Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Bully Puplit

Is life today worse for LGBT teens than it was 20 years ago despite -- or even because of -- progress on LGBT rights? My new Advocate column explores that idea and offers some answers on how we can truly change the culture to stop bullies from developing, rather than the band-aid approach we use now:

“In the research, ‘slut’ and ‘faggot’ are the two words used most by bullies,” says Elizabethe Payne, who founded the Queering Education Research Institute at Syracuse University’s School of Education. Through QuERI’s Reduction of Stigma in Schools Program, Payne and her colleagues are doing the qualitative research that is much needed to get at the root of bullying. She believes we have a Band-Aid approach that punishes bullies rather than preventing them from developing in the first place.

“Right now we focus on the individual kids’ problems,” she explains. “Conversations are about bullying prevention, and those things are important. But why has the effeminate male been the primary target of bullying for so many years? The problem with the bullying programs is that we reeducate the bully and then there’s another one right behind that one, because we haven’t really questioned the structure of the school itself. The football players [and] the cheerleaders are the most valued. It’s based on gender. We have to question schools about how they’re privileging that, and the school needs to equally send those messages that it’s OK to excel at other things.

Check out the whole column and let me know your thoughts.