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October 02 2010

Neil Patrick Harris talks about bullied gay youths. Presumably in response to the suicide of the Rutgers freshman.

Probably in response to the SIX gay kids that have killed themselves this week.
Probably in response to the SIX gay kids that have killed themselves this week.

Going by the actual content of his message it's most definitely in response to the case of poor Tyler Clementi - may he rest in peace.
It also goes along with Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project on You Tube, where anyone who wants can post their story, and let kids know that it does get better.
Thank you, Neil Patrick Harris!
Excellent, and thanks to Neil for this. But as always, word choice is important, and he talks about making choices, as if being gay is a choice. I think he meant that it was a choice to be out, but it is not clear from the context. Minor quibble in a good PSA, and he is an excellent model for young gay youth.
Choosing to be gay isn't what he meant in the context of the video. He was talking about choosing to not hide being different in an environment that strongly pressures you to be like everyone else.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2010-10-03 01:13 ]
If that poor kid isn't dead as presumed, he's not going to be happy when he see's the national coverage of his bedroom activities.
He was found downstream of where he jumped. The identity has been confirmed now.
Thank you, NPH. That was a good thing to do.

From his own lips on the vid:

"On the heels of a fourth kid who killed himself because of some sort of anti-gay bullying..." (Bolding mine.)

So - he's definitely responding to a number of recent young gay deaths.

Heartbreaking.
I teach at Rutgers, and I teach a class that specifically deals with this issue. I can tell you people are devastated here. I'm not on the New Brunswick campus, but I did ask we have a memorial for Tyler at our campus as well, and arrangements are being made for that.

In the meantime, I'm showing "The Laramie Project" in my class this week, and we're going big time into gay bashing, cyber bullying, and raising children to do good in the world instead of destroying people's lives for sport.
Not that its awesome that young gay people are suiciding, but it is awesome that there is so much awareness being brought to the forefront about these types of issues.

I saw this on facebook and it bothered me: http://youtu.be/_B-hVWQnjjM

I feel bad that someone would feel so much shame that they would suicide, but I guess unlike being gay, suicide is a choice. I dig how NPH puts it in his video.

I think I'm just split between which to feel worse about, gay bashing, or how lame shame suicide is...*shrugs*
I would never fault the person who commits suicide. It's kind of crass to call it lame when you know that most people in this culture are so self- absorbed, they don't think of looking out for signs that someone else might need help, nor are they inclined to help. Homophobia is still a huge facet of our culture, and some people can be merciless about it.

Add to that all the a-holes who think its OK to violate someone else's life and humiliate them so that they can get a few laughs out of it. Many high-profile "entertainers" make their living getting laughs out of belittling people (think Howard Stern). Too many people think that kind of behavior is acceptable.

Then you take an individual like Tyler who is still new to the world. He was in his very first month of college. Chances are, at 18-years-old (and being from white bread, middle class suburbia, the acts that were videotaped were likely the first times he's had sex with another person. It was probably confusing enough for him as a young guy who is just discovering his sexuality - but having it played for groups of people and posted on the internet had to be beyond humiliating.

I would NEVER blame the victim.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2010-10-03 22:07 ]
There were actually nine gay boys who killed themselves after bullying in September.

Good on NPH for doing this, and all the more powerful considering how obviously heartfelt (and unscripted) this is.
Probably Evil, in most cases suicide isn't a choice: it is the result of pain exceeding coping resources.
I would never fault the person who commits suicide.

In so far as committing suicide is a product of faulty reasoning (which imo it is and always will be) I would quite literally fault a person for choosing that route.

That's not to say I don't have the deepest of sympathies for all the poor souls out there who end up following such an ill-begotten path. But to be so self-absorbed as to consider anything experienced in life so horrible that death would be preferable - that's where I think NPH's keeping things in perspective "it's not as bad as you think" message has the most resonance. After all - there is only one action you can take in this life that you absolutely, categorically can not take back.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2010-10-03 04:36 ]
Suicides are victims of themselves. This particular incident was a SHAME suicide. I totally sympathize! I feel bad. I created this post hoping to help bring a little more awareness to this issue. I don't know what I would do if I was in that poor kid's situation.

