This morning, I found myself full of so much hope when Jason Collins came out and became the first openly gay active player in a major sport. I could see how far we have come as a human race as we embrace love and give up the hate that is still so prevalent in this world. As an educator, naturally I thought about this impact on the LGBT students in our schools. Some of them now have another role model. Another person that they can look up to and possibly see a glimmer of themselves within. “That’s so gay” and “fag” are still used regularly in the language of many (sadly I’ve even heard those slurs in the hallways of my own elementary school), so it was inspiring to see such positive feedback as a result of someone embracing the way he was born and being himself. Jason’s courage (and yes, it was courageous) just might be that push that a student needs to make it through one more day. It might be that small bit of hope that tells someone that there isn’t anything wrong with him or her after all. I was overwhelmed seeing the outpouring of hope and love from so many.
Then a few hours later, I was reminded of the hate again. A student from a high school, not too far from mine, decided he would rather end his life that continue to grow up in a world that was too cruel for him. I didn’t know this student or know his circumstances, but from what I have gathered, he was regularly picked on and bullied. Nearly every day, I hear about the cruelty that some throw at others without a second thought about the impact or consequences it may have on their target. It fills me with disgust. I’m angry that someone wasn’t there to help him out. I’m saddened that he didn’t see hope or a way out other than ending his life, and I’m crushed by the reality that one less student walks this earth because of the hateful actions and words of others.
It caused me to think of the students in my school that find themselves being bullied, picked on, and are scared coming to school each day. Students, whether they are gay, straight, black, white, smart, artistic, athletic, or like to collect coins, fear that they will be made fun of or harassed just for being who they are. I struggle to comprehend how any human being can willingly aim hate at another. I struggle to comprehend those that say, “It’s part of growing up” and push it off as something that will never change. I struggle to find my place in the solution to this problem.
A few weeks ago, I came across the short film “Losers” by Everynone. [explicit language]
The first minute or so brought a gentle smile to my face. I loved seeing such a diverse range of kids just being themselves. They were having fun, expressing who they were, and even failing, but they were just being themselves and living their own lives.
Then the hate comes. The smile on my face gave way to teary eyes as I painfully watched the rest of the film. I thought about how so often kids (and even adults) are attacked for just being who they are. It’s almost enough to make you give up hope. Almost.
But then I think about Jason Collins or the kid in the hallway at school that stood up for his friend and I see love is still very much here also. Love that I wholeheartedly believe will eventually drive that hate away and my hope returns. I realize that I must continue to love and do my part to help others just be themselves. I’m reminded that I need to stand up for the weak, help the oppressed, and defend those just trying to be who they were born to be. For some, I can lessen the hate with my love. For many, we can lessen the hate with our love. We’re not there yet and we still have a long way to go, but we’re getting closer.