Intolerance is an epidemic

I was watching CNN the other night when a story came on about yet another teen suicide as a result of bullying. On Sept. 18, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide in the backyard of his suburban Buffalo, N.Y. home after being taunted, bullied and ridiculed online for years for being a homosexual. It’s an appalling story, really.

Even more disturbing: after his suicide, the bullying continues. Jamey’s parents indicated in an interview with MSN Today’s Ann Curry Tuesday that Jamey’s sister Alyssa was taunted at her school’s homecoming dance when a song by Lady GaGa, Jamey’s favorite artist, was played.

“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,” Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.”

On May 4, Jamey posted a video on YouTube as part of the It Gets Better project urging gay teens that life gets better after bullying. The It Gets Better project an internet-based project, which started in September 2010, that aims to prevent suicide among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered youth by sharing videos from celebrities, politicians, musicians and more, who state that life gets better after bullying.

Lady GaGa dedicated a song to him during her concert at the iHeartRadio Music Festival on Sept. 24, saying “Let’s do this one for Jamey,” and later adding, “Jamey, I know you’re up there looking at us. You’re not a victim.” Pop singer Ricky Martin also spoke out against Jamey’s bullying when he tweeted, “How many lives do we have to lose to finally stop the harassment, hatred, the bigotry and the abuse?”

Lady GaGa spoke to President Barack Obama at a fund-raising event in California urging him to make bullying illegal, saying that it is a hate crime. She met one-on-one with Obama to ask him do what he could do to stop bullying.

When does the intolerance end? I’m disgusted by the bigotry in this country. Why do we continue to ignore what really matters – doesn’t everyone deserves to be loved? In the end, what really matters is the fact that no matter your sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, etc., we are all still human beings.

As a heterosexual man, I can stand strong in my beliefs that we are all equal. Everyone deserves love regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Who am I to say that because someone is different than I am, they don’t deserve the same rights and privileges? It’s not my place, period. Nor is it anyone else’s place to say anything. So many people are caught up in their backwards, outdated beliefs that they aren’t opening their eyes to the 21st Century. We aren’t stuck in the 1950s anymore – wake up.

“I just don’t understand how people allow themselves to be so ignorant on gay issues,” TTU LAMBDA president Jamie Barrett said. “To willingly think that we chose to live a gay life.”

Bullying and intolerance is an epidemic in this country, and it needs to be a wake-up call. You may recall the news of Tyler Clementi’s death, a freshman at Rutger’s University who jumped from the George Washington Bridge after hidden webcam footage was posted on the internet by his roommate of his intimate encounter with another man. Maybe you remember the story of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish exchange student from Northhampton, Mass., who killed herself after being raped and tormented by classmates for many months for what one student said “being pretty and people were just jealous.” Those stories are just a small fraction of the amount of bullying that happens every day.

How many other teenagers need to commit suicide before we open our eyes to the reality of the situation? It has to stop, bullying and intolerance is a hate crime, and it should be treated as such.

According to a 2009 study, LGBT teens are 8.4 times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens – why, because of moronic, cowardly bullies? The answer: probably. Stop blaming your religious beliefs, your up-bringing and your past experiences for your ignorance

The reality of the situation is that you are probably bullying others because you’re uncomfortable with your own sexuality or identity. People need to be educated; I’m so tired of people being stuck in their ways. What’s even more frustrating is that bullies are so ignorant to their own intolerance. Instead, they hide behind useless excuses. Ignorance spreads like wildfire, it’s disgusting.

To all bullies: find something better to do with your time. Try coming out of the closet, yourself. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the ridicule too.

My point is – why can’t we all just mind our own business, find something more useful to spend our time on and learn to accept people for who they truly are?

For more information on and to support the It Gets Better project, visit itgetsbetter.org.

For LGBT students, TTU LAMBDA offers support by email, through Facebook and at their meetings, which are held every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. TTU LAMBDA’s website, which launched Wednesday, offers support through a contact form and through officer’s contact information. The organization is in the process of implementing the “safe haven” program on Tech’s campus, a program carried out by my faculty to offers a place of confidentiality and support for LGBT students. Posted signs on office doors would serve as an indication of a safe haven location.