My opinion is:

Gay Bashing = BAD
Shame = LAME
Suicide = LAME

EDIT: "Probably Evil, in most cases suicide isn't a choice: it is the result of pain exceeding coping resources."
Waterkeeper511, like I said LAAAAAAAMMMMME!!!

[ edited by Probably Evil on 2010-10-03 04:53 ]
The message of this video and Dan Savage's project is not that "it isn't as bad as you think" (because who can tell you how bad your own experience is or isn't?) but that "it gets better." That the isolation and judgment and shame that many young gay people experience is going to be one part of their lives, not all of it. I'd appreciate it if whatever people's opinions about suicide, we'd get away from this "lame" commentary. Whatever the intention, it's coming across as flip and disrespectful.
Everyone engages in "faulty reasoning," brinderwalt - and most don't commit suicide. They may even build careers around it! Taking that stance that it's faulty reasoning on the part of a suicide victim makes it too easy for people to blame the individual while ignoring the social context in which that individual makes the decision. All of the recent suicide victims (and nearly all the victims of any kind of bullying who committed suicide) have been kids. The "faulty reasoning" can have everything to do with limited experiences, and all too often, experiences often limited to being subjected to cruelty and bullying on a regular basis.

On top of this, they were kids - all boys - whose sexuality - or perceived sexuality - was the focus of their tormenters. Bullies are relentless and merciless when they find someone who is vulnerable to their taunting. Try being a sensitive kid who most likely would never think of behaving so viciously toward another person. Kids want to have friends and be liked and accepted for who they are. Instead, they get the opposite - and some come to the conclusion that the world is so cruel, it's not worth living in it.

Joss's analogy of high school as being hell wasn't an accident. To most kids, whatever is happening to them now is everything in the world. A few years in the life of a youth feels like forever - and every crisis is the end of the world. Kids often have unrealistic ideas of what can and can't be done and of what will or won't happen to them if they behave a certain way. They can't see their lives a few years down the road, or can't acknowledge that the people tormenting them aren't all people. It's especially difficult, too, in a world where so many people are callous and/or oblivious to the harshness and torment that victims of bullying often face. That there is a world of people ready to put the blame on them for their own suffering just adds to their torment.

People who commit suicide tend to be very lonely. Their ties to friends and community are fragile or non-existent - and to a gay kid, that is not usually something that happens by choice.

I'm going to stop. This is a place to celebrate Joss's work, not belabor debate. I'm just a bit sensitive about this, because my brother committed suicide when he was a young man - so I know there is a lot more to what happens to an individual than just "faulty reasoning."
That was a very nice comment, Nebula1400.
It's bad enough growing up a geek, an outsider, someone interested in science and technology, which is how I did it. Due to my interests, my shyness and my disinterest in organized sports despite being male, I was accused of being gay many times. I can imagine how extra brutal this kind of senseless treatment is on kids who actually are gay.

Neil, I can see why Joss hired you. You are a class act. You have my respect for speaking your mind to gay youth. I think your message should go out to every kid, gay or not, so they can realize the jerks around them who harass them are just that - jerks.

And to the youth who read this board, please don't let the haters ruin your life. Dare to be who you are, and seek out others who understand what you are doesn't make you a monster. Remember, Tara discovered in the episode "Family" that our true families are the ones who accept us for who we really are, not necessarily those we are born to.

[ edited by quantumac on 2010-10-03 05:40 ]
I think homosexuality is not only a form of sex, but also a form of love and it should be respected as a result of that.
Imo bullying is a crime which damages the victim and, to a certain points, also the young perpetrators. It's also a crime of adults, that treat their children violently thus teaching them violent behaviour instead of living the protection of children, which should be everyone's first concern.

