Listen folks, calling a homophobic bigot a bigot is not bullying, just like calling a racist a racist or a misogynist a misogynist, isn’t bullying. And students and teachers actively working to create a school that is free from homophobia certainly isn’t bullying, it’s heroism. However, there have been several statements by public figures lately that have suggested that challenging injustice is a kind of reverse prejudice. For example, Fr. Johannes M. M. Smith wrote an opinion piece last month, responding to my comments at the June Pride flag raising at City Hall in which I stated that coming to our celebration and calling the gay and lesbian residents of this City the “exaltation of immorality”, “perversion”, “Satanic”, a “scandalous abomination” and in league with the “principalities of darkness” was bullying. He suggested in his statement that my characterization of him was libelous and bullying. It was not. And then last week at the Vestal School Board, in response to the passionate efforts to remove Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield’s picture from the school’s Wall of Fame for his homophobia, and inaccurate statements about the transmission of HIV/AIDS, the board president Ms. Meyer similarly suggested that these efforts were bullying. They are not.
Speaking truth to power is not bullying. But continuing to celebrate a homophobic bigot and forcing your gay and lesbian students to walk by his picture every day is. Taking away privileges (or honors) because of bad behavior is something teachers and schools are familiar with. It should be a pretty easy call for educators that hurting gay kids (as research shows the Senator’s statements actually do) is bad behavior. But just in case you’re not sure, on July 1st, the Dignity for All Students act became law in New York. This law mandates that schools intervene whenever possible to correct and prevent bullying and harassment and protect gay and lesbian kids (along with so many others that are often the targets of bullies). Let’s hope the Vestal School Board does their job and implements this law to the fullest and makes Vestal Schools safe for all their students.
Dr. Sean G. Massey
Faculty in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies