Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Focus on the Family and the anti-bullying gay agenda.

As I was driving to work today, Theresa told me about an editorial in our weekly Aurora Sentinal, which made me think perhaps another blog post was in order (two in the span of one week? I know, brace yourselves).

The editorial, entitled "The real bullies at Focus on the Family" talked about Focus on the Family's recent assertion that "the anti-bullying issue is being “highjacked by (gay) activists.” It's a clear editorial that calls out Focus on the Family for its efforts to attack anti-bullying programs because they feel it promotes a "gay agenda".

The Denver post also ran a news article about the issue and talked about bullying statistics.
"About 30 percent of American sixth-to- 10th-graders report being involved in bullying — either as a victim or bully, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's three times more common if you're gay, Byard said. GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey found that almost nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students experienced harassment. Almost 61 percent felt unsafe in school. And 22 percent reported being physically assaulted in schools."

These are sobering statistics and I don't care who you are. That should make your heart hurt just a little.

This issue is important to me because I was bullied and harassed in school for 5 miserable years (6th through 10th grade). Not because I was out and gay (I didn't even know women could be gay at that point of my life!) but because I was different. Was I different because I was gay and had differences that people couldn't quite put a finger on? Perhaps. For whatever reason, I just never fit in and I was miserable on a daily basis and cried myself to sleep more nights than I can remember. (As an aside, all of this happened in Christian schools. The best years I ever had of my school career were the two years I spent in public school.)

When I was in the ex-gay movement years later, this was pointed at as a potential reason that I was gay (among many other "root" causes we discovered). Ex-gay programs are full of people who were tormented in schools, not necessarily for being out as gay, since many of us would have been horrified at that thought, but merely because we were different...perhaps expressing non-gender-conforming behaviors. Boys were targeted for being sissies, and girls for being tomboys. Many of my ex-gay friends had been called names because they were perceived as gay, whether they admitted that they were at the time or not (most of them didn't).

I remember vividly when the shootings at Columbine happened, because here in Colorado, it was a REALLY really big deal. It wasn't abstract. I knew people who knew people in the school. My therapist at the time counseled some of the family members who lost children. I was in a group once with an ex-gay woman who had known one of the killers for his whole childhood. When people started talking about how the shooters were possibly bullied and that is why they attacked, it struck a chord with many of us. While we didn't condone the violence, most of us, it seemed, knew what it was like to feel harassed and bullied and the adolescent desire to give it back better than we got. Many of us, it turned out, had envisioned some type of revenge on our bullies. Yet we thought what had happened was awful. It was an emotional time for many in the ex-gay group I attended with a lot of conflicting feelings.

If you read ex-gay testimonies, you'll often read about people being bullied in schools and the damaging effect it had on the person, and some of them will point to that as a reason they decided that maybe they were gay (of course, it's not as simple as that in real life, but testimonies often are a little light on the complexities of the situation). In my ex-gay days, I was told that bullying by peers is a prime reason someone could become gay, because if a person was bullied, harassed, and rejected by same-sex peers, that person might then always seek the approval of the same sex, and then that need might become "sexualized" (a mysterious happening that was often an explanation for "the gay" - such and such need had become "sexualized.") If a person was bullied by opposite sex peers, then that might drive you right into the arms of a same-sex person, again with a need that was sexualized. As I write this, I realize the mental gymnastics we all went through to find something we or Jesus could "fix."

Anyway, my point is this: If so many ex-gays have been bullied for their sexual orientation, and they see this as one of the causes for their homosexuality, why in the world would they ever want to stop anti-bullying initiatives that specifically deal with matters of sexual orientation or gender identity? Why shouldn't kids know that it's not OK to call kids names? Especially "sissy" or "faggot" or "dyke." Or that it's not ok to make fun of the kid that has two moms or two dads? If the theories of the ex-gays are right, that bullying in schools can cause someone to perceive themselves as gay, and therefore lead to them living a gay life, isn't that enough of an argument that bullying should be stopped?