Andrew Vachss wrote a very good book about bullying:
http://vachss.com/av_novels/heart.html
Bullying also harms society as a whole. And cyberbullying even moreso - if one doesn't have the 'pleasure' of participating directly one can 'enjoy' it vicariously through YouTube. It is a disturbing trend that is increasing and we must find ways to rein it in. Thanks to NPH and many other celebrities for messaging hope. I also want to see the PSAs that emphasize how uncool and damaging this behavior is, directed at the would-be-bullies.
Are we sure it was a hate crime, and that they wouldn't have done the same thing if he were making out with a girl? Just curious is all. And no, I don't think anyone should have to put up with harrassmant or bullying, and a person who's really a decent person won't go around bullying people. Not everyone against the lifestyle is a hater, but there are way too many haters and bullies out there who need a serious wake up call if you ask me.

I don't remember, what's the Whedon connection with Harris? I'm blanking on why he's mentioned here, that's all.

[ edited by GilesQueen on 2010-10-03 12:49 ]
NPH starred in Dr. Horrible, natch.
Not to mention he's in HIMYM with Alyson Hannigan and co-starred in the Harold and Kumar movies with Kal Penn who guested starred on both Buffy and Angel.
GilesQueen, I think the reason it's being seen as a hate crime is a twitter comment the roommate posted a few days before. I don't remember it word for word, but it was something along the lines of 'Roommate asked for the room til midnight. Saw another guy leaving when I came back. Great.' Again, not a direct quote, but that's the gist of it.

I'm glad there are people out there like NPH and Dan Savage using their fame and experiences to do good. The world needs more of that. High school really can be hell for a lot of kids. I'm not gay, but I was teased for plenty of other things and now that I'm in college, I really can attest to the fact that it does get better!
To be fair, it's the blatent disregard for someone's privacy that I'd like to see prosecuted here and not the "hate" aspect of it. Not because I think the roomate should be protected (although he strikes me more as an intolerant child in both his demeaner and actions) but because I think the issue that should be in play is how protective (or apathetic) our society has become of essentially spying on and publishing other people's lives. And that has consequences. Sometimes, quite dire consequences. At least in regards to the crime and punishment of it. I think all the crimes these two committed stacked back to back are around 20 years. And that's not enough to scare most people out of this kind of behaviour. Wikileaks isn't the only kind of disclosure that can get people killed.

In regards to NPH's video, I liked it. I thought it was both heartfelt, and I think he tried to reach out to everyone dealing with bullying (which is why I think he uses the words "choices" here.) Children only need the slightest provocation to do very sinister things, and I think that ought to be remembered. And I totally agree with him about those people who are themselves being far more interesting later in life.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-10-03 19:29 ]
I'm ordering that book, Cleveland. Thanks!
I saw something recently about a study on bullying which focused on the public aspect of the harassment. They found that the bully was picking on the victim more for the sake of intimidating the audience than the victim. When they look at that aspect of the dynamic, they found that what mattered more in stopping the bullying is not so much whether the victim protested the bullying but whether someone in the bully's audience protested. When anyone in the audience protested, it was much more likely that the bully would back down.
I couldn't even finish reading the posts on this one before commenting. This is an extremely emotional topic for me, and the recent coverage of this young man's death has been a little overwhelming.

First, Thanks again, Neil, for being amazing, both as an actor/singer, and as a role model!

Second, for those of you who may not have felt like your life was literally over because you knew you were gay at a young age, know that suicidal fantasies are very real and very common. As early as 6th grade I was trying to torture these thoughts out of myself...and again, I mean that literally. No details necessary because this isn't therapy time. The funny [ha...yeah] part is I grew up in a very supportive home, I was an exceptional student and athlete, and had friends. Maybe that made it worse? Maybe not.

I guess I just want to impress upon my fellow Whedonesque'ers that these may be news-worthy stories, but only because these people were unlucky. I thank god (and, by the way, Ms. Willow Rosenberg as well) that I am functional and happy.

Best to any of you who may be young and struggling with your sexuality.
nebula1400 Thank you, thank you for your post! I don't always feel like my words come across like I want them to, but your post felt very true to a lot of things I couldn't express, or that I was unable to conjure up when I was writing my post.

