October is National Anti-bullying Month. It could not be timelier with recent crimes against gay people, sexuality discomfort and related suicides. Last Tuesday, a Howard University student committed suicide.
It was reported that the young woman, Aiyisha Hassan, was a lesbian who struggled with her sexual orientation.
Another story that conveyed a college student’s inability to cope was that of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who jumped from the George Washington Bridge, after his sexual encounter with another man was live-streamed.
“Cyber cruelty” which includes cyber bullying, e-gossip and other dehumanizing web-related acts, was linked to at least 36 suicides of young people during the past four years.
Some of the victims are startlingly young.
Fifteen-year-old Justin Aaberg also committed suicide.
His friends said that he experienced bullying at school because he was gay and that one encounter was physical.
Homosexual young people have disproportionate attempted suicide rates.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people are up to four times more inclined to try suicide than heterosexual people of a similar age, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey.
These young people are at odds with a heteronormative culture and face constant homophobia.
Two openly gay Gramblinites shared their beliefs on homophobia.
“Homophobia is a sign of insecurity and those who commit hate crimes are products of these insecurities,” said Raven Johnson a chemistry senior from Winnsboro.
Gay students confront constant labels, said Josiah Williams, a theater sophomore from San Diego.
“I choose not to deal with it,” he said. “I just hold my head high.”
Grambling State University psychology professor and licensed psychotherapist, Dr. LaWanna Gunn-Williams explained how homophobia, and hatred are processed by the brain.
“It is found that the parts of the cerebral cortex associated with judgment and reasoning, which are activated when one loves, become de-activated when one hates,” said Dr. Gunn-Williams.
The psychotherapist explained that when people love, they are less judgmental, and that hatred causes harm and revenge seeking.
“There are some people who just do not like themselves,” she said before adding that low self-esteem can cause individuals to project their self-hatred onto lesbians and gays.
“My sexual preference has nothing to do with the fact that I’m still smart, and down-to-earth,” said Josiah Williams.
“. If you don’t even take the time out to get to know me, I will never be able to change your mind.”
Psychotherapist’s tips to treat prejudice
Seek information concerning diverse groups.
Become involved with other cultures and groups.
Invite people who are “different” to share time with you.
Model behaviors that would make others want to associate with you.
Do not tolerate prejudice. Refuse to accept ethnically-based, racist, sexist or other disparaging comments or behavior.
Speak up and speak out-calmly and intelligently.
Express love for all people. The only true conqueror of hate is love.
– Dr. LaWanna Gunn-Williams