The recent shock at the death of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley has brought to the limelight the issue of homophobic bullying in high school. However, much of the media fails to grasp the real problem. The assumption is that teenagers are brutal misanthropes who are predisposed to bullying and harassing their fellow classmates. Fact is, they are, but I argue that it isn’t their intolerance that’s leading to 40 per cent of queer male youth attempting suicide in the United States, or a suicide rate among American queer teenagers being 400 per cent higher than their straight counterparts. It’s the intolerance of those who exited their teens long ago.
Teenagers (straight, queer, or otherwise) are going through vast changes in their bodies and minds. Since they are completely indecisive, they easily succumb to outside pressure and the opinions of others. This includes the bullies. But where do you think all of this teenage homophobia comes from? From adults who spew hateful rhetoric over television, radio, the internet, on street corners, and anywhere else you can imagine. These self-righteous bigots easily influence kids, including the bullies who pass on the hatred the hatred of their fellow humans that adults claim is somehow commendable, that being queer is a sin, that it’s unnatural and immoral. But you know what?
Completely, undeniably, irrationally, utterly wrong. After seeing scores of teenagers – unable to grasp why their the rest of humanity can’t empathize with their sexuality – shoot themselves, hang themselves, lock themselves in garages with the car running, or to commit suicide in any other way, I have this to say: claiming the immorality of homosexuality, and advocating against gay marriage and other civil rights, is simply inhumane.
I had a similar debate with a conservative Christian friend of mine once, and upon giving my opinion, he said that I was insulting his religion; while, in fact, he and every other homophobic church attendee out there are insulting my religion. Raised Catholic, I can’t believe that God would put people on this earth – people who are genuinely good, altruistic, and good-hearted by nature – purely to have society torment them. I can’t believe God creates a human who is damned simply for how he or she chooses to love. I can’t believe God is an irrational being that somehow disapproves of two men or two women loving, and approves solely of heterosexual relationships, that he is so fickle that he demands that we love in a certain way. I just can’t believe that is how God is. And, frankly, if you can believe that, then obviously there is a serious disparity between your beliefs and the basic tenants of the Bible’s more overarching, prevalent themes, rather than the two or three references to homosexuality. I’m sick and tired of religion being a way for people to justify their bigotry. It’s a stain upon everything Christ stood for and real Christians aspire to be.
I don’t mean to exhibit the same sort of anger and hatred that the other side uses, but I honestly believe that Christ is looking down at these “followers” and is disgusted. Perhaps it doesn’t register to the same magnitude of using his name to justify the Crusades or other “holy” wars or other injustices. But to use the name of the most holy person to ever walk on the earth to justify some sort of inner-demon, to put homophobia and hatred on a pedestal, to exult intolerance is repugnant and appalling. But past that, the damage that they do is tragically immense: the despair that one feels to actually end their own life, to think that to be dead and to feel absolutely nothing is somehow preferable to your own life brings me to the edge of tears. And to actually end it is such a waste of life, especially when it is ended so needlessly, simply because some cannot accept how another feels. So, as far as I’m concerned, to be so revoltingly indifferent to the well-being of those around you – or outwardly and personally malicious towards them – couldn’tan’t be construed as “Christ-like” in a million years.
I’m not queer, and I’ve never been tormented the way Jamie Hubley and other victims have been, but even for those who can, at the most, empathize, it’s enough to scream. I suppose this is my scream. It’s my scream to people who bully queer youth. You have no idea the damage you unfurl. It’s my scream to homophobic adults: realize the consequences of your hatred, that what you do in the name of religion isn’t a holy war, but rather a war against the holy. It’s my scream to school officials, parents, and those who have power and influence over these victims: do your job, protect them, and nurture them. We’re not tinkering with passages of the Bible and fighting over rhetoric, we’re dealing with the mental health and physical well-being of thousands of youth who question their sexuality, who are going through enough tumultous times without being subjugated to homophobic individuals overcompensating with their senseless malice.
Richard Carozza is a U1 physiology student. He can be reached at email@example.com