimization of gays or anyone else.

    The initiative is based on teaching ALL kids boundaries, what is ok and what is not ok. How to speak up when your boundaries have been crossed, how to respect others boundaries. It attempts to teach ALL children to put themselves in the shoes of the person being bullied. Would it feel good to be bullied? would it make you feel sad? mad? Is this something you would want happening to a friend? a sibling? yourself?

    Nowhere do I see any talk of victimization, treating people as unable to help themselves etc. 

    Do we make victims out of people in society? yes we do. Do anti-bullying initiatives do that? I see no sign or proof. Hence, this argument fails to convince me of anything.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on the fact that there are many children out there who CAN’T “fight back.”

     Sherwood Park link: http://www.saffron-ssac.com/public-education.php

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Hi, Carla! 

    Thank you for the input and for the link.  Here is a link to a CBC article that draws attention to the precise wording of the EPSB initiative, as well as a quote from Board Chairman Dave Colburn with regard to the precise wording and the “need” for it.  Although the Sherwood Park anti bullying initiative may be different, the EPSB initiative clearly singles out LGBT students both in its wording and via the comments of the board chairman.

    The point isn’t that we are verbally declaring via specific wording that these kids needed to be protected from other kids.  The point is that we continue to single them out via initiatives that really accomplish nothing in the long run, IMHO.  My son was bullied for years at school during a time when a “zero tolerance” initiative was in effect at his school.  It made no difference.  He was still subjected to the bullying on an ongoing basis, the bullies just ensured staff weren’t around to witness it.  He survived those days and now is a power house of a 17 year old who is prey to no one, is willing to speak his own mind and has not once fallen to peer pressure.  I believe in my heart that had adults continually stepped in when he was being bullied he would have never learned to deal with those who would pick on him on his own.  

    Eventually our kids grow up.  And so do the bullies.  Often those who bully us in high school can be just as mean as adults as they were when we were kids.  So when do our kids learn to deal with those who won’t always be nice to them?  When do they learn to defend themselves, stand strong?  I fear we are raising a generation of children who believe the world should concede to every aspect of their personalities and protect them from the harsh realities of an often difficult adult world.  There will always be “mean girls” and “bullies”.  Our children need to learn to deal with those situations without adult intervention if they are to become healthy, capable adults.

    Again, MHO.  

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet
  • Erin Despas

    Kikki, great post! I was bullied myself, not for being gay (although I am bisexual) but because I was “different.” School for me was not fun in the least. Teachers simply told me to ignore it and only dared intervene occasionally, when they caught the bullying happening.

    High school, I literally reported a classmate for threatening to kill me. I lost a friend to suicide in grade 12, because of bullying and what is now seen as gay bashing.

    While I agree with you, that only we can make ourselves victims, I do still strongly believe something has to be done about the issue of bullying in schools. I’m not trying to say we should molly coddle kids but at the same time, but kids definitely seem to need a good lesson in respecting others.

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Thanks for the reminder, Carla. I’m attempting to get it to link to the actual reference in my blog post. It’s just not being very cooperative. I am not a techie genius ;-)

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Hi, Erin!

    it’s not the “anti-bullying” policy I take issue with. It’s the “anti gay bullying” expansion of that policy. Teens, straight or gay are a higher risk for suicide however the recent focus on gay teen suicides ONLY is distressing. More “straight” kids than “gay” kids commit suicide. That is simply a statistical fact. But I ask this: when was the last time you heard about a “straight teen suicide” on the news? The media doesn’t get the same rating for those stories so we don’t hear about them.

  • Kikki

    Greetings again, Carla;

    I’ve now updated the post to include the Stats Can table as well as links to each of the sources I used when writing the post.  I’ve also edited the post so that the EPSB anti gay bullying initiative appears as a link.  I hope this clarifies a few things.

    Thanks again for your input,

    K.

  • Chuck

    There is a lot of good in your article, and I agree with the suggestion that not all victims of bullying need institutionalized protection, and perhaps might even agree that the protection might, in some circumstances, “insult” the victim.  And I like the way you write, and the purpose of blogging is presumably to get reactions, so it seems to be working.