You seem to have an exceptional understanding of my situation, and that of plenty others. Again, I appreciate that you put it into words that I couldn't.
5X5B, I love what nebula1400 wrote, but I thought you also expressed yourself uncommonly well in your own post.

BrewBunny, that's interesting to hear - do you happen to have a link to that study or more information about it? (I've been a public intervener, but I've never been sure if it ultimately exacerbated the problem or helped alleviate it.)

In case you'all wondered if the frequency of gay teen suicides was escalating, here's a comprehensive article from the Keen News Service, which reports LGBT news: "Bullied to death: New cases shine light on old problem".

While all bullying - teen and otherwise - is pernicious and indefensible, the author, quoting from a report by CA's Sheila Kuhl, the Williams Institute at UCLA and the National Education Policy Center, cites studies which showed that, " 'K-12 students who are LGBT or thought to be LGBT are bullied more than twice as much as any other identifiable group,' and their suicide rate is three to four times higher."

So to those who are young and gay - please know that there are many who care about your well-being, it will get better, and that you can find help and friends who will love you for who you are - all of who you are. Try to reach out for support.

And to those whose words and actions are anti-gay, whether or not you are an outright bully, realize that you help create the social climate that promotes this cruelty - that you are part of the problem.


ETF: typity-typo

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2010-10-04 07:47 ]
I'm so glad NPH made this video. And I'm so glad this thread is here in my favorite place on the web.

This story was both heart- and gut-wrenching for so many obvious reasons. I suppose it hit me as hard as it did because I've been teaching roughly this age group for the last five years. I don't recall the last news story that left me in tears, but this one sure did. For so many reasons... :(

Thanks, Neil.
QuoterGal wrote:
BrewBunny, that's interesting to hear - do you happen to have a link to that study or more information about it?

Good for you QuoterGalfor intervening. I saw the same info as BrewBunny in a documentary or PBS show (can't remember). I also found similar info at http://www.bullying.org/external/documents/Bullying_Information.pdf, but with no citations. I poked around and found several articles about peer intervention and impact of silently watching bullying. I've cited two below with some snippets out of them (sorry long post).

Hawkins, D. Lynn and Debra J. Pepler. “Naturalistic observations of peer interventions in bullying.” Social Development 2001 (10:4) Found at http://www.mac-cura.ca/download docs/Papers for Site/Interventions/Hawkins et al., 2001.pdf

“[P]eers were present during 88% of bullying interactions, which is consistent with our previous observational research.” (p. 520)

p. 519 “Of the 58 bullying episodes in which peers intervened, 57% of the interventions were effective (i.e., the bullying stopped within 10 seconds..." The authors later state that throwing out the incidents where the effectiveness was uncertain raised the effectiveness rate to two-thirds.

I found this interesting: “The effectiveness of interventions was not related to the nature of the interventions (i.e., whether they were aggressive or nonaggressive).” (p. 522)


O’Connell, Paul, Debra Pepler, and Wendy Craig. “Peer involvement in bullying: insights and challenges.” Journal of Adolescence 1999 (22): 437-452 Found at http://www.bullylab.com/Portals/0/Peer involvement in bullying- Insights and challenges for intervention.pdf

“Children who simply watch bullying will often contend that they ‘aren’t doing anything’. In our observations, we found that peers reinforced bullying 54% of the time by passively attending to the episode and not helping the victim... Through their passive observations they are inadvertently reinforcing the bully and giving the message that they approve of his or her actions.” (p. 448)

Peers may be reluctant to intervene because they feel they are alone in their disapproval, but they are likely part of a majority: “83% of children in our Canadian surveys stated that bullying made them feel either ‘a bit’ or ‘quite’ unpleasant." The authors "recommend intervention strategies in which peers are taught to attend to their discomfort.” In my words, silently accepting bullying of another helps build a climate of intimidation and fear for the whole group.
ThereUR, Thanks so much for those links! I wanted to find those studies recently, but couldn't remember which TV show I had been watching when I saw it. So glad you did!
You're welcome BrewBunny. I was intrigued too by the info in the TV show, and had meant to look the research up. This discussion got me off my bum to do just that. I have been talking to my kids about this issue and it's good info to have.

