Friday, April 24, 2009

Bullied to Death

The other day I wrote this post after reading about an 11 year old boy who killed himself after enduring extreme bullying. Below is the full article from about the little boy's death.

Ya know, nothing about the story makes sense. An 11 year old should not feel so traumatized that he takes his own life. Somewhere, somehow, everyone one of us in society failed this child.

My Bullied Son's Last Day on Earth

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera woke up on April 16 acting strangely. He wasn't hungry and he didn't want to go to school.

Bit the outgoing fifth grader packed his bag and went to school at Dunaire Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia.

He came home much happier than when he left in the morning, smiling as he handed his mother, Masika Bermudez, a glowing report card full of A's and B's. She gave him a high-five and he went upstairs to his room as she prepared dinner.

A little later, when his younger sister called him to come down to eat, Jaheem didn't answer.

So mother and daughter climbed the stairs to Jaheem's room and opened the door.

Jaheem was hanging by his belt in the closet.

"I always used to see these things on TV, dead people on the news," says Bermudez. "I saw somebody die and to see this dead person is your son, hanging there, a young boy. ... To hang yourself like that, you've got to really be tired of something."

Bermudez says bullies at school pushed Jaheem over the edge. He complained about being called gay, ugly and "the virgin" because he was from the Virgin Islands, she said.

"He used to say Mom they keep telling me this ... this gay word, this gay, gay, gay. I'm tired of hearing it, they're telling me the same thing over and over," she told CNN, as she wiped away tears from her face.

But while she says her son complained about the bullying, she had no idea how bad it had gotten.

"He told me, but he just got to the point where he didn't want me to get involved anymore because nothing was done," she said.

Bermudez said she complained to the school about bullying seven or eight times, but it wasn't enough to save him.

"It [apparently] just got worse and worse and worse until Thursday," she said. "Just to walk up to that room and see your baby hanging there. My daughter saw this, my baby saw this, my kids are traumatized."

She said Jaheem was a shy boy just trying to get a good education and make friends.

"He was a nice little boy," Bermudez said through her tears. "He loved to dance. He loved to have fun. He loved to make friends. And all he made [at school] were enemies."

Bermudez said she thinks her son felt like nobody wanted to help him, that nobody stood up and stopped the bullies.

"Maybe he said 'You know what -- I'm tired of telling my mom, she's been trying so hard, but nobody wants to help me,' " says Bermudez.

After Jaheem's death, the school board expressed condolences, saying the school staff "works diligently to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all students."

Trying desperately to understand what went wrong, Bermudez asked her son's best friend to recount what happened on the day Jaheem killed himself.

"He [said he was] tired of complaining, tired of these guys messing with him," Bermudez said, recalling the conversation with Jaheem's best friend. "Tired of talking, I think to his teachers, counselors and nobody is doing anything -- and the best way out is death."

Allegations of such severe bullying surprises experts familiar with the school district. It's anti-bullying program was considered exemplary and includes programs to raise awareness and a specially trained liaison. Students are even asked to sign a no-bullying pledge. But other parents told CNN they have complained about bullying as well.

Despite recent strides towards preventing bullying in schools and increased awareness programs, a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network study showed that 65 percent of teens are bullied each year and most believe adults can't help them.

Less than a month before Jaheem's death, a boy in Massachusetts killed himself after being bullied, harassed and called "gay."

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, says to be effective, awareness programs need to include education about the harm that can be done by teasing someone about sexuality or perceived sexuality.

"Anti-gay language is really the ultimate weapon for a bully who wants to degrade his or her peers," she says. "And any effective response to bullying has to take that on."

Bermudez doesn't understand why the children at school couldn't learn to get along. Because of it, she'll never get to see her son grow up.

"My baby, that's my only boy, and I lost him now," says Bermudez. "He was my first child and ... to lose him 11 years after, he didn't live his life."

She hopes her son's death will result in positive changes that will help other kids being bullied.

"Those that are being bullied -- they need to talk to their parents, they need to not hold back," she says. "I lost my son and now something has to be done."

Suicide hotline numbersNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Does it Stop?