    But from my perspective at least, there are two problems with your approach to this issue and article.  First, as a society (and school system as part of that), we have institutionalized rules to protect ALL of us – whether from bullies, or from road rage, or from violent crime, or from rape, or from murder.  Those rules exist for a bunch of reasons – and trivializing “bullying” as if it only strengthens the victims ignores most of those reasons.  The rules stop kids who might otherwise cross the line so violently that real harm and injuries result.  The rules also protect the victims who lack the physical, mental or emotional tools to respond to violence with violence.  The rules also stop us from reverting to a “wild west” where each person is on their own to stand, fall, succeed or fail.  And finally, the rules help stop the escalation that my own kids observed in school – a taunt leads to a punch leads to a stick leads to a knife leads to a gun.  I am not sure we need our schools to have LGBT specific policies of protection – but I do expect them to provide as safe an environment as I expect to have at work, or in a shopping mall, or on the street.

    Second, Matthew Adams may be as proud as punch of his reaction to a homophobic remark, but he is also admitting to an assault that is not just against a “rule” but is actually a criminal offense.  And, if he really broke the guy’s nose, it is potentially an assault causing bodily harm.  Striking out against a guy’s face just because you are provoked is not “empowering” – it is illegal.  The rules for “self defense” simply do not apply.  Further, it is frankly an immature reaction, and that immaturity is also revealed by the silly twittering and bragging about it.  There are many other ways to handle homophobes and bullies and jerks – and while I never had to deal with homophobes, I spent much of my youth being bullied and quite a bit of my adult life coaching and teaching kids not to bully.

    As I say, I enjoy your blog and it provokes a reaction which is presumably the purpose.  I think, though, that this issue deserves a little more thought.  You might have needed a “kick in the ass”, but I have met a lot of kids who didn’t, and for whom the advice to fight fire with napalm is inappropriate.

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Just to clarify, I am adding the quote from Matthew’s Facebook page. I would say this was, in fact, a case of “self defense”. No one has the right to lay your hands on anyone else. Matthew was being verbally AND physically bullied by the person on the bus. I thought that was clear in my post as Matthew’s status update clearly states that the man would not stop “touching him”.
    “I gave the ass plenty of warning to stop touching me.
    So did everyone else on the bus. I’ve never punched
    anyone on before.”

    As soon as anyone lays their hands on your personal body you have the right in this country to physically defend yourself. Yes, that defense must be measured, however Matthew’s “one punch” to the face of an abusive bully was qualified, especially given he had provided many warnings to the bully as had his fellow passengers on the bus.

  • http://twitter.com/JenBanksYEG Jennifer Banks

    Wow! Did this post ever make me think. I spent half of my day pondering my response. 

    I was bullied as a child, but I was never hit. The violence against me was verbal and emotional. To tell you the truth, I always believed it would have been easier if I was being physically bullied. 

    After being bullied enough, I ended up bullying a girl in my Grade 9 class. She completely ignored me. I didn’t get the rise out of here that I expected, so I stopped. 

    High school started and I was bullied again. I decided to completely ignore it and the bullying ended. Was it easy to ignore a bully? No, but I didn’t see that I had any other options. 

    My question is this: Is fighting violence with violence really the best way to deal with being bullied? What about the kids who can’t fight back?

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jen.

    Although I don’t think violence is the answer, within the societal context of junior high and high school it has been my experience that standing up for oneself brings a quick end to the bullying. School age kids seem to prey upon the “weakest” of the pack in an attempt to display dominance. My eldest son was bullied for years at school. Much like Matthew, there came a day when my son could no longer take the constant berating and physical bullying. After being provoked in his math class by the bully seated behind him for the umpteenth time, my son rose from his chair and in front of the teacher who was standing beside his desk, ploughed the kid in the face. Needless to say, I received a phone call from his AP detailing the events. The AP relayed that my son would be suspended for 2 days due to the schools “anti bullying” policy, however the AP also stated that he “would give that kid a damn trophy for standing up for himself” if he had his way about it. I am not “pro violence” by any means. However I do think there is a moment when if we don’t stand up for ourselves far more is lost than could be possibly gained by turning the other cheek.

