In the horrifying wake of several queer youth suicides across the United States, people are being inundated with questions about "how this could happen?" (which I won't even dignify by addressing). We are also being directed, via Facebook and other forms of social media, to the various ways people are responding to the crisis, including Dan Savage's It Gets Better campaign (previously also linked in my blog), and advertising blitz for The Trevor Project (crisis intervention and support for queer youth) and the Wear Purple Day of Remembrance/Mourning (Sept. 20th).
Having a greater number of folks made aware of projects like the It Gets Better Campaign, The Trevor Project and the Wear Purple Day of Remembrance is part of the upside of the Facebook share button. Raising awareness and sharing information is certainly a necessary aspect of making change in the world. But there is a down-side to that share button, and other forms of FB or social media 'activism' too. We can hit that "share" button or join a FB group and think: " Now I'm doing something about the problem." And most of us stop right there. It's a lazy activism, because it doesn't really require anything of us. (And don't get me wrong, I do it all of the time, so I'm not pointing fingers here).
It makes us feel better, without really taking on the fundamental issues at hand. (That being the everpresence of, and over-all social acceptance of, homophobia and heterosexism). In America gays cannot marry. They cannot openly serve in their military. Homophobia is thus legally sanctioned by the state. And lest we think we are much better in Canada, our own Prime Minister (though it pains me to call that jackass our PM) ran on a platform that included denying my family's right to legally exist. (He doesn't much like the gays, Mr Harper doesn't - and Canadians by and large don't seem to take much issue with this). And Albertans live in a province run by (and I know this will come as a shock to ya'll), rednecks, who passed a bill relatively uncontested that forces public school teachers to notify parents if sexuality (re: sex education), sexual orientation (read: queers) or religion (read: non Judeo-Christianity) is to pop up in class discussion. Because here in Alberta, we believe it's a parent's right to keep their child nice and ignorant.
Wearing purple or sharing a good link or piece of information is a decent start. But it's not nearly enough. Not by a longshot. Tell people WHY you are wearing purple. Tell them til you're blue (or purple?) in the face. We have to start speaking up. In big ways and small. Speak up to our governments and politicians. Write letters. Make phone calls. Vote. (VOTE!!!!!). Speak up to comments that are both directly and indirectly homophobic: like the random stranger at the wedding who makes a huge deal out of another straight guy wearing Lulu Lemon workout clothes (aas he repeats ad nauseum, "Hee hee - I wouldn't tell that to too many people"...), or the family friend that always says: "That's so gay," or the coworker who drops the word "fag" every now and again. Think about where you spend your money. What values do those companies have? What values is your money supporting? For instance, the owner of Best Buy/Target just made a huge campaign donation to an anti-gay candidate in the US. They lost my business, and I told them why. I don't shop at Walmart because, among other reasons, the owning family is vehemently anti-gay (and anti-choice) and like to spend their gazillions supporting anti-gay (and anti-choice) organizations. And as mentioned yesterday, they are choosing to sell an anti-gay children's book.
Kids are being bullied and choosing to take themselves out because of the bigger picture. Because we've created a world in which such behaviour is, in fact, the logical conclusion.
If we want our kids to stop bullying, to stop hating and to stop fearing difference, we have to stop tacitly supporting that behaviour. We have to show them how.
We have to actually mean it.