Weird Kid

Quick Read: Weird Isn’t Okay, According to Oprah.com

Weird Kid

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The past few years in America have caused the media to become a chanting chorus of anti-bullying messages. “I’m beautiful in my way, ’cause God makes no mistakes,” Lady Gaga sang in the (rejected?) gay anthem “Born This Way.” “Don’t you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing; you are perfect to me,” P!nk implored in “Fuckin’ Perfect.” “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” Katy Perry queried in “Firework.” (Admittedly, some songs were more effective than others.)

With the It Gets Better campaign infecting all parts of the media, and especially shows like Glee, it’s very rare to see any arm of the press fall out of step with the vehement “Bullying isn’t okay; embrace who you are” message.

On the CNN.com homepage today is an article from Oprah.com entitled “How to deal with your kid’s weird friends.” Author Corrie Pikul describes the six different types of ‘weird’ kids your child might make friends with in school, and how to best deal with them. The piece itself isn’t the issue – though Pikul isn’t exactly setting the journalistic world on fire with this one – but in how she handwaves being able to call these kids weird.

“Your child is hilarious, interesting, clever—frankly, he’s all-around delightful,” she starts. “But his friends are …well, we’re all adults here, so let’s just come out with it: Some of them are weird.”

I’m not quite sure what being adults has to do with it. Is name-calling okay at a certain age? Are we as adults allowed to call kids weird, but not each other? Can kids call us weird? It’s a very strange qualifier, and while I’m sure Pikul meant nothing by it, I have to wonder why maven of good feelings Oprah Winfrey’s website endorses something like this.

Not only that, but the position is kind of imperious and condescending. ‘My child is perfect, but look at all these other weirdos he has to put up with!’ If your child is hanging out with weird kids, chances are he’s a little weird, too. In fact, most kids are weird. Hence why I don’t want to have any of them. Maybe this piece would have been more useful if it was about dealing with your own child’s weirdnesses as well.

I’ve made my position on It Gets Better known, and let me just clarify that I personally have no problem with this. There are such things as weird kids. Like I said, I personally think most kids are weird. But this is such a strange piece simply because it’s so out of step with the rest of media’s pro-uniqueness message. Perhaps the anti-bullying wave is coming to a close once again?

Advertisements

Gay, Catholic College Student on Dating

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Gay, Catholic College Student on Dating- NextGen Journal.

I’ve been told countless times after a particularly bad date or a frustratingly fruitless night out on the town that dating in college is incredibly difficult. It’s meant to be comforting – it’s not me, it’s the system! – but in reality, it’s about as helpful as “It Gets Better” is to a seventh grader: great to know for the future, but not really benefiting me in the present.

Of course, I’m not just trying to date in college – I’m a gay man going to a Catholic school. Now, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a private Jesuit school in Los Angeles, is as progressive as they come, and I’m certainly in better shape than many others. But that doesn’t change the fact that, surrounded by straight couples and single heterosexual students who have no trouble finding options, I’m growing increasingly despondent about finding someone each and every day.

The problem is threefold: the gay population of my school, the gay dating scene in general and my age. If I had one wish for LMU, it would be that more students could be honest about their sexuality. I’ve visited friends at other schools and been shocked at how casual students are about sex.

At LMU, while students are accepting and progressive on gay issues, you’d be hard-pressed to find many out students. With such a small community, everyone knows everyone, and most have decided whether or not they’d be interested long before ever meeting someone. Students usually go off campus to find successful relationships, to neighboring USC and UCLA. Of course, how to find them is part of my second problem: the gay dating scene.

How do you meet a fella who likes fellas? It’s a conundrum that has plagued gay young adults for decades. Sure, there are the parties and the clubs and the gay neighborhoods (LA’s is West Hollywood), but what if you’re the type who likes watching “Bridesmaids” on a Friday night? Gay hookup apps masquerading as ‘dating’ apps like Grindr aren’t the solution, either – though they are becoming increasingly more accepted not only among those in the gay community, but in the straight one, too. Good luck, though – if you can wade through all the headless torsos and find a quality man, you’ve accomplished quite a feat.

Even if you do like going out and having fun, woe to you if you’re not 21! West Hollywood has exactly one gay club open to those 18 and up, Rage, and that’s only on select nights and draws an eclectic crowd. (There is another gay ‘night’ in Los Angeles, TigerHeat, but it’s an event rather than its own club, on a Thursday, and constantly moves venues.) Other than that, you’d best wait until your 21st birthday to get in anywhere.

