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by Sean Kosofsky
All Politics is Loco
Imagine Hell. Now imagine hell for a fourteen year old.
Your day begins with a strong urge to stay in bed. Not because you are tired, but because you are tired of the harassment. It is an unpleasant daily ritual having to decide between your safety and dignity or disappointing your parents by cutting school. As you walk toward your school, which feels like prison, you hold your breath and plan how you will survive the day.
The slurs begin before you even reach your locker. “Queer,” “Freak.” You watch a teacher pass by and they pretend to be preoccupied with their paperwork or some debris on the floor. You are tripped more than once and although you usually never fall, you do bump into other students that sneer at you instead of offering to help. You pass a group of boys who make obscene gestures. You have learned not to look because it only makes the tirade worse. By lunch, you feel battle tested.
Instead of focusing on thoughts of homework, hanging out with your friends or playing video games – you obsess about how embarrassed you are. Kids poking you. Teachers ignoring the pain. You hold it all in. You cry once each day in the bathroom because you secretly want them to like you. You did nothing to them and you would forgive them if they would just agree to stop.
At lunch you sit alone. You pick at your chicken nuggets because you have no appetite. You wonder how you can change yourself. Maybe if you just lost some weight. Maybe if you read more of those fashion magazines and learned how to dress. Maybe if you lost the glasses and your skin cleared up you would have a fighting chance. You feel empty – because you are empty. No one to nourish you and fill you up with hope. Your parents have no idea and you wouldn’t dare tattle on the bullies at school. Snitches get hurt and parental involvement only makes things worse. There is no way to win.
For many of us it is too easy to picture an image of who this fourteen year old could be. She/he could be any of tens of thousands of youth in Michigan schools who need relief now. I would love to say that there is help on the way but I can’t be too sure.
Exactly one year ago this month the Michigan House of Representatives narrowly passed Matt’s Safe Schools Law (House Bill 4162/4091). The bill should have enjoyed a super-majority but bigotry and politics almost imperiled a good piece of public policy. Anti-gay activists in Michigan tried to convince the legislature that Matt’s law would somehow offer greater protections for minority youth than for others. This is completely untrue but conservatives in the legislatures were encouraged by others in their party to abandon the popular legislation as long as it protected LGBT youth. It was shameful and insulting, but we ended up with a bill that had also endured some bullying itself.
Governor Granholm has pledged support for Matt’s Law so all the needs to occur in the next 9 months is passage in the Senate. But it is not that easy. We need a groundswell of people contacting their state senators for this legislation to get the boost it needs.
Triangle Foundation is a proud member of the Michigan Safe Schools Coalition which is producing Safe Schools Lobby day on March 26th. We need hundreds of people to find their way to the Capitol Building to express their support for this legislation. The only way to stop the suffering of youth that endure bullying every day is to pass legislation that forces school districts to take the situation seriously. For information on how you can help and how to support this lobby day please go to http://www.tri.org.