Another young life lost!
11 year old Jaheem Herrera of Stone Mountain, Georgia, took his own life last week because his fellow classmates at Dunaire Elementary School harassed and bullied Herrera for thinking he was gay.
At what point do we (big generalization, and I really don't care) enough is enough? When does society stand-up and say it's not all right to bully? In recent weeks, two young kids have committed suicide as a direct result of bullying - see below italicized article. A few years ago, the famous MySpace incident, begun by an adult no less, caused a teen-age girl to kill herself. It has to stop.

We are not (at least I hope we're not) an ignorant society. We (well, some of us) are an intelligent group of individuals capable of compassion. At least I think we are. Articles like the one below, incidents like the ones mentioned below, truly test my faith in humanity.

Kids are kids, and kids are mean. It happens. Adults sit back and let them be mean. There comes a point, however, when adults must step in. The two incidents mentioned below are one of those points. Unfortunately, no one stepped in and two young lives were lost far too soon, all because some ignorant kids took the bullying to extremes.

Will the kids responsible feel guilty? Probably not. Will their parents? Probably not. The parents will just say oh, kids will be kids. Well, the kids learn from adults.

Now, what I haven't said so far, is that the kids were bullied because the other kids thought they were gay. Yes, some other kids thought an 11 year old was gay. Go figure. Did they know for sure? No. Did they care? No. Were the kids wrong in what they did? Yes. Did they probably think it was right because they see public figures bashing gays all the time? Yes! The fact is, the diatribes by public figures have a trickle-down effect to even the youngest members of society. I can hear it now - But, Mom, that pastor on TV said that homosexuality is wrong! Yes, I went there.

At some point, we as a society, need to get a grip. It is not okay to bully. It is not okay to discriminate. It is not okay to deny equality to people based on the way they were born.

Okay, I'm done. Read the article below.

He was just 11 years old!!!

Jaheem's 10-year-old sister discovered her brother hanging from a fabric belt in his bedroom, no longer alive.

Herrera's stepfather said homophobic bullies at school would taunt and name-call his stepson, a 5th grader, repeatedly calling him "gay and a snitch." The boy was even brave enough to tell teachers and faculty at his school about the harassment, but the bullying continued.
Jaheem's tragic loss comes just weeks after
the suicide of a Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who also suffered bullying because classmates thought he was gay, attracted national attention.

He was 11 as well. His mother found him hanging from an extension cord in the family’s home.

What is it . . .

. . . with the blaming the GLBT community for everything wrong in society?

Ultra-conservative radio host Mike Savage has gone on a disgusting rant calling all gays and lesbians perverts, abominations, and pretty much blaming them for everything wrong in society.

Yes, the allegedly ignorant in society are providing me with boundless sources for my rants. Let me dissect this one.

First - the GLBT community is not responsible for everything that is wrong with society.

To prove my theory, let me list the things that would not happen if not for the GLBT Community:

  • Designer Clothes - count the number of my people in the industry versus the hetero designers. Let's see how pretty the heteros look without the gay designers.
  • Hair - again, count the number of my people in the industry versus the hetero hair stylists. Let's see how pretty the heteros look without the gay hair stylists.
  • Interior Decorators - again, same argument as before.
  • Waiters - boy, talk about long waits in restaurants if you only could hire straight people.

Yes, that's only a very few examples. The fact is, my people add the right stuff to society. We are not responsible for everything that is wrong in society . . . that, my friends, would be the right wing, ultra conservative Republicans' fault. Okay, so I'm going to extremes here (though I'm probably not far off base).

Studies have shown that property values go up when gays move into a community. I guess increased property values are a sign that everything is going wrong in society. I mean, a highly landscaped yard and an impeccably decorated house are bad things, right? Perfectly styled hair is a bad thing too, right?

Let's talk about sex offenders: the majority of sex offenders are not gay. They are - pay attention, people - heterosexual. The majority of serial killers are - again, pay attention people - heterosexual. The majority of lawmakers who have brought our country to the point of recession are - again, pay close attention people - heterosexual, except for the ones doing the foot-tapping in the bathrooms at the airport.

The downfall of society is not the fault of any one group of people - GLBT or Republicans. The downfall of society is an evolutionary process brought about by ignorance.

Now, if someone is homophobic (if the shoe fits, people, wear it), I can't help that. If someone wants to spout of hateful rhetoric blaming one part of society for the downfall of society, I can't help that either. I just don't want to hear such moronic, idiotic, and ignorant ramblings. Has anyone heard of duct tape? Next time you want to hatefully target one select group of people, tear off a really big strip and place it over your mouth.

