Archive for the Dignity for All Students Act Category

Day Of Silence 2009: I Almost Took my Life in High School

Posted in Dignity for All Students Act, GLSEN, National Day of Silence, suicide, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by jonwinkleman

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by Jon Winkleman

April 17, 2009 is the National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti LGBT bullying in our schools. Today would also have been the 12th birthday of Carl Walker Hoover. Carl was bullied and called “gay” in school. Even though his mother pleaded with Carl’s teachers and the school administrators to take action, they allowed the bulling to continue. Last week at age 11, a week from his birthday, Carl Walker-Hoover tied a noose out of an extension cord and hung himself. The bullying finally stopped. Carl may not have been gay but he was bullied and called the same names I was at his age. This makes him my brother.

During my sophomore year at Pilgrim High School in 1983 girl had invited me to the Junior Prom. This was one year before I came out to myself. At the time I was too afraid to even consider naming the feelings I had buried deep inside. I was terrified that if I ever did identify as gay there was no going back and I would forever be an outcast. I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. I was occasionally taunted and bullied. I was called “gay” and “fag.” I was always picked last for teams during gym class. The worst was when someone snuck behind me between classes to spill the books, notes and paper in my hands all over the floor. I still remember the humiliation of getting down on my knees to pick up a 15-foot swath of paper and books. Humiliated, as every other student paraded to his or her next class and knowing that I was the weak one. I was a lamb to be sacrificed at the altar of adolescent anxieties. Telling my mom would have been even more humiliating. How do you tell the one person who thought I was the smartest most special person in the world that she was wrong? I was lucky to have been invited by a girl who was sweet and pretty but too tall and also not one of the popular kids in her class. It should have been the most special day of my sophomore year.

The principle let everyone with prom tickets out early to pick up tuxes, dresses and flowers. When I got home I didn’t feel excited about the magic night ahead. I sat alone feeling especially alienated and cut off from all of my classmates. The thought running through my head wasn’t a defined thought of “I want to kill myself.” Instead it was a strong and vivid image of me fastening a noose out of the white cotton clothesline bundled up in the kitchen hardware draw. Then I would tie the noose to a rafter and put my head in it. This very graphic image scared the crap out of me and I dialed a local suicide prevention hotline. I don’t know how long I talked to the volunteer at the other end. It seemed like more than an hour. My thoughts were racing around erratically. Everything felt “out of time.”

More than anything else, what got me to pick up the phone and talk to someone was the thought of my mom calling up my date to say “Jon killed himself an hour before the date.” I cared more about ruining her life than saving my own. After that weekend, the whole experience shook me up enough that I then began a yearlong process of trying to look at my buried feelings and deal with them.

I never mentioned the buried gay feeling to the hotline volunteer. If I had hung myself there would have been no note mentioning that I was gay or bullied. What angers me the most is I know that my classmates would have been clueless as to why I killed myself. None would have made a connection to spilling my books or calling me “fag” in the hall and me hanging myself. Both students and teachers would have told the press that this was a terrible tragedy and said they didn’t know why such a nice kid would take their own life. None would acknowledge the daily humiliation and torture that bullied children go through every day. Even today when the rare victim become a shooter instead of a simple suicide, how many pundits talk about video games and rock music and dismiss any reports of bullying? Many of the teachers I had tolerated bullying. Some teachers participate.

Sticks and stones may break kid’s bones but words wound much more deeply.

Act Now

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If you live in New York, call your state senator (click here to find out who they are) to tell them the importance of supporting the Dignity for All Students Act. It has passed the Assembly every year for the last seven years. Let’s make sure it becomes law. For children like Carl.

Sign the petition to amend the Civil Rights Act to include LGBT people.

Join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/pages/The-Power/73711392696?ref=ts

Learn about the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network.

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Why We Fight

Posted in Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Dignity for All Students Act, GLSEN, National Day of Silence, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by thepowerny

glsen_articlesimage_large2400w200hnormOn Tuesday of last week, when we were reveling in reports that Vermont had enacted same-sex marriage, that Washington D.C. had voted to recognize out-of-district same-sex marriages, and that Governor Patterson of New York said he would introduce same-sex marriage legislation, Sirdeaner L. Walker of Springfield, Massachusetts (where gay marriage is legal), was morning the death of her 11 year-old son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover.  Carl killed himself the day before because bullies constantly called him gay.

As we make swift advances for gay rights that we never thought possible, it’s easy to relax and assume that with Democrats in control of Congress, the White House, a majority of state legislatures, and a majority of governorships, that our struggle is all downhill from here and that we can leave the fight up to lobbyists and well-financed organizations.   But can we call ourselves successful as a movement as long as this is happening?  The attitudes that have kept us from having equal rights are the same attitudes which condition young children to bully others with words like, “gay” and “fag.”  While network news may chalk it up to routine bullying, we have to stand up and say this is learned behavior and it’s not acceptable.

Friday GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network), will sponsor the 13th National Day of Silence, during which students at 8,000 educational institutions and their supporters will take some vow of silence during the day to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment.  Edge Publications reports that anti-gay groups are advising parents to keep their children home to avoid being exposed to the peaceful protest.

While so much attention is being given to the adult issue of marriage, we must stand up and fight for the youth as well.

If you live in New York, call your state senator (click here to find out who they are) to tell them the importance of supporting the Dignity for All Students Act.  It has passed the Assembly every year for the last seven years.  Let’s make sure it becomes law.  For children like Carl.

Sign the petition to amend the Civil Rights Act to include LGBT people.

Join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/pages/The-Power/73711392696?ref=ts