There was a recent high profile story in the news about an 11-year old boy who committed suicide, apparently because he could no longer tolerate being called “gay.” Sadly, this story is not unusual. The highest suicide rate of all groups is said to be among gays. What was unusual in the recent incident is the young age of the person who committed the act.
The most common insult among kids today is “gay.” It is used not only to mean "someone who is attracted to people of his/her own gender," but as a synonym for “stupid” or "bad." Kids get mad when they are called gay and they sometimes get into fights.
I have great compassion for gays. Not only do they have to deal with the derision and even hatred of a large proportion of the general public, they also need to deal with their own angst about being different.
What is one to do when called gay? The anti-bully movement is trying to solve the problem by passing laws making it illegal to insult anyone. Many anti-bully activists insist that anti-bully laws should specifically mention insults against gays and those of non-heterosexual orientions. If it becomes a crime to insult people, then, it is hoped, no one will be attacked with the “gay” insult, and the associated violence will disappear.
One of the problems with making it illegal to call someone “gay” is that it violates the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. However, few people today understand and value Freedom of Speech. Most people seem to believe that it is worth getting rid of Freedom of Speech in order to protect people’s feelings.
The truth is that society has come a long way in recent decades toward reducing hatred and discrimination against gays. However, it will be a while–if ever–before anti-gay sentiment disappears completely. So what is one to do when called gay? If it is happening to you, and you need to wait till prejudice disappears from the face of the earth, your problem may never end. Using laws to punish people for using “gay” as an insult is not likely to solve the problem, either. If people get punished for insulting gays, do you think they are going to think, “Now I respect gays so much because they got me punished”? Of course not! They are going to hate gays even more, and think they are big crybabies who need the help of the government.
Fortunately, as I routinely demonstrate through role-playing at my seminars, the solution to this problem that has hurt so many people is remarkably simple. We can deal with gay insults all by ourselves, and at the same time help reduce prejudice in society. As I will be showing, Freedom of Speech is not the cause of the problem but the solution! And it is mandated by the Golden Rule, which is the ultimate solution to interpersonal problems. Few people are aware of it, but the Golden Rule really comes to teach us that we need to treat people like friends even when they treat us like enemies.
Of course, the following dialogues are imaginary, and the age and sophistication of the kids involved will determine the content of the dialogues in real life. So please don’t get caught up with the specific words; it is the attitudes that matter. And the gender of the people is also not relevant. But since I am a male, it is easier for me to write the scripts as though I am a male. (And when i identify the insulter as "You," I don't mean you, the reader, of course. It's just easy to write the scenes this way, as a dialogue between "Me" and "You.")
Scenario Number One: I am not gay, but you call me gay.
You: You are soooo gay!
Me: No, I’m not!
You: Yes, you are! Everyone knows you’re gay!
Me: How can they know something that’s not true?
You: Didn’t you ever look in the mirror? You’re flaming gay!
Me: No, I’m not! Stop calling me gay!
You: Why should I stop? I’m going to keep on calling you gay until you admit it’s true!
Me: But it’s not true! Shut your mouth already or I’ll shut it for you!
You: A little fairy like you! Hah! How are you going to shut my mouth?
Me: I will! You call me gay one more time and I’ll have no choice!
You: Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay! Go ahead! Try and stop me!
This, of course, will lead to nowhere but a fight. Now I’ll respond differently. I will give you Freedom of Speech and treat you like a friend.
You: You are soooo gay!
Me: How come you think I’m gay?
You: Just look in the mirror and you’ll see.
Me: I do look in the mirror. What about me do you think makes me look gay?
You: The way you dress. Those pants are so tight. Only gays would wear pants like that.
Me: They are 50’s style. Marlon Brando and James Dean used to wear pants like that.
You: Well, they must have been gay.
Me: I don’t think so. I think they were really hot with the women.
You: They were?
Me: Yeah! You should watch some of their movies. They’re real classics.
You: Only gays like old movies.
Me: Oh, you’d be surprised. You should watch, On The Waterfront and Rebel Without a Cause. You’d love them.
