I’ve been so emotionally whooped trying to wrap my head around the recent suicides of LGBT youth, the hate crimes still plaguing our cities and towns and the rash of bullies surfacing both online and in our schools that I’ve not been able to even start my regular monthly Haute Lot of activities and events in San Diego. I sit in front of my computer, staring at a blank open blog post thinking ‘why should I write about events & activities so people can celebrate whatever the fuck it is they want to celebrate…for whatever reason on whatever occasion…when there are many more important matters in front of me that need focus?’ I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that sharing a blog post about this month’s Halloween Scary-oke competition, celebrity chef event or charity fundraiser will permanently brand me as insensitive or out of touch, I just feel there’s got to be something more purposeful, in the present, that I can write about…even if only one person reads it or pays attention. Then it hit me, ‘you’re here, staring at this open blog post – make your words matter.’
Gandhi said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” At this moment, in this very time of struggle and strife, our community needs to bleed this creed to its core. We fight daily for equality because it’s a fundamental right. We fight to go to work and not be fired, to marry the person we love, to serve our country with dignity and honor, to save lives by giving blood, to worship faithfully without condemnation and to be our true selves regardless of what is or is not between our legs. And, we have to fight to stay alive. Bigots, homophobes and bullies have always plagued our society, but now they’re targeting our most vulnerable and precious – our youth. Youth who are confused, scared, feeling alone, isolated and overwhelmed. So, we must fight for them too and that fight starts with how we treat each other, what we choose to say and how we choose to act or react to situations and circumstances. That fight starts in our own back yard – it starts in our community.
Anderson Cooper said on The Ellen Show that there’s a major lack of empathy in our society. I completely agree. We’re becoming a society that prefers opinion, judgment and scrutiny over understanding, kindness and compassion. And not just for others outside our community, but for those in our own spheres of influence. The phrase actions speak louder than words is no longer something we can accept. Taunting, teasing and name calling are some of the very things that drive kids to harm themselves and others. Words matter. Period. Those who name call, berate and verbally torment because of perceived differences are just as culpable as those who physically harm for the same reason. Think about that the next time you call the guy standing next to you at the club fat, queeny, ugly, a hiv-er or a whore.
Let’s walk the talk, people. Let’s be the change we need in this society. Let’s not condemn bullies and purveyors of hate outside our community only to perpetuate it on the inside. It’s very hard to tell kids “It Gets Better” if, when they arrive in our community, it’s rampant with prejudice, cliques, racism, ageism and more. We can’t tell kids that you are welcome in our community but only if you’re good looking, muscled, have six pack abs, wear designer jeans, drive a BMW, get your eyebrows waxed and can party ’til dawn. We can’t bring our youth from one abusive community right into another. As one of my Facebook friends mentioned, along with the “It Gets Better” campaign, there should be a “Be Nice To Each Other” campaign so these kids know they’re coming into a community that truly is one of acceptance and love.
I think honoring those we’ve lost to suicide and hate crimes is incredibly important. It’s a wake-up call for us all that we’re still fighting. Thanks to Benny Cartwright, Ricky Cervantes and a dedicated group of fellow volunteers, next Tuesday, October 12, our community honors the life of Matthew Shepard, the victim of a tragic and unnecessary hate crime perpetuated by two horrendous bullies, during the Remember Matthew Shepard rally and vigil. The rally begins at 7PM at two points: under the neon Hillcrest sign and at the corner of Park Blvd. & University Avenue. The vigil culminates in a rally in the Center’s auditorium at 8PM. Donations collected from the event will go to support Stonewall Citizens Patrol, the local non-profit, all volunteer neighborhood patrol unit that works every weekend, helping deter crimes like this from happening in the streets and alleys of our community. And, think about this, the less our youth see, hear and read about anti-gay hate, violence and murder, the less likely they may be to feel like suicide is their only option.
If you have a story to share, no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is, record it and post it to the It Gets Better Project YouTube channel. Because words matter, your words may just resonate with some kid who’s teetering the edge. If your words are able to save just one life, then isn’t it worth it?
Now, if only we could rally a couple of famous straight celebs like Dr. Dre, Toby Keith, Peyton Manning and David Beckham to record video messages targeted to our youth, something like “hey, quit being bullies and stop picking on gay kids,” now wouldn’t that be a giant step toward change. I wonder if 50 Cent would join the cause?
Don’t forget, words matter. Be the change.