With all due respect to Dan Savage, I’m thoroughly pissed off. Savage, you may know, is the notorious sex columnist who spear-headed the “It gets better” campaign in response to the rash of LGBT teen suicides in fall 2011. I thought it was a brilliant idea at the time, and I still do.
But it just keeps happening, and surely the only valid goal in this particular corner of the LGBT movement is to stop teens from killing themselves. It just scalds my brain every time I hear about another one of these poor kids who sees no other option than to kill her/himself.
Then I try to think, how did I avoid that? Lots of reasons. The teasing I got in junior high school was relatively tame, and I was one of the cool kids then, so I had that bit of immunity. Then I transferred to a small, private college prep school where they allowed no bullying of any sort, so the worst that happened was that my friends called me “Swishy Bill” behind my back.
But part of the reason is that I have a stainless steel personality and am completely capable of being a balls-out son of a bitch when I choose to be. I was also impossibly arrogant as a teen ager. My own mother once told me I was insufferable.
Then, let’s recall, AIDS activists did not have a profound impact on American culture and public policy by being polite. They got in people’s faces and demanded change. They did not post videos on Youtube encouraging other AIDS patients that all would be well if they could just hang on long enough.
My point is that I think the LGBT teen suicide prevention impulse needs a good dose of militancy. As in the AIDS crisis, people are dying, and even worse than AIDS, people are dying from the most preventable of causes. We need to encourage LGBT youth to tell their tormentors to eat shit and suffer, or their own preferred version of that message, and tell the teens and their parents to demand action from teachers and administrators, on threat of litigation if necessary. If they doubt you, tell them to go look up Nabozny v. Podlesny, the lead case on this topic, where the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a plaintiff to proceed with a suit against administrators in his school district who repeatedly and callously allowed him to continue to suffer vicious bullying because he was gay. That plaintiff attempted suicide, but was happily unsuccessful.
Dan Savage is not polite. I once saw him during a book tour in Milwaukee. During the question and answer session, a young woman asked about “pegging,” the term Savage and his readers hit on to describe the practice of women doing men in the butt with a strap-on. This young woman, apparently with the boyfriend’s consent, told Savage the boyfriend wanted her to do it to him, and asked for pointers. Savage’s immediate response was, “Fuck him hard.” He then went on to give more reasonable advice.
My point is that I think it’s time to look for ways to let all those LGBT teens out there know that “fuck ‘em hard” is a perfectly acceptable response when the alternative is killing yourself. This is one messed up culture when too many adults sit by and argue about how to respond, with a significant contingency of them saying that public efforts to stop it are just a ploy by LGBT activists. I’m an LGBT activist, and this ain’t no ploy. This is the lives of teenagers we’re talking about, and it is callous and reprehensible in the extreme to stand in the way of any approach that even plausibly might help.
But we are talking, after all, about people who see nothing wrong with continuing to deprive a significant segment of the population of health insurance, just to start. Unlike President Obama, I’m not willing to be bipartisan. “Conservatives” have proven themselves too obtuse for too long to bother bargaining with. And how do you bargain with people’s lives?
So, let’s all get very angry about LGBT teen suicide and start thinking up new ways to stop it.