Sorry New York Times: There Aren't Two Sides to Bullying

BlogHer Original Post

According to the New York Times, some folks out there have decided that anti-bullying measures in schools around the country are a new prong of attack in the Homosexual Agenda. The dissenters, of course, don’t claim to be in favor of bullying, only opposed to telling kids that being gay is not a reason to bully someone. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is when bullying takes a homophobic tone.

I can’t speak for The Homosexuals at large, but I will say that as a lesbian mom, I’m okay putting “end sexuality and gender based bullying” on my own agenda. My five-year-old has already got classmates who announce sagely that “two girls can’t get married” in spite of the fact that they are speaking to a kid with two married — for all five-year-olds know of marriage — mothers.

And is it really any wonder that the kid saying this the loudest is the least gender-conforming of my daughter’s female friends? Has she already suffered some harassment for hating pink and refusing to wear dresses, and turned that harassment outside-in at the age of six? Sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me, even at our crunchy, bleeding heart, alternative school that includes sexual orientation in its diversity statement, has gay and lesbian staff, and more than a few students with same-sex parents (there are at least three in my daughter’s class alone).

There is no doubt in my mind that reading And Tango Makes Three is a good way to open discussions of the diverse ways in which families come to be and help kids see that legal marriage aside, two people of the same gender can make the same kinds of commitments to each other that people of the opposite gender can — including commitments to being good parents together. That discussion could and should also include step-families, single parents, foster families, adoption, birth and all the myriad ways people live together and care for each other in loving commitments.

If some people oppose that, I not only think they are just plain wrong, I think the New York Times ought to leave them to tooting their own trumpets rather than giving them a national forum. And this brings me to what really bothers me about the article.

In spite of the mainstream media’s strenuous practice to the contrary, there are simply not two equal sides to every story. We would not go to a Holocaust denier to comment on a hate-crime against a synagogue as if his opinion were as valid as the Anti-Defamation League’s. And I am growing weary of watching respectable media outlets turn to fringy anti-gay groups for “balance” in articles that really have only one right side. In this article, for example, the go-to source for anti-gay comment, Focus on the Family, gets a stage, along with several individuals quoted throughout from their own personal religious perspectives.

Religious beliefs don’t get to guide public school curricula in the United States of America. Note that the First Amendment to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion.” So when Rick DeMato of Liberty Baptist Church says “the Bible says very clearly that homosexuality is wrong, and Christians don’t want the schools to teach subjects that are repulsive to their values,” he’s just plain out of luck.

We don’t have a state religion in this country and what it says in the Bible, the Koran, the Bagavad Gita, the Analects of Confucius, the Talmud or any other religious writing, is supposed to have nothing to do with public policy. Therefore, why the Times finds the opinions of a few far right conservative Christians relevant to the agenda of halting child suicide incited by bullying is a mystery to me. When respectable media outlets give seemingly equal weight to religious opinion and public policy made to protect children (and not from “repulsive values,” but from actual, deadly, physical harm), they are failing in their responsibility to keep the citizenry educated about the way our government works.

But hey, let’s pretend it does matter what the Bible says. Here’s another Baptist minister with a strong, Bible-based opinion about public policy on economic justice, about which the Bible has hundreds of verses (versus the less than dozen about same-sex sexual behavior). What I want to know is why the New York Times doesn’t take this man’s opinion (and the many other Christians' who feel as he does) and apply it to an article about the current recession, juxtaposing it against that of the Federal Reserve Bank. After all, it’s an opinion on the “other side” of the late capitalist assumptions that dominate the thinking on economic matters in the United States.

But never mind the New York Times, kids. It’s never okay when you are bullied and harassed by peers, the media or religious leaders based on your real or perceived sexual orientation, gender presentation, your taste in music or clothing, your family structure, favorite sport or anything else. If you are facing a daily battle with harassment, please remember that it really does get better. To represent the other side of religious thinking on this subject, here are some gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and otherwise queer Christians with personal experience to share.

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