It looks like I’m not the only one who fears that new anti-bullying policies might be abused by schools to squelch the free expression of their students, but I’m not sure I like the new company I’m keeping:
Focus on the Family has a message for gay rights activists: stay off the playground.
Candi Cushman, an education analyst for the James Dobson-founded group, told The Denver Post this weekend that gay rights advocates have inserted their agenda into anti-bullying efforts, at the expense of Christian values.
“We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled,” Cushman told the Post.
Yeah, you know, especially if your viewpoint is that faggots deserve to have the shit beaten out ‘em.
Believe it or not, I was never much of a target for bullies. Oddly, I was one of the biggest kids in the class during my first couple years of elementary school, so nobody messed with me, and that reputation lingered much longer than my actual size advantage. And by Junior High I’d already developed the self-effacing yet acerbic wit that would shield me from physical violence for the rest of my school career. (There’s nothing to gain socially by punching out the guy who makes all the other kids laugh.)
Indeed, despite the fact that I played street hockey from age 7 to 27, and in a city whose notion of the sport was formed during the height of the Broad Street Bullies era, I don’t think anybody but my older sister ever landed a punch on me.
So I don’t come at this issue from the perspective of a victim.
But any former kid can tell you that the bulk of boy-on-boy verbal bullying consisted of questioning the victim’s masculinity, if not outright accusing him of being “a fag.” When I was a kid there was no more devastating playground taunt, which is surely one of the reasons why so many gay men of my and previous generations found it so difficult coming out.
That, looking back, some of the bullies were probably gay themselves, while most of the victims weren’t, only underlines the point that the playground was a brutal arena for both proving one’s manhood and rigidly reinforcing social prejudices. Playground bullying is all about asserting social dominance, and like in prison yards and dog parks, that involves making the victim your bitch.
So of course Focus on the Family wants gay activists to stay off the playground. Theirs is a movement grounded in bullying, and schoolyard bullies have always tried to kick the suspiciously faggy kids off the playground. That’s what bullies do.
And that’s a form of free expression I’m not sure school officials need to protect.