Monday, October 18, 2010

Bullying, Bigotry, and the Struggle

Published Oct 14, 2010 8:54 AM

The recent spate of suicides by young people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans or perceived as such by their peers is heartbreaking. It is also a call to action.

We stand with all those stepping forward in solidarity with LGBT youth against the bashers, the bullies. We add our voices to the chorus telling our beautiful, precious children and teens: “Hang in there. It will get better.” But we say something else, too. Our message to the youth, LGBT and straight allies alike, is: Join us in the struggle.

It is the struggle that will overturn LGBT oppression. It is the struggle that will do away with ignorance and homophobia. It is the struggle, the mass movement for LGBT liberation over the last 50-plus years, that has already raised consciousness tremendously — that’s why there is such an outcry, such an outpouring of support in response to the recent attacks and the suicides. Most people now support full rights for the LGBT community. With more struggle, more will be won over.

Furthermore — and here we want to step out of our editorial box and speak directly to any individual youth whom this message may reach, any young person whose daily school or home life is made miserable by taunting, teasing, physical assault, isolation — if you join the struggle, your own life will improve.

For the struggle is liberating. It strengthens you. It shows you that you’re not alone. It provides you with friends and comrades. Through the struggle you find your skills, your power, your righteous rage, and, most important, your voice. You are no longer silenced.

What do we mean by the struggle? We mean uniting with others fighting for the same goals — taking action, militant action, demanding what is right. It’s what the Civil Rights Movement did in the 1950s and 60s, when courageous people marched, sat in, did everything they could to overturn the racist Jim Crow laws. It’s what unions do when workers strike to defend their wages and benefits.

It’s what the LGBT movement has done for many years. For example, Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day. This day commemorates the great March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and Action on AIDS that took place on Oct. 11, 1987. Half a million people demonstrated demanding equal rights.

Thanks to actions like that, much has been won. In some states, same-sex couples can marry. In some states, anti-LGBT discrimination is illegal. The federal government, however, does not recognize same-sex marriage. There is no federal bar to discrimination based on sexual identity or gender expression. So there’s still much to do. It will take a great resurgence of national struggle, united with the movements against racism, for women’s rights, for union power, because unity is key to winning concrete victories for all — but it can be done.

For every bully, for every homophobe who calls you names and tries to make you feel hopeless and small, there are millions who support you, wish you well, are fighting back against the bashers and bigots. There’s a place for you here with us, striding side by side with sisters and brothers who’ve got your back. This is the power of the struggle. It’ll save your life.

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