I remember talking to an ex-gay friend of mine who said that he actually supported non-discrimination acts and laws because although he no longer considered himself gay, he was still susceptible to discrimination because he was perceived to be gay. He said, "the guy on the corner who might attack me because I am more effeminate than many men will not stop to ask me if I am ex-gay or gay. He'll just attack and I'll get just as hurt." Wise words. Words that I wish more ex-gays and ex-gay activists (as well as the folks at Focus on the Family) would contemplate.

It seems like however you come at the issue, from the point that gay is OK, or that it is not and should be changed by whatever means possible, we should be able to agree that bullying is bad for kid's psyches. And that bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation has long-lasting consequences for many people.

If the "gay agenda" is about wanting all kids to grow up as valued and nurtured and not bullied or harassed, then sign me up. It would have made a world of difference for me. I still would be gay, but I'd have a few less scars to worry about.

Note: For a great take on the Day of Silence and bullying from someone who is ex-gay (although I don't think she likes that label), check out Disputed Mutability's post here.


  1. This is a terrific post. I'm glad to know there are ex-gay people like your friend who understand that anti-discrimination laws benefit them, too. I think the problem is that many "pro-family" groups don't want to acknowledge the humanity of LGBT and/or gender-atypical people even that much.

    Remember when Focus on the Family came out against Spongebob Squarepants? My cousin was bullied because he was a sensitive boy who watched Spongebob, in a Christian school, and I got angry. I contacted a Focus rep directly.

    I got all kinds of lame non-answers. When I directly asked what they had as an anti- bullying program, I got a link to one article on the site and a slim booklet by a Christian author who'd been bullied. On the same website was a 5-part series about preventing homosexuality in young boys, prominently linked. In the same mailed package was several pamphlets about the evils of Safe Schools programs, GLSEN, gender-atypical behavior, and kids coming out at young ages. Speaks volumes.

  2. If Focus on the Family doesn't want schools to acknowledge lesbian,gay,bi-sexual,transgendered and queer students, how can they talk about protecting LBGTQ youth? Oh I see, their way is the right way. Seems like blatant bullying to me. Or are they just disappointed to see supposed religious/spiritual people upset that their children can't call someone a "f*ggot" on the playground? (Sarcasm intended)

    Focus on the Family has jumped the track here. They have outed themselves as a hate group that advocates allowing bullying in schools. Where's all that Christian love we hear so much about? Oh wait, it only applies to other Christians who share their beliefs, attitudes and values.

    Do they think gays are the main class of person being bullied in schools? And even if they were, why would these loving, "Christian" people oppose stopping them from being bullied?

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this article. Gay kids are bullied at three times the rate of overall bullying, so naturally, Focus on the Family perceives ANY initiative to stop bullying as part of this mysterious "gay agenda" that's often mentioned, yet never defined. So, I guess they're advocating the continuance of bullying in general. I'm wondering if they consider it a moral victory when a gay kid gets bullied or beaten up. Have they yet to learn that hating something different has never led to anything positive or constructive?

    The Bible says when Christ walked this earth, he constantly treated those considered to be the scum of the earth with as much love and grace as possible. Christian or not, when will we see that loving others regardless of any perceived or real shortcomings will lead to a happier/better world?

    Since Focus on the Family has been in my backyard for a year and a half, sometimes it seems they could not get any more homophobic? Their statements on bullying seem to, at very least, make it clear... the real mission--to dehumanize gay children. They are unhappy that various people and organizations want them to stop demonizing and marginalizing non-gender conforming, gay and lesbian students? Good, I'm glad they're unhappy.

    I agree schools should not "promote" homosexuality (to use the terminology of Focus on the Family). But they most certainly need to acknowledge and educate about homosexuality. Sex ed. is taught in our schools and homosexuality is a big deal for a percentage (some say approx. 10%) of all students. We acknowledge and educate about Nazis and neo-Nazis... as repugnant as I believe they are. Only by educating our children do we enable understanding. Doesn't understanding fall somewhere under the umbrella of Christian values?

