Fourteen year old Philip Parker from Gordonsville, TN took his own life this week after being bullied because he was gay. How is this still happening? Why are kids hurting other kids? Why, as people, do we continue to hurt each other for the very things that make us who we are? Stories like this break my heart, yet they seem more and more common. So much so that the term "bullycide" has been invented because it seems the only fitting way to describe what has happened to these kids. They were bullied to death.
This isn't the kind of bullying we are used to. I think at some point in our childhoods, we were all mistreated by one of our peers. I remember one girl bullied me when I was in the 5th grade and how much it hurt me at that time in my life. But, as those things often did, it fizzled and we actually became friends. That was a different world altogether. Today, kids can destroy other kids lives by way of the internet. The internet never forgets. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter and with immediate access to all of these things via your cell phone, bullying is happening all over the world in real time.
Fourteen years old. When you're fourteen you can't see past what is right in front of you. Growing up feels so far away at that age. Do you remember what you were like at fourteen? Do you remember how the days passed so slowly when you were a kid? You were always trying to get to that next moment, the next milestone, but the seconds ticked by at an hour's pace. But once you got out of school and into the real world, days became seconds in the whirlwind that is life.
Reading some of the commentary from other readers on one of the local news station's facebook pages about Phillip outraged me. Here you had adults condemning a child for being gay and for committing suicide. First of all, I do not think that a fourteen year old child CHOSE to be gay. I believe he was born gay. I believe that just as straight people are born straight, gay people are born gay. Second of all, at fourteen you are not emotionally equipped to deal with bullying or with other serious emotional traumas and though I believe kids understand the basic concept of life and death, I do not think that they see the big picture. They see what is happening right now and think that is what their life is going to be like forever.
I know it sounds cliche, but it does get better. The closer I get to thirty (holy dramatics, Batman. Did I just say thirty?!), the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I truly like who I am. Maybe it's because at this age I am more ME than I have ever been. When you're in school, you think who you are is who you are in that moment. But you're really just being born and setting out on a long journey to find out who you are. Those high school and college years are just laying a few of the bricks to your foundation.
How many more young lives do we have to lose before the bullying ends? When will society accept that there are gay people, straight people, obese people, skinny people, in between people, black people, white people, latino people, pink people, Christian people, Muslim people, Jewish people, Buddhist people, atheist people, intelligent people, not so intelligent people, serious people, silly people, artsy people, rich people, poor people, middle of the road people, conservative people, liberal people, independent people, ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE?! And all of these people have just as much of a right to be here as you do. You don't have to love them. You don't even have to like them. But you do have to respect their right to exist as a human being.
I am a huge fan of the efforts of the NOH8 Campaign and I urge you to all take a look at their website www.noh8campaign.com to see what they are all about and see what you can do to make a difference.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Phillip Parker. Don't let another young life be lost because of hate. Respect each other. Show others the kindness you wish people would have shown you.