I don't think I can add to the eloquence of many of those who posted above. I will just say I am deeply saddened at the death of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers and am grateful to Neil Patrick Harris for trying to help others who may feel pushed to the same point.
GilesQueen said:
"Not everyone against the lifestyle is a hater"

Thanks for your other comments (and your question worth considering of whether this really counts as a hate crime, more likely being a breach of privacy from a legal perspective and a blatent disregard for a peer's feelings from a basic human one), but I need to jump on this one part of your comment because it comes up way too often. Please understand that I'm not getting all aggressive with you specifically, just the misuse/misapplication of the term.

There's no such thing as a "gay/bi lifestyle". I get why, even from more enlightened/educated/accepting people, it's still/continually utilized. It's a shorthand or it's been hammered home by some media, personal relations, or faith communities. It doesn't work though.

There's no one way to "be gay/bi", no stereotype that's universally true. Given the self-repressive nature [for some] of the state of being gay or bi--motivated by societal conditions--I doubt we'll have an accurate picture of what the average same- or both-sex-lovin' man and woman looks, speaks, and acts like any time soon. If that's even possible, given the wide diversity of individuals, of human form and behaviour.

Also, it's not a choice and so can not qualify as a chosen lifestyle.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm gonna challenge you one further.

"Not everyone against the lifestyle is a hater"

1. Wanna bet ? [at least to some small/arguably mild degree?...which means that viewpoint is still having an impact on the overall repression society-wide, however small the ripple effect]

or maybe

2. Then where does your (or their) problem with "the lifestyle" stem from that causes said individual to "be against" the lifestyle ? How can one "be against" a naturally occurring state when said state causes absolutely no harm to the individual and society at large ?

[ edited by Kris on 2010-10-05 08:57 ]
Since fourth grade I've seriously frequently thought about ending my life.

The bullying I endured in school wasn't related to my sexual preference but my, for lack of a better term, nerdism. When you have your peers (And occasionally teachers) telling you day after day that you're stupid, you're ugly, no guy would ever be interested in you, science fiction is stupid, you have no talent, you're a teacher's pet...eventually you believe them rather than reality.

You feel isolated, alone, "no one else knows what pain I'm in." Whether you have family and/or friends doesn't matter - you're miserable and no one else can help.

I battle depression every day. I'm not talking the "feeling down/unloved" feelings everyone experiences from time to time. This is actual depression; my mother has it, my aunt has it, their mother has it. There are still days I'd rather not wake up. I'm stuck in a dead-end fast-food job where I make just over minimum wage (Prior to this one, my last raise brought me up to what the new minimum wage in the state had just been raised to...so all the kids who got hired after me started at what I was making, after a year and a half.), I'm nearly 40 and single, I just bought a house that's going to take many thousands of dollars I don't have to fix up. So I can't even afford to get help.

I'm not trying to take away from these recent tragedies; rather, I'm trying to get across that there are some of us who walk around hurting all the time and no one is aware because we can present a "life's fine" mask to the world. Outsiders may look at suicide as "lame," or "the easy way out," but I wish people could understand that to the depressive, to the suicidal person, sometimes it's the only release they can see.
QuoterGal:

Thank you for the kind words. It took me a while to get back to this post!

On an unrelated and totally inappropriate note, did you guys know that there should only be one space after a period now? Honestly, what is this world coming to? My fingers can barely type this paragraph without putting two spaces in. Ugh.
ShadowQuest, sorry to hear about your troubles/life challenges.

Was super-busy for a few days and just came back to this thread, thought it would generate more discussion. At any rate, didn't wanna go without leaving at least a token reply after you wrote such a heartfelt post. Understand how it feels when you write a decently long post, the thread slips off the page, and you wonder whether anyone read it and whether it was even worth typing up.

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