Sorry, about that, but I really, really, really, am tired of hearing that everything that's wrong with society is the fault of the GLBT community. We bring a world of diversity and talent to the world. Yes, there are hetero waiters, hairdressers, decorators, landscape artists, and all that jazz. Yes, they contribute. But let society survive solely on their talent and see how quickly things change. I'm just saying . . .


Allegedly . . .

. . . Republicans (not all, btw, just a good number) are still bitter over the recent Presidential Election. Go Figure. What are they allegedly doing about their bitterness? Well, in an MSNBC poll, they are allegedly giving the President an F. Again, go figure.

So, here's the link - Go here and vote fairly, without bias, and without bitterness. Just because the President is a Democrat and fairly, without bias, won the 2008 Presidential Election, is no reason to give him an F because you are a Republican.

Personally, faced with the mess of our government when he became President, I think President Obama is doing a good job. And, no, I'm not a Democrat or Republican, only a concerned citizen of the United States who voted with his conscience. I really don't think I can say the same thing about many (not all) Republicans.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Miss California

Can you say sour grapes? I mean, seriously, people, she thinks she lost the contest because she said marriage should be between a man and woman? Yeah, right.

I'm sorry, I know I'm gay and all that jazz, but Miss California, along with countless others, are truly allowed to believe what they believe. I truly don't think she was penalized for not affirming gay marriage. I think her insistence (talk show after talk show after talk show) that she was penalized for her comments is, well, just plain silly. I mean, get a life.

Now in the you have to read it to believe it category, here are excerpts from Miss California's interview with FOX News: Did your stomach sink when you first heard you picked Perez Hilton's question?
Carrie Prejean: I had a gut feeling. I knew he was controversial, and so was the question. Out of all the topics I studied up on, I dreaded that one, I prayed I would not be asked about gay marriage. If I had any other question, I know I would have won.

My Comments: OMG!! OMG!!! OMG!!! She actually believes that one question (a test by God, no less - oh, yes, she did) was the determining factor in her loss. Have a lot of people been trying to get in touch with you?
Carrie Prejean: Yes, lots of phone calls. I've gotten over 500 facebook friend requests, hundreds of messages from people I don’t know, saying how proud of me they are that I stood my ground. That made me the real winner of the night.

My Comments: Yeah, she's a winner. OMG!! OMG!! OMG!!! I mean, seriously, does she actually believe what she's saying? I hate to tell her, but the real winner that night was Miss North Carolina! Yes, Miss California stood up for her beliefs. I applaud her for that, truly I do, all snark aside. She should not have to lie to win a contest. But seriously, Miss California, can you somehow get over it and get a life? Yes, you're catching holy hell over your answer. Think of it as a test. I'm just saying . . .

Seriously people, don't we have enough problems in the world without having sound bite after sound bite about Miss California's loss? What about the runner-ups in all the previous contests? Did they get so much media attention? I don't think so. I think it's all a conspiracy by the AntiGay Justice League (the superheros who wouldn't be caught dead in a sparkly pair of tights) to force their marriage and equality are only for straight people agenda down the throat of unsuspecting and impressionable Americans.

I mean, according to all the anti-gay ads, the homosexual community will be the eventual downfall of society. Well, if my people are in charge of the downfall of society, there's one thing I know for sure . . . we're all going to look fabulous!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Challenge

Today in New York, Gov. David Paterson announced plans to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. Woo-Hoo!

Or course, as with anything to do with legalization of gay marriage, there are those who protest. What would the world be without the allegedly ignorant protesting the legalization of equality for all people? I mean, isn't it just and right that all people have equal rights? Isn't it time to step into the 21st century? Well, not for some people.

Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx is an opponent of gay marriage. Go figure! The man is an evangelical pastor. Need I say more?

Well, of course, I need to say more. This is me, we're talking about!

Sen. Ruben plans to "meet with religious leaders to discuss how to block the bill". First, he is not planning to meet with religious leaders on how to block the bill, he is planning to meet with religious leaders to plan how to continue to deny equality to United States citizens. That, dear readers, is the fact of the matter. His meeting is based on prejudice (and possibly hate) toward the GLBT community, and nothing else. His meeting is based on religious bias. The facts are simple and gaily-forward.

