Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Two More

Sarah Silverman- To the Point

Monday, October 04, 2010

Suicides: Words Can Kill

A rash of suicides last week and I am at a loss as to what to say. No words can console the people who lost their loved ones. It seems no words will wake up the world to the pain of bullying.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

One of the most false rhymes of all time. Words can actually kill. Words can dig deep into your heart and shred the walls. Negative images pile up and become loud voices in your head. Queer. Faggot. Dyke. Lezzy.

I thought if I sat with this for a few days I would have something powerful to say. I don't. I'm angry and frustrated. Not to mentioned panicked- please no more. Please. It can't be an option. You are all too young for it to be the only way.

After Asher Brown's suicide, I asked my son what he thought. He's almost fifteen and openly gay at school.

What do you expect in Texas? he said.

Carl Walker Hoover, I said back to him. Hoover was a student in Springfield, Massachusetts. I had gone to the funeral and talked to the kids extensively about it.

He shrugged.

No mainstream media carried the news of Brown's suicide. Another, Seth Walsh, died of his wounds from a suicide attempt. Still nothing. Not until the flashy angle of cyber-bullying involved in Tyler Clementi's death did the news get carried across the country.

Do we simply expect LGBT kids to kill themselves?

It's more than bullying. Kids who feel insecure will always pick on other kids. It is the dual message being sent out. "Christian" adults feel absolutely comfortable standing on a street corner with a sign saying "God Hates Fags." No one bats an eye.

If they had a sign saying "God Hates Niggers" or "God hates Spics" or some racial slur, would they be left alone to continue their vigils or would a sea of folks come out to rally against such hateful language?

There was a plea sent out to youth, by many different prominent voices, saying it'll be okay, you'll make it through. What feels unbearable today will change. All true. It will change. You will find safe spaces, learn to love yourself for who you are, and see the hatefulness as a sign of the other person's weakness- not yours.

It's not enough. When my son first came out to me, I said, if anyone gives you shit? Tell me. I will take care of it.

He knew I would. In all honesty, I think half his friends are scared to death of me as it is. They wouldn't dare.

My son has gay parents, a large, loving extended family, and is in a private school where the classrooms are small enough nothing gets by the teachers. He is incredibly fortunate.

Most LGBT kids are left on their own to struggle with their identity and the overwhelming negativity in the mainstream culture. Some can hide- some can't. Some kids who aren't even gay get harassed and bullied horribly because they don't fit into a stereotypical gender presentation.

Do we not have enough data to show being gay is a completely normal part of the continuum of human sexuality? Can we stop arguing about "turning kids gay" and start working towards acceptance and creating safe spaces? Lives, young lives, are at stake.

I don't know what to do. I feel helpless. It's been 32 years since I came out. Some things have changed dramatically. Some things, clearly have not.

Like the reality that words can kill.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Holy Smokes, She Got a Job

Looking over my last year of posts, I realize I've been writing about shifting, change, new directions... I had no idea what was going to change or shift but I knew something was clearly on the horizon.

Now I know.

I start teaching a writing class at Berklee College of Music on Monday. Yes, even musicians need to be able to write. Berklee has come a long, long way from a performance only, trade school to a real liberal arts college. I'm honored to be a part of it.

Yesterday, I went to get my ID, my keys, my software training. By the end of the day, I realized this was a perfect fit for me.

I hope it is for Berklee.

I love working with kids. I know, I know, they are young adults but I'm old so I can say kids. My mother called people ten years older than me kids and I realize the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

It really doesn't. See, my mother was a teacher for 25 years. She taught pre-school when it was called nursery school and considered a luxury. She believed kids needed stimulation, engagement, colors, songs, books at three and four years old. She complained as she got older about all the bending over and getting up off the floor but she did love it.

How many people remember their nursery school teachers? I do because... well... it was my mother. In a bizarre set of circumstances, my sister had a paralegal from a Boston firm bring paperwork to her- it was prior to her surgery last fall and she was not well enough to travel. The paralegal looked at her last name and said... are you from Rochester? My sister said yes.

You related to Anne Whitman?

She was my mother.

She was my nursery school teacher. And the young woman beamed and talked lovingly about our mom. My sister smiled politely.

We've learned to do that with people who adored our mother. Truth is, she was an amazing teacher that left a great mark on many young kids. Many.

When I was first approached about the teaching gig, I was certain without a masters degree, I wouldn't have a chance at the position. I also knew I would be great at it. I've been writing since I was 9 years old. When I was 14, I wrote a murder mystery.

Ok, it was only about five pages but that seemed like a full length novel at the time. I remember wanting to get a Sherlock Holmes style pipe to clench in my teeth while I typed.

My mother said no. I settled for a plastic pipe you blew bubbles out of which is why I probably only lasted five pages.

I love to write. And I hate it. Over the years, I've learned much about the process, the craft and what power words can have on an audience. More than that, it's an opportunity to give back and to inspire. My third grade teacher told me I was exceptional, giving me pride, my eleventh grade teacher told me to read more to be even better, giving me a goal, and my writing coach of many years ultimately called me a peer, giving me permission to call myself a writer.

I only wish my mother were still alive to hear the news. After all these years of trying this and that, working for a big corporation, an investment firm, software companies, even the fish market, I believe I've found what will fit.

I know she would be proud.

It is time. I've known it, felt it, been consumed by what it could be, this change. A day before I was called about the job? I sat with a friend and said, teaching. I've thought about a lot of different options, including running for public office, and ultimately? I want something fulfilling that doesn't require me to give away my soul in order to be successful. I wanted to feed it.

Wish me luck.

Somewhere? If there is a somewhere after we die? I know my mother is smiling because this apple? Truly didn't fall too far from the tree.