You: Well, maybe I’ll watch them sometime.
Me: You won’t regret it!
Much better, isn’t it. And it was so easy. I just treated you like a friend and told myself you have the right to say whatever you want.
Scenario Number Two: I am gay and have “come out,” and you hate gays with a passion. Let’s say we are in high school, because by that age we are likely to be aware of our true sexual orientation.
You: You know, you are going to burn in hell!
Me: No, I’m not!
You: Yes, you will! The Bible says all gays are going to burn in hell!
Me: The Bible is nonsense! It was written by homophobic men!
You: No, it wasn’t! God wrote the Bible and it says you are going to suffer eternal damnation!
Me: No, I won’t! You’re the one who’s going to burn in hell because God hates bigots!
You: God loves me! He hates you! That’s why he sent AIDS to kill you off!
Me: How dare you talk to me like that? You are violating my civil rights!
You: Oh, yeah? What are you going to do? Call the police?
Me: Maybe I should!
You: Yeah, go ahead, you gay sissy! Guess what? The police hate gays, too! They’re not going to help you!
Me: Yes, they will! It’s the law!
You: Hah, hah! No law can help you! Gays are beyond help!
Me: Shut your mouth already!
Again, this goes nowhere except endless hostility.
This time I’ll give you Freedom of Speech and treat you like a friend.
You: You know, you are going to burn in hell!
Me: Why do you say that?
You: Because you are gay!
Me: And you think gays are going to hell?
You: Yes! The Bible says so!
Me: Well, I sure hope it’s not true.
You: It is!
Me: How do you know?
You: I told you already. The Bible says so. And that’s what my priest says, too!
Me: Yes, a lot of priests say that. You know, there were a lot of stories in the news about priests molesting young boys. Does that mean they are gay, too?
You: I guess so.
Me: Will they go to hell, too?
Me: Boy, I’m sure glad there will be some priests to confess to in hell!
You: Stop kidding around. I mean it. You are going to go to hell if you stay gay.
Me: Why do you think it is so terrible to be gay?
You: Because the Bible says “Adam and Eve,” not, “Adam and Steve.”
Me: If God didn’t want there to be gays, why did he make me gay?
You: He didn’t make you gay. You chose to be gay!
Me: You think I chose to be gay?
You: Of course. Everyone knows it’s a choice.
Me: Are you straight?
You: Of course!
Me: Do you remember choosing to be straight?
You: I didn’t have to choose. I was born straight.
Me: That’s right. You didn’t choose to be straight. You never had to ask yourself, “Should I be straight, or should I be gay? I think I’ll be straight!” Well, you know what, I never chose, either. If it were a choice, do you think I would have chosen to be gay?
You: Well, you obviously did!
Me: Believe me, if it were a choice, I would have chosen to be straight. You know how tough it is to be gay?
Me: Oh, it’s a bummer! People hate you just for what you are. They treat you like a freak and tell you you’re going to hell. When I first realized I was gay, I thought, “Oh, no. What am I going to do? People are going to hate me. How am I going to live a normal life? And how am I going to tell my parents?” Believe me, if it were a choice, I would have picked straight.
You: Well, it’s not too late! You can still choose to become straight.
Me: Believe me, I tried. I went out with girls. I figured, if I go out with enough girls, I’d learn to be attracted to them. But it didn’t work. I mean, I love their company. We have so much in common. But I was never attracted to them.
You: Maybe you didn’t go out with the right girl.
Me: Dude, it’s nice that you care so much about me, but believe me, I went out with the “right” girls. But it didn’t help. I just had to become cool with the fact that I’m gay, and then I became happier.
You: I think you should still try anyway. In my church, they run this program that turns gay people straight.
Me: I went to a program like that for a whole year. All it did was make me feel guilty. It didn’t make me straight.
You: Well, maybe the program in my church is better. You should try it.
Me: Thanks again for wanting to help me. I really appreciate it. But I’m gay, and I’m okay with it now.
You: Well, if that’s what makes you happy…
Me: Yes, it does. Thanks for the concern.
You: You’re welcome.
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