Sen. Diaz has gone so far as to state that Gov. Paterson's announcement is "disrespectful" because he did it the same week that New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan was installed (what a word??). Of course, Dolan being a still stuck in the dark ages Catholic is going to be against equality of any sort for the GLBT community. He still believes that Catholics don't use birth control. Yeah, right!

Gov. Paterson's timing (at least in my opinion) has nothing to do with Archbishop Dolan. Sen. Diaz (also in my opinion) is just using that statement to fan the flames of his religious fervor, perhaps his fanaticism as well. It is something to hide behind rather than admit he is willing to discriminate and oppress people rather than treat them in an equal way.

Sen. Diaz claims that Gov. Paterson's action is a challenge he is "sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge". What amazes me about this statement is that Sen. Diaz is saying that every religious person in New York agrees with his view. I'm glad the man is psychic. Personally, I can guarantee that many religious people in New York do not agree with Sen. Diaz. I'm just saying . . .

There is no challenge. There is only a fight for equality. Why is Sen. Diaz (and countless others like him) afraid of equality for all people? Who is he to decide who deserves equality and who doesn't? Who is he to fan the flames of hatred against one community?

Fan the flames of hatred?? WTF??? Yes, fan the flames of hatred, dear readers. His actions are not done out of the kindness of his heart nor compassion toward fellow humans. His actions have the potential to spur the allegedly ignorant on to acts of violence. When people in power rage against homosexuality, when they shout out from the pulpit that homosexuality is wrong and against God's will (though I'm sure they haven't talked to God, only misinterpreted the Bible and taken things out of context . . . as always), they provide other people (that would be the aforementioned allegedly ignorant) with the catalyst for violent actions. Matthew Shepard died because two men thought homosexuality was wrong. GLBT have paid the price because preachers, pastors, priests, senators, congressmen and so many other people in power continually tell people that homosexuality is wrong.

Well, Sen. Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, homosexual is how I was born. It is not a defect. It is not a choice. It is how I was born, how I live, and how I will - someday, far in the future and hopefully peacefully in my sleep - die. Just as you didn't pick a day to decide you were heterosexual, I didn't pick a day to decide I was homosexual. I am the way God set me forth on this Earth.

I take offense at you, and others like you, who dare to deny me EQUALITY! I take offense that you, and others like you, dare to spout your allegedly righteous religious beliefs at my people. I take offense that you hide behind your religion as you deny EQUALITY to my people. Tell it like it is, Sen. Ruben Diaz - you don't like gay people. You think they are inferior and defective.

There is a saying, Sen. Diaz actions speak louder than words. Your actions, and those of people like you, speak louder than any words you could use to deny the simple fact that you don't believe in equality for all people, and that you will do anything in your power to deny that EQUALITY to all people.


This rant inspired (and quoted material taken from) this article:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Overcoming the Voices of Hate

Here's what some duly elected people to the United States Government are saying about homosexuality:

  • Newt Gingrich: "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it."
  • Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern: "The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation . . . I honestly think homosexuality is the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam."
  • Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe believes that LGBT people are "an offense to God."
  • RNC Chairman Michael Steele when asked whether the Republican Party ought to consider civil unions he replied "No, no, no. What would we do that for? What are you, crazy?"

My responses, in order of appearance:

  • To Newt Gingrich: Isn't that what the religious right have been doing for years? Isn't that their agenda? Haven't the religious right (and a good portion of Republicans) used the government to serve their agenda and openly discriminate, oppress, and deny equality to GLBT??? Haven't the religious right used violence (and inordinate sums of money) to get their biased point of view across? Uh, YES!!!
  • To Sally Kern: Are you nuts?? The only homosexual agenda is equality. My people want the same rights that the heterosexuals (and alleged heterosexuals for that matter) currently have. As for your comments that we are a threat . . . are you absolutely delusional? My people are known to bring up property values in neighborhoods so that your people can get better prices when you sell your houses. Talk about stimulating the economy. How is equality a threat?
  • To Scott Renfroe: Did you ever think that God put my people on this Earth as a constant test for the allegedly religious? What if your intolerance toward homosexuality is actually a failure of that test? What if, on Judgment Day, you suddenly realized that you failed the biggest test of all? Huh? Never thought of it that way did you? Of course not, because the religious right (and even some of the religious left) fail the most important text in the Bible: Thou Shall Not Judge! Yeah, I'm failing that little text right now, but I have cause!!!
  • To Michael Steele: Well, I really don't have a response. Your comments really don't deserve a response because you really didn't say anything at all. In fact, it sounds a little like somebody doth protest too much. I'm just saying . . .