    I absolutely want children to understand what homosexuality is, and people who are different from them are just that... different, not better nor worse. I guess that is part of my "gay agenda", since I have yet to be allowed to be privy to the official one.

    Really, after all of my ranting/rambling, it comes down to this...bullying doesn't care if you're gay or not.

  3. We should also remember that bullying is not just a LGBT problem, but it affects all students. This year in Massachusetts, 15-year-old girl commented suicide because she was bullied by the other girls because they were jealous of her. In Massachusetts in 2009, an 11-year-old boy hanged himself because the other children thought he was gay. In Connecticut, “a 15-year-old African American high school junior in Stafford Springs, has been threatened and harassed. She's been pushed and called racial names. Someone put feces in her mailbox at home. Someone handed her a Confederate flag to sign.” (Hartford Courant)

    When FOTF make bullying a “Gay” problem, they obscure the real problem that affects all students and cause pain and suffering to the victims of the violence in our schools.

    There is a bill in Congress, Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2010 (H.R. 4530) would require school to adopt and enforce anti-bullying policies. Please help support this bill.

  4. Has the Aurora Sentinal gone out of business? I can't find that editorial anywhere, even when I search for "doc4c7ae284193aa308376326" I just get references, not the text. It's not in the Yahoo! or Google caches, nor can I find it on the Wayback Machine.



  5. Yeah, I remember Columbine too.

    Personally, I was on cloud nine after it happened. Everyone knew why, too.

    For a few weeks, the bullies actually left me alone. But it was not to last. My newfound lightness and courage to face them was viewed as creepy enough to warrant the intervention of the staff who were more than happy to enforce the pecking order. Soon enough I was back as the queer getting smeared, and now it was known that if I did anything remotely responsive it would be taken as proof that I was a Columbine waiting to happen and a danger to the poor innocent little apes.

    Personally, I do kind of regret not doing Columbine right in my school (the actual Columbine killers, I later found out, pretty much just shot up the place and weren't terribly good at nailing specific bullies). I still think it needs to happen much, much more frequently to bullies in schools. If you do not agree, you obviously do not remember middle and high school well enough.

  6. Thanks, Cracker Lilo. And yes, your experience with Focus does speak volumes.

    T., thanks for your thoughts...I agree with what you're saying here. You should start a blog!

    Diana, thanks for the reminder and the information about the bill. I don't know that my bullying was necessarily because I was gay (if people perceived that are not) so it would have fallen under the category of non-gay bullying I'd imagine...so yeah, I'm all against bullying for any type of reason (including religious beliefs).

    Hi TRiG, I was able to google "Aurora Sentinal CO" and found the opinion page and everything right away. Here's a cached version: link

    Anonymous, I am not sure what to say. I certainly understand your anger, but I don't believe that violence solves anything and living a wonderful and healthy life is the best revenge. So I don't agree with you, but I can assure you that I remember middle and high school very well. Fortunately, the sting has lessened over the years...I'm thankful for therapy and the caring friends I have now.

  7. Some background on Exodus' anti-bullying policy: For nearly 30 years they didn't have one. In fact, Alan Chambers strongly resisted having Exodus adopt and post any official anti-bullying policy.

    In 2007, I bugged Alan about it for months. He was very stubborn about it. I asked how EXODUS could officially oppose the Day Of Silence (which aims to raise awareness of the bullying problem) -- and not officially oppose bullying itself.

    Alan Chambers had previously posted that Exodus is opposed to all hate crime laws and all anti-bullying progams -- because they view these as "tools to crush Christian evangelism". They don't want orientation even mentioned -- since they believe it doesn't exist.

    But it does exist and so does bullying of kids who are or are percieved as LGBT. I begged Alan to post something stating their official stance against bullying. I even suggested some language for it.

    This went on for months -- with stalling and excuses from Exodus. If they really cared abuout bullying, they should not have to have been pushed to officially oppose it. Alan and Exodus finally adopted the rather weak and qualified policy they now use -- way to little and 30 years too late.