Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Day (and work) after the "End of DADT" Celebrations

As I drove home during LA rush hour traffic I was listening to National Public Radio news. The news commentator observed that the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen had been an important advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, especially in his testimony on several occasions last year on Capitol Hill.

At a news conference held on the day the repeal took effect, Politico reports
the following comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mullen,

“Today is really about every man and woman who serves this country, every man and woman in uniform, regardless of how they define themselves,” Mullen said. “Tomorrow they’ll all get up, they’ll all go to work, and they’ll all be able to do that work honestly.”

Asked about how the military can guard members of the military against harassment and violence against gays, Panetta noted that the military has a “zero tolerance” with regards to harassment and that military leaders must be on the lookout for potential problems that arise.

I think that the Admiral’s words are the clearest expression of what is at the heart of our struggle for Full Federal Legal rights and protection. It really is simply about people, ALL people including LBGT people, being able to get up in the morning, go to work and live their lives (and relationships) in peace. Without harassment and violence.

Yesterday, we took a significant step forward towards that ultimate goal. It was an imperfect step, transgendered people are not protected by the repeal of DADT and gay/lesbian service member’s spouses/domestic partners are not granted the same rights and privileges of their heterosexual counterparts. However, it was a historic step forward, not only for the Armed Forces and their members but also, for American society.

When I arrived home I found the following article posted to my Facebook wall,

Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, Dies in Suicide

Another tragic reminder that bullying against gay youth is a continuing problem comes with the suicide of a 14-year-old boy, Jamey Rodemeyer, who had asked for help repeatedly.

The repeal of DOMA and the passage of ENDA are necessary and important next steps in our struggle for Full Federal Legal Rights. However, while we work to recapture the House of Representatives and secure victories in November of 2012 that will make such legislation possible, we can and must work on the grassroots level to advance Anti-Bullying laws.

You can be part of this effort by attending your local PTA meetings, School Board meetings and becoming informed, involved and advocate for Anti-Bullying Laws. Write local officials letters, with a postage stamp, members of Congress actually pay much more attention to real letters from constituents than to E-mails.

Anti-Bullying laws will help to avoid tragedies like the one posted above. Remember how you felt when you were very young and first discovered that you were “different?” Remember how alone and powerless you felt? You can be a voice for the voiceless. You can personally make a real and immediate difference in this battle. Finally, Anti-Bullying laws will help all the “letters” in our alphabet soup.


Tal said...

The suicide was terrible. It reminds me of the all the LGBT kids who find themselves horribly tormented. I find the term "bullying" doesn't fully convey what this type of maltreatment really is. It's criminal harassment. If adults did it, they would be subject to arrest and prosecution.

I speak as someone who growing up was on the receiving end of this type of harassment. I wasn't obviously gay, but many of my classmates picked up on the fact that I was different and didn't fully fit in. And if it's one thing vicious, immature and tribal child-minds are good at, it's sussing out differences and viciously attacking them.

My thoughts and prayers are with Rodemeyers family. They must be going through hell right now.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Tal,

You are absolutely correct when you say, “I find the term ‘bullying’ doesn’t fully convey what this type of maltreatment really is. It’s criminal harassment. If adults did it, they would be subject to arrest and prosecution.”

I can only add that despicably adults (teachers, coaches, etc) are often aware of such abuse and turn a blind eye, thinking that it will “toughen him/her up” or “make the ‘normal.” That is why we need Anti-Bullying laws enacted that will protect students like 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer.

Thank you for opening your heart on this issue and sharing your own painful experience.


bobfett11 said...

God bless Jamey. May he rest in peace. When are the bishops going to open their mouths and speak out against the bullying of our kids, evil actions that sometimes tragically end in suicide. They are notably silent here.


Father Geoff said...

Dear Mark,

They remain silent because they realize that there exists a direct correlation between their political lobbying efforts to oppose Civil Rights for LGBT people and the astronomical suicide rate among LGBT youth.

How would you feel if you were an adolescent who was told that you could never:

1. Date.
2. Marry.
3. Adopt.
4. Be protected from employment discrimination based on your sexual orientation.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Vatican that directs them, utilize their very considerable financial and social resources to ensure that LGBT persons remain firmly in the closet and targets of legal, economic and social discrimination.

When suicides occur, they lay the blame at the feet of their victims and/or on advocates for Civil Rights.