In the end, the religious right (or the definitely ignorant) haven't got a frakkin' clue. People in the GLBT community did not make a choice. Genetics determined their sexuality. Being GLBT is not a lifestyle . . . it is a life, the way God (or whoever depending on your religious beliefs) made them. There was no choice involved. I repeat . . . there was no choice involved.

The GLBT Community is not going to tear apart the proverbial fabric of society. Even if the fabric of society is torn, my people are good at sewing things back together. We'd just fix it. I'm just saying . . .


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Blatant Discrimination

I work for a great company - we're casual almost every work day of the year, we leave at 3 on Fridays (noon on a Holiday weekend if we're caught up), and have off every Bank holiday. Life doesn't get much better. Recently, I asked the Big Boss about domestic partnership benefits. His response: yes, we can offer that. Question asked, answer received and life is good until . . . a little research turns up the following:

Taxation of Domestic Partner Benefits

When an employer provides health insurance for the spouse or dependents of an employee, federal tax law allows the value of the health insurance coverage to be excluded from the employee’s gross income.
But when an employer provides the same health insurance coverage for the domestic partner or the dependents of the domestic partner of an employee, federal tax law considers the fair market value of that coverage, including the employee's pre-tax contributions, as "imputed income" to the employee. According to a December 2007 report by the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute, employees with partner health benefits now pay on average $1,069 per year more in taxes than would a married employee with the same coverage. The only exception is when a domestic partner qualifies as a dependent of the employee under IRS definitions.

Additionally, employees cannot use pre-tax dollars to pay for a domestic partner's coverage, precluding them from the full benefits of a Flexible Spending Account, Health Reimbursement Account or Health Savings Account.

Because the imputed income increases the employee's overall taxable income, it also increases the employer’s payroll taxes - the Social Security and unemployment insurance tax that employers pay based on employees’ taxable incomes. According to the same CAP/Williams Institute report, employers pay a total of $57 million per year in additional payroll taxes because of this unequal tax treatment.

As a result, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals that secure employer-provided health insurance coverage for themselves and their unmarried partners face a significant tax penalty; one that, depending on the individual, can be in the thousands of dollars per year and result in the individual paying upwards of 50% more in federal taxes. Meanwhile, employers that extend partner health benefits pay higher payroll taxes and face the administrative burden of maintaining separate payroll functions for income tax withholding and payroll taxes.

So, because I'm gay and have a domestic partner, I have to pay upwards of 50% more in federal taxes. Discriminatory??? Hell, Yeah! Legal? Unfortunately. How is it, in 2009, such discriminatory practices are allowed? Oh, wait, it's because I'm homosexual. How stupid of me not to realize that the genetics of my birth would one day affect my paycheck!!!! How stupid of me to think in 2009 (yes, I know all the multitudes of facts against the statement I'm about to make) we would live in an enlightened society!!!! 50% more in federal taxes because I'm a gay man in an - almost - 15 year committed relationship with a man who is an integral part of my life and the government obviously thinks this is a good thing.

Well, it's not a good thing. It's CRAP. If my heterosexual co-workers do not have to pay taxes on imputed income to have their spouses covered under the company health plan, then neither should I . . . or any person in the free world.

So, what did I do about this little tidbit of information gleaned from I sent a message to the White House. Yes, I did. I also sent a message to HRC for clarification. Yes, there is legislation in the works to correct this horrendous WRONG that exists in our society. Yes, people have been working on this for years now. To date, the problem still EXISTS; therefore, with our new President in office, I sent a message to the White House to voice my concern. Yes, the economy sucks right now and we need to solve that crisis, but that in NO WAY means that obviously discriminatory practices should be allowed to coast along.

Discrimination needs to be abolished.

Equality should exist across the board, no matter whether a person is homo/hetero-sexual. My love for a man who worships the quicksand I walk upon should not incur me 50% more a year in federal taxes because I want to share my health benefit plan with him. My company should not have to impose such taxes on me because they stand up for equality. I should not have to be stressed out at the end of a day because of imputed income and have to rely on one of the Three Sisters of the Order of Maintaining Sanity - Sister Merlot, Sister Cabernet, and Sister Margarita!