As a result of all this, my dating experiences in college have been disappointingly limited. I’ve done my best to put myself out there, but my only good experiences have been back home over the summer (ironically enough, considering I’m from Texas – a much less gay-friendly place than LA). Unfortunately, other than waiting until you hit 21 and continuing to try to break a bad streak, there isn’t some big solution to dating gay in college, much less at a smaller Catholic college. But ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,’ the old saying goes. Plus, ‘it gets better,’ to quote a slightly newer saying.

So if you’ll excuse me, I must be going. I’ve got a date to meet.

It Gets Better logo

It Gets Better might be making it worse

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: ‘It Gets Better’ might be making it worse – Los Angeles Loyolan.

It Gets Better logo

Photo Credit: It Gets Better Project

“Shut up.” That’s my knee-jerk reaction whenever I read an article where a heterosexual person tells the LGBT community what to do or what they’re doing wrong. And every so often, after I’ve actually read the full article and listened to his or her point, my reaction hasn’t changed.

But after reading “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.,” an article written by right-wing activist Kathleen McKinley on Nov. 1 on the Chron.com blog “TexasSparkle,” I have to admit I was left contemplating her argument a little more than I typically would. Not because she’s any great shakes as a writer – in fact, she comes off as a bit of a half-wit – but because buried underneath the mediocre verbiage, she makes a few good points.

McKinley’s argument is, in essence, that adults who urge gay teens to come out of the closet at an early age are endangering them and preparing them for an unrealistic world. Her targets are the It Gets Better Project, the television show “Glee” and other media outlets she perceives as portraying a false world to gay teens.

The blog Gawker.com, along with a few other web outlets, have blasted McKinley for, in effect, telling gay kids to stay in the closet and blaming their parents rather than blaming the bullies who are really at fault. McKinley does seem less interested in admonishing the hateful bigots than she should – instead, she focuses her anger primarily on, as she puts it, “the idiotic adults who force our adult views on kids, and pull them into our adult world long before they are mature enough to handle it.”

While I’d love to say that she’s wrong and that adults are completely aware of the difficulties of being so young and dealing with the process of discovering your sexual identity in today’s world, she’s actually making a good point. The media world is hypersexualized today and so focused on figuring out your identity that it’s nigh impossible to come to an understanding of your sexual identity independently.

The It Gets Better Project, established last year by columnist Dan Savage during the last rash of gay teen suicides, gained notoriety quickly as a source of support for LGBT youth. Hundreds of YouTube users, both famous and obscure, uploaded videos communicating their sympathies to bullied gay youth. The movement became an overnight sensation with mainstream media.

Fast forward a year and America is once again in the middle of a multitude of gay teens committing suicide, with Canadian teen Jamie Hubley as the most recent victim. It’s not a stretch to say that the It Gets Better Project has failed as a campaign, especially when considering that one of the bullied teens who eventually commited suicide, 14-year- old Jamey Rodemeyer, actually made an It Gets Better video during the first string of suicides.

McKinley’s critique of the It Gets Better Project and other adults who emphasize being who you are, rather than coming out at the right time, is on-point. LGBT teens need a way to express themselves and work out their feelings and curiosities. However, waving a rainbow flag and setting their social studies presentations to Lady Gaga songs isn’t the answer. It may be a generalization, but teenagers are jerks. They’re still discovering who they are and tend to take out their insecurities in hateful ways. High school is not the best place to freely express who you are, no matter who that may be. It’s not fair, but then again, very little in this world is fair.

Parents should be open and honest with their children, giving them safe environments to express their sexual identity in a healthy manner. They should also be honest with them about being confident in themselves but also being safe. By the same coin, LGBT teens should be proud and confident in their sexual identity without exposing themselves to bullying. They should acknowledge their circumstances and respond appropriately to their situation. If a gay youth doesn’t feel safe and is without a strong support system that can be there in the worst of times, it’s not a good idea to push gay youth to come out.

I disagree with McKinley’s approach and her stances on most other issues. I also wish she would learn how to write properly so she didn’t make an otherwise strong point so insufferable to read. None of that, however, takes away from the fact that her argument is valid and needs to be heard.

The It Gets Better Project and movements like it have their hearts in the right place. But, they aren’t quite working and it’s time to acknowledge that rather than crucifying those like McKinley who are willing to say so.