Being gay or lesbian is not something to be ashamed of, but being a bully or an abuser of power is.
At least four teenagers have committed suicide in the last month after being harassed for being gay. The case of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge, has drawn the most attention, but all are tragedies.
This is what happens when we attach a stigma to homophobia. It puts a club in the hands of the bully.
A lot of the abuse of power has come at the hands of clergy, with the Catholic Church inundated by scandal on this issue.
The most recent allegation concerns Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, who is accused of coercing teenaged boys into sexual relationships. A few have filed a lawsuit against him. He denies any wrongdoing.
His four accusers, now men, uniformly state that Long was a father figure to them. He encouraged them to call him “dad” or “daddy.” This often happens in churches, and regardless of the gender of the folks involved, the pastor is in the power position.
Long has called himself David and his accusers Goliath, but if the accusations are true, he has got his roles reversed.
Abuse of power is always harmful, in particular to the person with less power. But it also has a negative impact on the larger community.
So, too, does homophobia. Just look at Rutgers, where the entire campus is severely shaken.
We need to take the stigma out of being gay.
We need to take that club out of the bully’s hands.
Akilah Bolden-Monifa is a freelance writer based in Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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