    My concern with most “anti bullying” policies is that we are creating a society of children who never learn to stand up for themselves, never learn to deal with people who don’t like them and always expect those in authority to intervene on their behalf. I’ve witnessed this first hand in office settings. The “younger women” in many offices I’ve been employed at will run to the boss about EVERYTHING. They will literally complain that another woman in the office is “being mean” to them. It’s ridiculous. Standing up for ourselves is an important part of self respect. If our children don’t learn to do this in the social setting of school, when do they learn it? And what do we do with an entire generation of children who are raised to believe that it’s someone else’s responsibility to ensure they aren’t treated poorly?

    The bullying I was subjected to, especially in junior high was very difficult for me. Yes, I was beat up. I was called every name in the book. I was followed home from school on many days and heckled during the entire walk to my front door. But I survived that. And now I stand strong in the face of adversity. I worry our children are skipping an important rite of passage, a stepping stone to self respect under the guise of protecting them. From what? Name calling? Harsh words. I daresay if our children don’t learn to deal with such things whilst in school they will be hard pressed to deal with such things in an often harsh adult world.

    Again, just my humble opinion based upon my own experience.

    K.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678306813 Ryan Barlow

    While I think you overall mean well, Ms. Kikki Planet, your opinions expressed here are hazardous and alienating to the marginalized.”In fact, on a per capita basis in this country, gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.” 
    This is flatly incorrect as cited by page 24 of your own source,  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/mh-sm/pdf/suicid_e.pdf :

    “Several studies have found male and female homosexuals to be up to six and two times, respectively, more likely to attempt suicide than comparable control groups of unmarried male and female heterosexuals (Bell & Weinberg, 1978; Saghir & Robins, 1973; Jay & Young, 1979)…. Gay men are reported to be more likely to attempt suicide during their adolescent years, in the context of the stresses associated with acknowledging their sexual orientation to their families, their communities and themselves.” 

    It’s irresponsible of you to just cite random suicide rates from different demographics. Apples and oranges. Yes, Aboriginals have a very high rate of suicide compared to the average Canadian. Queer youth also have a massively disproportional suicide rate compared to their purely heterosexual gender-normative peers.

    Ms. Kikki, you say “violence isn’t the answer,” but you cite two examples of people using just that to respond to homophobia. Violence is never a safe option. There are better ways of dealing with conflict than resorting to our base animal instincts. Ask anyone in law enforcement if they recommend physical fighting as a general form of conflict resolution.

    The cultural genocide against queers continued in the West until the late 60s. They were been lobotomized,  tortured and killed, both literally and in spirit. That’s why we just had our second Spirit Day on October 20th. It’s to affirm those who didn’t conform to gender/sexuality expectations and had their souls executed. Even today, though we thankfully no longer literally perform these procedures, people in our society still psychologically traumatize LGBTQ peoples. Some are so damaged that they take their own lives. Being a teenager is tough for anyone, but queer youth have an incredibly difficult time during high school. Specific policies that protect their identities help even if they are never used because queers realize that there are mechanisms to help them. Suicide happens when someone believes that there is no hope that life will get better. High school is often that a place where the torment feels so great that there appears to be no future. These policies give queers a view of a healthy, happy future. 

    I counter your argument that protection policies make queers weaker because they have to hide behind them. Hardly! On the contrary, it gives teeth to fight against discrimination using civilized (non-violent) means. No longer do they have to linger in the limbo of generic “bullying,” now discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is banned. The injustice against queers can be fought because its prohibition is specific, direct and written in stone.

    Why have a specific policy against a specific type of bullying? It is because we NEED one. It’s not an arbitrary decision to just grant random protections for gardeners, cooks, children of welders, etc… Queer youth are SPECIFICALLY targeted and hurt by others in our education system. Fair isn’t always what’s equal. What’s righteous in this case is to protect those who have a tendency to be attacked by giving them a lantern out of the darkness through anti-discrimination policy. Even complete classical liberal theory acknowledged that freedom should be limitless so long as it didn’t cause harm. Bullying causes direct, definite harm. We have the power and the ethical obligation to stop it, certainly at least for children.

    No, Ms. Planet, we may never be able to legislate against ignorance, but we can legislate against harm.

    Sincerely,

    Ryan Barlow
    Co-Founder,  Jasper Place High School Gay-Straight Alliance

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Hello, Ryan. Thank you for your comments.

