When Karofsky was busy scaring the bejeezus out of Kurt on Glee, I’ll be honest with you, I was hoping very much that someone would come along and bully the living shit out of him. Of course when it did actually happen a few weeks ago and he almost killed himself, I came very close to crying. Damn hormones, but still. Anyway, it inspired me and my ability to reach tens of readers to hitch my rusty little wagon with the peeling Rainbow Brite sticker to the juggernaut star Gaga. I’m guessing a lot of likely people who come across this have an experience or two with bullying.
As transgender people, a lot of us were a little different growing up, even if we didn’t quite understand why yet. Because of that, it was much more likely that we showed up on the drop down list of kids to pick on, and were usually not the ones perusing the list looking for victims. I’ll be honest here. I was relatively lucky in this respect as I ended up close friends with the primary bully targets in both grammar school and high school. By comparison, I appeared relatively normal. I think we can agree though, this is a huge issue for LGBT kids and it would help us greatly to understand the problem better and come up with some solutions.
Many of us here have children, and many more have actually been children at some point in the past. Armed with this experience, we know that anyone under the age of 20 is probably somewhat of an asshole with a dreadfully bad sense of humor. They can’t help it; it’s simply part of the growing up process. The human brain in the early stage is self-centered, self-serving, and not so hot in the empathy department unless it relates directly to the other two qualities. Pair this with an abysmal sense of humor and it’s a dangerous combination. Honestly, when was the last time you laughed at a joke told by a 14 year old? Kids are far more often laughed at then laughed with. This doesn’t make us love or cherish them any less, but it’s good to know what we are working with.
Now let’s take the parents. Conjure up your image of the parent of a bully and you are probably thinking of that Cobra Kai sensei from Karate Kid yelling “sweep the leg!” I like that notion too, but in most cases it’s way off. I think in the majority of cases, the parents of the bully are surprised by such a revelation because they thought they had a gem on their hands. Because of this, hardly anyone thinks to sit their little angel down and say, “hey sweetie, did you make anyone’s life a living hell today?” Parents can’t help it, they are programmed to think their kids are fucking awesome. Yes, there are a lot of exceptions out there, so my line of reason is hardly foolproof. If you have been reading for a while, you know by now that it’s a wet day in the Sahara when I make a truly airtight case. Most of the time I’ve already debunked my own theory by the end of the post.
Adults can be bullies too, and corporations with money to lose have developed ways of dealing with this; sensitivity training. The really good modules, and I mean the effective ones, are long and crushingly boring. I am a socially interested kind of girl who believes in this stuff big time, but even I can’t make it through one of those without pulling some z’s. Smart companies assume we are all potential ass grabbers and make us all go through this, but violators have to go through even more. This is a very powerful deterrent. Long seminars and web based modules are not what’s teaching people not to do clearly heinous things. The specter of having to do it again though makes even the most insolent horn dog think twice. Why can’t we do the same for tweens and teens?
We have established that kids are assholes by nature, and that on the average, we aren’t going assume we have a pre-out Karofsky on our hands until it is too late. I know there is a diminishing minority out there who think they have the answer, but face facts, the old paddling days just aren’t coming back. Move on, the age of school sponsored beating is done. It’s time to adopt something even more tried and true – mandatory sensitivity training on a quarterly basis. Not too long to be real torture – just a one day thing, but a taste of how bad it can be. For kids who violate the policy though… oh boy. Imagine it. A web based week long interactive module. One that won’t let you click to the next slide until the painfully slow voice over has completed. One with random quizzes, the kind that make you repeat the lesson over until you achieve 100%, no backsies. Poorly acted example skits using the same actors over and over again in disparate roles. Best of all, it’s not even something on Amnesty International’s radar! Grounding, suspension, expulsion and even the old timey paddle had nothing on this baby. Armed with the power to impose this kind of soul crushing experience on a tormentor, and our young LGBTs just might fare a little better.