Thursday, April 16, 2009

Speaking Volumes in a YouthQuake


Just for the record, I do read your e-blast. Any and all of them that come my way and the comments, insights, rants, or dismissive attitudes that are cast my way in person as well. Each day that I produce this forum, as Executive Producer and shot caller, I demand of myself the best results possible in choosing updates, commentary, links, video or topical items that should stimulate your thoughts or passions.One such reader, "Ken" stated that he had "the utmost respect for me and what I do." Thanks, and understand that this platform is all about people like yourself and others. Recently, another reader cited myself as a "gatekeeper" of info for GLBTQ Arkansas. I paused on that description but in a afterthought realized that was a novel observation which also requires this forum to continue to asking the hard questions, seeking transparency where there is none, stepping to the issues that make us uncomfortable and of course, staying On Point! Dear readers, I know you are out there, reading us on your PC's, desktops, and laptops. Please share our site with your e-lists and make us your RSS feed or favorite. Your support is so important to our total success. Show some pride by visiting our online partners or gadgets and stay locked in to COP:24/7 Don't forget that the floor is always open and the lights too!!

COP:24/7 Special Edition
Speaking Volumes in a YouthQuake

Living your out loud can be exhilarating and for some disheartening or depressive. Fortunately, for myself, I didn't actually realize that I was suppose to be one way or another. I was being authentic, before being authentic was the latest self-help catch phrase. Simply, I was a young person striving to make my parents proud, meanwhile discovering the God given talents that I wanted to share with the world. Even though I suffered some teasing, bad mouthing and a bit of bullying, I was determined to keep it real no matter what. I knew early that I was different and as my "inner voice" quietly spoke volumes I did the best I could with external pressures. All the while embracing later amplified messages that it was O.K. to be just me. However, this is often not the case for many gay youth who find themselves isolated, ostracized, deprived and bullyed. This phenom is not new and has been raging on in school yards, neighborhoods and in households across the nation. I was again struck by the reporting of 11 year old CJ Walker-Hoover (pictured right) who hanged himself due to bullying from classmates who taunted him about possibly being gay. Gay youth who believe that suicide is the only relief for their desperation is simply heartbreaking and occurs at an alarming rate. According to GLSEN ( Gay,Lesbian, Straight, Education Network) two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, as reported From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. The top reason was physical appearance.
"As was the case with Carl, you do not have to identify as gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language," Byard said. "From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers. In many cases, schools and teachers either ignore the behavior or don't know how to intervene."
Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSENĂ¯¿½s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
In most cases, the harassment is unreported. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (60.8%) who experience harassment or assault never reported the incident to the school. The most common reason given was that they did not believe anything would be done to address the situation. Of those who did report the incident, nearly a third (31.1%) said the school staff did nothing in response. While LGBT youth face extreme victimization, bullying in general is also a widespread problem. More than a third of middle and high school students (37%) said that bullying, name-calling or harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school, according to From Teasing to Torment. Bullying is even more severe in middle school. Two-thirds of middle school students (65%) reported being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and only 41% said they felt very safe at school.
Carl's suicide comes about a year after eighth-grader Lawrence King was shot and killed by a fellow student in a California classroom, allegedly because he was gay.

Even as marriage equality has taken the spotlight, I'm concerned that gay youth issues are not receiving the max attention it deserves. As I sit among the young set in the area watering holds, I wonder how many are dealing with emotional baggage or displacement that will continue to manifest itself as they make their way to relationships and maturity. I've always been about dealing with the wholeness of a person. It's a fact that good health is all about body, soul and mind. Unfortunately there is no GLSEN chapter in Arkansas, but the Center for Artistic Revolution has a youth outreach effort to assist with the void. Also, there is a NPO start up called Central Arkansas Youth Center helmed by Micheal Lanning, Mr. Gay Arkansas USof A at Large.(www.myspace.com/central_arkansas_youth ) If you are a gay youth in need of assistance or your know of one such individual share this site and let them know that there's relief for the asking. Got stories, we would love to hear them and share them in our comments section.

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