    While I respect your argument against the multitude of sources I cited as the basis for this post, I must point out that your sources are from the late 1970′s, some 35 years ago. No one can argue that the societal view of homosexuality was entirely different in that era. You have chosen to rely upon entirely outdated material to validate your opinion. I take issue with that. It’s no better than if I were to use statistics on the inequality faced by women in the workforce in the 1970′s to demonstrate how they are discriminated against today. The sources you used are also from an era that predates “positive gay role models” in popular culture, the legalization of gay marriage in this country and the protection provided to all citizens of this country under the Charter of Rights. To dig up material and statistics from the 1970′s when the majority of gay men in this country lived in the closet is entirely irresponsible and misleading. Further, you state as follows:

    “Gay men are reported to be more likely to attempt suicide during their adolescent years, in the context of the stresses associated with acknowledging their sexual orientation to their families, their communities and themselves.”

    This statement implies that the gay men to which you are referring have not acknowledged their sexual orientation and/or shared that with their families/friends/communities. This makes your point moot as the “anti gay bullying” policy would not apply. They would not be subjected to “gay bullying” if no one knew they were gay.

    With regard to this statement:

    “Queer youth also have a massively disproportional suicide rate compared to their purely heterosexual gender-normative peers.”

    I would ask that you post statistics proving this. I spent a great number of hours over the course of several days trying to prove that statement. It cannot be done. In fact, in all my searches of the interweb I could find no more than 5 cases of “teen gay suicide” in this country in the past year. Five. In a country that loses approximately 300 teens to suicide on a yearly basis. How is that “disproportionate”? What statistics are you using to make these claims? Media stories do not “statistics” make which is why I cited several at the end of my post.

    I take issue with your statement that “Queer youth are SPECIFICALLY targeted and hurt by others in our education system.” Overweight children are specifically targeted. Extremely bright children are specifically targeted. Children of poverty are specifically targeted. No one faction deserves anymore protection than the other. I was specifically targeted in my youth because I was a religious, studious kid. My son was specifically targeted because he was a scrawny computer geek who played D&D. Another son was specifically targeted because he was chubby for a few years. Do you think they suffered the effects of that bullying anymore or any less that a gay teen would? Do they deserve less protection because they are straight? This is what the “anti gay bullying” policy suggests to straight children, that they are less important than their gay peers. An overall “anti bullying” policy and campaign makes perfect sense. A policy that benefits only one faction of the students of the school does not promote equality, understanding or discourse. It promotes intervention by authority figures on behalf of the minority faction. I am not an advocate of violence and both of the references to violence I included in my post were based on physical bullying and provocation, not on simple name calling. I am an advocate of true equality and this policy does not reflect equality for all students. I stand by my position that this policy re-victimizes gay students by yet again setting them apart from their peers and doing nothing to help them cope with bullying by supplying them with the skills they will need now and in the years to come. There is no denying the world can be a harsh place for all of us and harsher still for those who don’t fall into what a still Judeo Christian ethics dominated society has deemed as “the norm”. How will an anti gay bullying policy help gay teens after high school? What skills will this policy provide them with to deal with bullying in the adult world. I suggest it robs gay teens of the opportunity to stand up for themselves and to not be seen as weak, which they are not.

    Finally, I note that you are the “Co-Founder” of the JPHS Gay-Straight Alliance. I would suggest to you that a policy that singles out gay teens is completely incongruent with the word “Alliance”. There is no “Alliance” in the specific protection of one segment of a school’s population. I would ask that you consider what the “anti gay bullying” policy offers gay students now and in the future with regard to dealing with a world that will not always be kind to them, not always take special measures to protect them.

    Sincerely,
    Kikki

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Ryan:

    Some food for thought from noted mental health professional Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this:

    “Journal Of Addiction and Mental Health Surveys Gay Teen Discrimination And Suicide”

    According to researchers and gay advocates, it’s not being gay that leads kids down the path toward suicide. It is stigma and discrimination as well as internalized homophobia.
    Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams, at Cornell University, however, disagrees. He believes that family dysfunction, previous suicide attempts or suicidal behavior of friends and peers should be considered in studying suicidality among LAB teens. He notes that many studies on gay suicide are flawed and that many gay teens begin to believe that they should be suicidal.

    Gay advocates and Savin-Williams both agree that a gay identity should be normalized within schools and taught in sex education classes the same way that heterosexuality is taught. “We need to make it a non-issue; let’s make it go away by simply being fair,” says Savin-Williams.

