Bullying Cont.

I think this comment raises another problem with New Jersey's bullying curriculum:

Echoing your unease -- and I say that as someone who was bullied, in middle school, for being gay, eventually ending up in the emergency room after my parents found my suicide note. 

Not the least part of my unease comes from the fact that two different teachers told me that I simply had to hide it better -- when institutional authority figures like teachers and school administrators are, at best, too busy to notice (which I don't say as a judgment on the teachers -- the absurd demands placed on educators have been thoroughly detailed in other places by people a lot smarter and more articulate than I!) and at worst telling you it's your own fault, the lesson you take away isn't to go over their heads, it's that the protection institutional authority figures are there to provide doesn't extend to you (admittedly, childhood sexual abuse by a family member meant that I had some pretty messed-up ideas about the necessity of keeping silent, but these were definitely reinforced by the bullying I encountered after I took another girl to a seventh-grade dance).

Leaving aside the potential for abuse that others have pointed out, this is putting a band-aid over a bullet wound.

I think if your going to be prompted by the death of Tyler Clementi into passing laws--a questionable proposition to begin with--then you need to be able to explain precisely how those laws will make it safer for gay kids who live in fear of homophobic thugs.


When kids bandy about the term "gay" as a slur--or its more derogatory counterparts, "fag" and "queer"--it bears the force of society's homophobia. It's not just the schoolyard jerk who picks on you. It's the pastor who rails against the "gay agenda" on Sunday, the parent who stands up at a city council meeting and says he moved to your city because it's "the kind of place that would never accept the GLBT community with open arms," and politicians like New York's would-be governor Carl Paladino, who on the campaign trail said things like "there is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual." Even once you get past high school, you still can't get married or serve in the military, and in most states, your employer can fire you just for being gay. 

This is the kind of "bullying" gay kids face, and it's the kind no one's standing up to.

Indeed. The point here isn't that bullying isn't an issue, and that schools/communities/families/legislative bodies have no role. It's to point out there's something deeply unserious about about responding to homophobic attack with a overly general--and unfunded--policy on bullying.

Any conversation about Tyler Clementi's death needs to begin with a discussion of homophobia. It is also needs to include the fact that he was bullied by an adult. We don't talk about the Red Summers by merely pointing out that its wrong to hang and burn people, and then conveniently noting that all sorts of people are victimized by mob justice.

I'm sure Michelle Bachmann was bullied too.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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