Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Mother's Plea: Dealing With Bullies

Last night, I received a tweet from a mother asking what she should do about her gay son being bullied in school. While I did respond to her via Twitter, this is obviously an issue that cannot be adequately addressed 140 characters at a time. Though this is addressed to her specifically, this goes for anyone - parent, family member, friend, whatever - who is, or knows someone who is, in a similar situation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that there is only so much that I can say from personal experience. I lucked out. Between not being out in school and (I guess) not being "stereotypical" enough to ping on most people's gaydar, I did not have to deal with anti-gay bullying. That said...

The over-arching theme of how to deal with this is keeping your son from falling into a hopeless despair. He must know that he is loved. He must know that his life has value and is not hopeless. You have to do whatever it takes to keep him from falling into emotional despair. Most, if not all, of the young people who have committed suicide because of anti-gay bullying did so because they thought there was no hope of escape from the abuse. This must be prevented. Surround him with loving family and friends who care about him regardless of his sexual orientation. If therapy or a support group needs to be found, those are other options to be considered.

You have to get the school involved (which has apparently happened). While, unfortunately, schools tend to have a bad track record on this issue, not telling them what is going on won't help. This means talking to ALL of his teachers, the principal and other administrators, even the school district superintendent if you have to. If they don't listen, do NOT hesitate to threaten legal action. Schools are supposed to be safe havens for learning, not gauntlets. There are legal groups who would be willing to help you and your son (some may do it pro bono).

Virginia Tech, my alma mater
Let him know that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Though there is discrimination everywhere, once he gets out of the bubble that is high school, it's a whole different ball game. Going to college, particularly one that is gay-friendly, will open up a whole new world. University is a great place where he can find open-minded people as well as other LGBT people his age (hopefully a good boyfriend too). They can be part of his support system.

Neil Patrick Harris & husband David Burtka
It is also important for him, and you, to know the mind of a bully. Bullies, generally, are cowards. They find it easier to put other people down to build themselves up. Most of them have their own personal problems. Sometimes, people resort specifically to anti-gay bullying because they are struggling with their own sexuality. It is a story I have heard many times. It even happens in adulthood (look at all of the gay sex scandals that constantly rock anti-gay politicians). Be aware of the pathology of bullies and it will go a long way to dealing with them head-on. Many bullies pick a target they think is weak and won't/can't fight back and they pounce. This is why it is also important that you help your son to be strong enough to stand up for himself.

There is probably a lot that I left out so if anyone reading this has something they want to add, leave a comment. I wish you and your son the best of luck through this ordeal. I pray that he sees it through to the other side because when he does, he will be the stronger for it. Remember, swords are forged in flame.



  1. It's about support. Indeed, the child has to know that he or she is not alone. That serves as a guide to help them deal with the trials that they might face.

    -Carolin Newmeyer

  2. As it is about support, it is also about tolerance and acceptance. People around the victim need to accept the fact that there are people like this, and that they are no different from others. Victims, too, have feelings, aspirations, principles, and a life. The persons being bullied also need to know that they are accepted, more importantly by the people who are important to them.

    Georgine Roe