  • Chuck

    The additional quote is important context to both the very short status extract you first posted, and to your own comments.  It was entirely not clear from your post that Matthew was ever touched – you never mentioned that nor did Matthew in the post you added.  So the clarification helps.

    But this also demonstrates the risk of taking unequivocal positions in response to difficult and complex issues – context is everything.  I am going to address this again in a post to another comment you have made below, but for now suffice it to say that NO endorsement OR condemnation of someone’s actions should be taken without all of the details.  And, sorry to say, there is almost always more than one side to a situation.

    Which is why I think your call to violence as an answer to violence is misguided and dangerous.  Matthew MAY have a defense of “self defense”, but that would be contingent on at least two things.  First, he has to be under threat of harm – which “touching” hardly qualifies.  It may be that the jerk on the bus was also guilty of an assault, but that would not in itself entitle someone to “defend” beyond a host of much less serious options than striking the person.  Second, the defense has to be proportional – and a punch to the face may or may not be seen as being proportional to a “touch” (repeated or not).

    Which is my last point on Matthew – does he REALLY want to have to explain all of this to a Judge, or even the Police, if (and in today’s society, when) the jerk on the bus has him charged with assault causing bodily harm?  Does he really want the hassle of being charged, the cost of defending himself, and the risk that a judge might just see it another way?  The risk of a criminal record that could keep him out of work, prevented from volunteer activities, and barred from international travel to more than one jurisdiction?

    Right or wrong, our society frowns on “self help”, and “self defense” does not fare much better.

  • Chuck

    This is a great discussion, Kikki.

    My other comment today is about the danger of basing any sort of recommended course of action on anecdotal experience of a tiny number of people – namely yourself and your son and a couple of other people.  The problem is that this provides no way to assess risk/benefit.

    What would you be thinking if the bully your son ploughed in the face came at him after school with a knife?  This has happened, in different contexts around Edmonton, way too many times in the past several years to discount – the grieving families in Sherwood Park, or north Edmonton, whose sons were murdered over trivia that in the old days would have been settled with fists attest to the risks our children face.  In my own family’s experience, and in the circle of friends my sons gathered, there have been knives pulled and kids chased down Whyte Avenue, bottles have been used as weapons and fortunately the result was “only” a concussion, cars have been followed, fights between 2 guys have turned into gang opportunities for trouble.

    I know that in Grade 3 or perhaps even in Grade 6 we do not think of these terms.  But by Junior High and certainly by High School, “bullying” is code for behaviours that are much more dangerous than name calling.

    As I said before, I am probably with you on the questions of LGBT specific policies – but the LGBT kids, like the fat kids and the smart kids and the geeky kids and the native kids and like my own kids, all deserve to go to school and be safe.  And if EPSB thinks schools are a bit safer by making policies they can teach about to try to prevent unacceptable behaviours, good for them.

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Hello again, Chuck;

    First of all, thank you for your continued interested and involvement in this discussion. I am very much enjoying the exchange of thoughts and opinion on this topic.

    My response to what you suggest is here is best addressed by the following two links:

    I highly recommend this series of articles in Psychology Today as presented by Izzy Kalman which focuses on “anti bullying” policies and initiatives. Kalman suggests such initiatives do more harm than good by setting defined lines between factions in a school setting. Definitely worth a read.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychological-solution-bullying/201106/principle-number-four-justice-makes-right

    Also, Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams of Cornell University has written several articles that describe the media perpetuated myth that “gay teens have the highest rate of suicide in North America”. As this blog post addresses this as the reasoning behind the “anti gay bullying” policy now in place in Edmonton public schools, Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams work is entirely applicable and worthy of note. Savin-Williams explains that when a “gay teen” commits suicide the cause of this action is immediately attributed to the teen’s sexual orientation and other possible causes are ignored – such being drug addiction, mental illness history, dysfunction in the family, single parent family and even the simple fact that teens do attempt and commit suicide without any of those underlying reasons being to blame. Savin-Williams has been a lone voice in the darkness when it comes to the truth behind the inflated “gay teen suicide” rates.

    http://www.cornell.edu/video/?VideoID=988

    Thank you again for the continuing conversation.

