FAQ’s is a new series of blog posts I’m starting to write about different questions some folks ask about LGBT rights activism, especially work around LGBT bullying. My first FAQ: “Don’t You Care About ALL Kinds of Bullying?!?!”
As a student ambassador for GLSEN, and an advocate for safe schools, I have been asked more than once why I and organizations like GLSEN or the Trevor Project choose to focus on anti-LGBT bullying, bias, and harassment. Often, the question is phrased in a somewhat accusatory way. “Why don’t you just focus on bullying in general? Don’t you care about other students too?!?!” Hence, the title of this blog post.
The first problem with this question is that it implies that taking a passionate stance on one issue means apathy towards other, similar issues. And this is certainly not the case. People and organizations that work on anti-LGBT bullying are often the first to stand up for other people being bullied as well. Just because I put a special effort into educating my peers about the harmful use of words like “that’s so gay” doesn’t mean I don’t also stand up against the use of words like “that’s retarded.” And it doesn’t mean that I don’t care deeply about other victims of bullying. The same thing goes for GLSEN, which recommends enumerated policies that protect all students of several classifications from bullying.
The frustrating thing is that some people even go so far as to suggest that, by advocating for LGBT students in particular, GLSEN is saying LGBT people deserve “special treatment.”
To these people, I would say to consider other non-profits like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a breast cancer organization. Do they advocate against breast cancer because they believe people with that cancer deserve “special treatment” over others with cancer? Or because they don’t care about other kinds of cancer? No. They do it because they know that breast cancer is a specific and different issue that sometimes requires specific and different kinds of advocacy and support.
The same goes for anti-LGBT bullying. The fact is that students who identify as LGBT are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied than their non-LGBT peers. They also sometimes deal with problems that other students don’t have to—coming out, rejection by family or teachers or school administrators, discriminatory policies, growing up in a heteronormative society that they don’t identify with, and more.
If there were only organizations that focused on bullying in general, then all of these issues that can have such a big impact on a young person would likely go unaddressed. And the silence that the LGBT people have lived under for far too long would only be perpetuated.
Organizations like GLSEN and the Trevor Project and GSAs say to the world “we’re not going to let the struggles of young people in this community go on unnoticed.” And that is why it is so, so important that they exist and continue to do the work that they do.