I am seething. But that has to wait. First I would like to acknowledge Bouchercon where everything that mattered was in place – namely the people in attendance. It is always such a joy to meet the writers, bloggers, organizers and readers that make their way year after year – or only now and again, or even just the once. The company of good people is really what matters the most at these events, made even better by nicely varying and informative panels as was the case this year.
Now I am back in Iceland to embark on my annual fall mission, i.e. finish the book in progress. You might not hear much from me until that has been successfully achieved. But my seething has nothing to do with writing. It has to do with unkindness and thoughts shackled by chains of insensitivity and feelings of superiority.
Some months ago I saw a documentary named “Bully”. I am sure many of you have seen it and I am just as sure that those who did watched with sadness in your hearts. The insensitivity of children is appalling, always has been and probably always will be. Coupled with the social media now available to one and all, youth must now be a minefield for those that in some way stand out from the crowd. And even for those who don’t. What divides between the kids that are left alone and those that are hounded can be something minor, something major or even plainly nothing at all. The young human punching bag chosen by the hyenas might just as well be chosen by spinning a bottle. By this I mean all bullied victims – different or not different - no one should be the obvious choice.
But it is not only children that bully or mistreat those that fall outside the cookie cutter mold used to define the average. Grown-ups can be just as bad, often in their non-attempts to stop what is going on and sometimes they also take it upon themselves to act as the bully. Bullying is awful when conducted by children, but even more so when grown-ups are involved.
Now for the seething part.
My fifteen, almost sixteen year old niece has recently come out as gay. She lives in the US, not permanently, but she will be there for a few years. Since teenagers long to fit into the crowd for most part, it is hard to take such a step. So we her family and friends back home are extremely proud of her. Extremely so. A young person that decides to be honest about him/herself instead of pretending to be someone different shows strong character. And strong character will take you far in life.
A few days ago my niece went to school wearing a tee-shirt that said “Gay is OK”. I find this statement innocent and not likely to harm anyone or insult anyone’s feelings. How could it? It is not a hate mongering statement or threatening. But apparently not everyone agrees with me there. A school official had the gall to come into her classroom and remove her from class because of the tee-shirt. Take her up to an office where she was ordered to take off her tee-shirt and put on someone else’s dirty shirt from the lost and found. To make matters worse, the woman involved told my niece that she personally had nothing against gays, she even had gay friends. She simply had to do this because of school policy against such statements.
Is mentioning gay-friends not the ultimate ridiculous proclamation, used by every bigot and anti-gay person alive at some point? I for one have lots of friends. Some of them happen to be gay. I never, ever mention them as my gay-friends as if I am filling some quota or trying to prove that I am liberal – they are just my friends. It is as ridiculous to speak of gay-friends as it would be to mention people as being your freckled-friends. Friends are friends and you should not categorize them as if they were Pokemon cards, i.e. “collect them all”. To avoid any misunderstanding throwing the “gay-friends” term around (note it is always in plural) is not the same thing as referring to a group as “your golfing buddies” for example – in such a case you meet with these buddies to golf and you associate with them at the golf course. A completely, completely different analogy.
When my niece, strong as she is, asked to see the damning clause in the school policy, the woman was unable to supply it. It did not exist. A policy certainly did but there was nothing in it that could remotely apply to the tee-shirt. This woman had just flagged a non-existent policy clause to justify her own prejudice.
And on another note. People are born gay – they no more choose to be gay than they choose their natural hair color or height. Would the school have panicked if she had shown up in a tee-shirt that said “Blondes have more fun”? I don’t think so.
To me this woman who chose to make my niece stand out even more by removing her from class, a grown-up that found the urgency so great that she could not wait until class was out – she is now on a list with Putin. Putin is a coward, since cowards are by definition afraid of something that is not really scary if they would just man up and face the fear. You see Putin is afraid that if gay affection is visible non-gay people will become gay. As is the school official I am assuming. Two ridiculous people, as I can assure you this will not happen. Seeing gay couples holding hands or kissing will not turn you gay, no more than gay people become straight in the opposite case. We have our whole human history as proof of the latter.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if anyone who is gay was able to come out and say it without repercussions? Do we not all have the right to be the happiest person we are able to be? To love whom we want to? If not I would really like to hear the reasoning to back it up. And religion does not count. Especially not the Bible – you see in at least one spot where the Bible is heaping crap on gays the text is also saying that the handicapped are not worthy of god’s altar. If the church was able to put that aside I am sure they can make an exception for those born gay as well. And Kudos to the Pope for opening the door a smidgen recently to begin the airing out of precisely this.
To my little heroic niece: Gay sure is OK – it is more than OK, it is as perfectly normal as being straight. Let no one tell you different.
Yrsa - Wednewsday