    Sincerely,

    Kikki

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    As the legal field is my profession, I can assure you that based upon the information we have, Matthew would not have been charged and his actions would qualify as self defense in Alberta Provincial Court. That having been said, this is an example of an extreme bullying situation. My suggestion to “stand up for oneself” is based in a belief that if more “victims” stood up for themselves on a daily basis rather than expect policies and initiatives to protect them from their would be abusers, be the abuse verbal or physical in nature, “bullies” may be more likely to think twice. I’m a firm believer that acting like a victim will confirm your status as a victim. And I believe this policy confirms gay students as victims to their straight peers. I take issue with a policy that perpetuates the belief that gay students need to be protected by a somewhat useless policy as opposed to standing up for themselves.

  • Terri F

    I was bullied growing up and I am the mother of a gay son.  I say Thank you!

  • Carebaer322

    As someone who was also bullied in my school years, I can appreciate your point Kikki. I don’t agree personally with fighting back. I do feel the authority figures in children’s lives (teachers/principles) should be doing their jobs and paying attention to the behaviour exibited at recess and lunch. But the onus is also on the parents of the children that need to take responsibility for how their children treat others. It all starts in the home. Treating others how you would like to be treated. If violence ended violence, there would be resolution to wars, but there isn’t. It’s always a bloody battle.

    I wish when I was younger the adults would have done their job and dealt with the behaviour of the kids. But that’s just me. I do agree that this ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ that are being created is not the answer. But it seems to be what some want.

    Great post as always Kikki, keep’em coming :)

  • GenoaK

    I was bullied along with everyone else. One such situation occurred when I was in Grade 10. By then, being totally fed up with being bullied, I wasn’t going to take it anymore. As part of the ‘hazing,’ aka bullying, initiative in my high school, some Grade 12 girls were going around the school writing the number 10 on the Grade 10′s foreheads in permanent marker. They walked up to me in the hallway, and demanded I let them write a 10 on my forehead. I looked them straight in the eye and told them to go F&!K themselves. And let me point out that I was extremely shy. They looked completely shocked, and walked away. I was so proud of standing up for myself, and I don’t have any memory of ever being seriously bullied after that. (Let’s be honest, until I entered the work force where bullying is still rampant. Mainly because it’s HUMAN NATURE.) In short, I support your view point, or at the very least, your right to have one. As usual, I’m glad you have the courage to stand up and say what others are too afraid to…not for attention but to create a conversation. And interesting conversation it is. Especially those who strongly oppose your views while saying extremely rude and disrespectful things…but they wonder why and where bullying comes from. Man, I have serious worries about humanity. Cheers.

  • http://www.kikkiplanet.com Kikki Planet

    Genoa, thank you. One of the points I’ve tried to make during these discussions is that bullying DOESN’T end when we finish school and once we are out in the “real adult world” our employers and bosses aren’t going to step in to resolve whatever disagreements we may have with our coworkers. If kids aren’t learning the socialization and conflict resolution skills they will need in the adult world they will never learn to deal with conflict or with the “mean girls” in a constructive, self respecting and self affirming away. I fear children are missing out on an entire “rite of passage”, if you will.

    On a more personal note, I reconnected with one of the girls who bullied me during my school years on Facebook a couple of years ago. She apologized profusely to me for the things she had done when we were kids and when I told her it was all water under the bridge and only made me stronger, she shared with me her own insecurities, her own difficulties during the time we were in school together. I would suggest that had she simply been labelled a “bully” by authority figures and I a “victim”, not only would we have never found resolution of those events as adults but we both would have been worse off for it. We look back together now and laugh at those years. We joke about the kids we once were. She takes pride in having made me stronger. And all these years later I take pride in now being able to call her my friend.

  • http://twitter.com/Sirthinks John Winslow

    I can’t believe this shit.  The impossible has happened right here in Edmonton in 2011.  Kikki and I agree 100% on something. 

    Stop the Earth’s rotation, I want to get off!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/michele.chusroskie.13 Michele Chusroskie

    This is a fantastic article, seriously u deserve some kind of common sense/awesome award! Thank u for writing it, and Im gonna make everyone I know read it! 

  • BookAnn

    I’m proud of who I am. “Anti-bullying”… never quite got that, even in the 90′s or early 2000′s. I don’t know. It’s all about waking up the next day and heading to class. Showing them that they can’t get you down. And they never will. I think that’s an important lesson to learn.