Readin', 'Ritin' and Redneckery
March 16, 2003 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Sticking to the gay stuff: The ACLU is threatening legal action against a middle school in Arkansas whose administrators have gone to extraordinary lengths to punish a student for being gay, including outing him to his parents, forcing him to read passages of the Bible, calling him "abnormal" and "unnatural," and disciplining him for mentioning between classes to a female friend that he thought another boy was cute. (via CalPundit) [more inside]
posted by grrarrgh00 (29 comments total)
It doesn't seem as though anyone has gotten any comments from the school board yet, so you may wish to reserve judgment until you hear a statement from them (the ACLU has set a deadline of March 21st for them to reply before legal action is taken). Meanwhile, if you're ready to get with the judgin' (like me!), CalPundit has helpfully provided a list of names and email addresses of school board members, to express to them our opinions of the situation. He also rightfully urges any emailers not to make our missives sound like the rantings of lunatics. *
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:08 AM on March 16, 2003

Thanks for this, grrarrgh00 - I've already sent my emails to the board.
posted by stonerose at 8:26 AM on March 16, 2003

I don't know that any statement from the school board will be terrily useful unless it's "Gee, we screwed the pooch big time. We're so sorry that we're going to have the principal and teachers involved walk around wearing signs that say "Abusive, Egregious Violators of Human Rights" on them for the remainder of the school year.
posted by Dreama at 8:26 AM on March 16, 2003

I've thought for a while that there should be an effort made to distinguish between homophobic and what I call homopsychotic.
But why should the difference be noted? Homophobic is an irrational aversion to homosexuals and homosexuality. It can usually be overcome through reason, exposure, and some societal pressure.
Homopsychotic, on the other hand, is not open to persuasion or argument. In some individuals it is like a panic attack, devoid of reason, almost a "fight or flight" response. It cannot be reasoned or legislated away any more than claustrophobia, or the fear of lightning or fireworks in dogs.
And it's important to distinguish between the two in situations like this, most likely a fundamentalist religious bigotry, which can and will be coerced away, or at least suppressed, by the government. For most of the people involved are homophobic.
Contrast this with a homopsychotic situation, I will use for example the military, where there are many people who can and will go off the deep end into a homicidal mode when confronted with homosexuality. Way beyond reason and as unpredictable beforehand as any other focused psychosis.
If there is an individual homopsychotic here, he is probably not even associated with the school, but he will physically threaten or attack the young man, even if he has to drive across town to do it. But, for the most part, the homophobes will just get resentful and either ignore him or try to discreetly sabotage what he is trying to do.

Does this make sense?
posted by kablam at 8:42 AM on March 16, 2003

Not to be off-topic, but the phrase "screwed the pooch big time" made me spit out my coffee onto my keyboard. Thanks Dreama, that.was.awesome.
posted by plemeljr at 8:44 AM on March 16, 2003

kablam - not really, because (unlike loud flashes and bangs), homosexuality (external perception of) is pretty much a social thing. stick your homopsychotic in front of two people, one straight and one gay, and, unless they're having sex/making out/wearing large signs, the homopsychotic isn't going to know which to attack. on the other hand, they will attack someone who's straight but labelled as gay (presumably).

in other words i don't think there's anything extra to distinguish a homo psychotic from an ordinary standard issue psychotic, except that the mental trigger is homosexuality rather than, well, whatever rings any other particular psychotic's bell. so what's the gain over xenopsychotic and not-supporting-man-utd-psychotic and i-think-you've-been-following-me-psychotic, etc etc?

looking at it this way also makes it clearer, i think, that it's not a spectrum from "mildly uncomfortable around men kissing" all the way to your "homopsychotic". "homopsychotic" is, first and foremost, psychotic (and not, in contrast, a homophobe with particularly strong convictions).

the kid sounds pretty cool about it anyway, thank god. but will a bunch of irate emails persuade anyone to change their mind? isn't it much more likely to provoke a bunker mentality?
posted by andrew cooke at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2003

*wow* ... this is pretty sickening.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:42 AM on March 16, 2003

Scapegoating sanctifies acts of incredible cruelty--even child abuse.
posted by y2karl at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2003

andrew cooke: well, let me take it a step further. Again, using the military as an example, "homopsychosis" would seem to be different from the typical psychosis. First, the homopsychotic wouldn't seem to be impaired from his usual day-to-day routine, he would do his job otherwise unaffected by his quirk. He might not even ponder or fret about homosexuality very much during the usual day. But then, without warning, he hears of an accused homosexual in his area (not even in his unit.) He might travel across post or to a different post and possibly stalk and kill someone he has never met.

(Actually, the military is a marvelous repository for strange mental conditions akin to this: the inability to function when a woman is in a risky situation to extreme morality and embarrassment in sexual situations (think of the military definition of "sodomy.") Even dominance-oriented homosexual acts, like prison rape, and the severe UCMJ punishment for same come to mind, implying at least a tacit recognition that such mental states are common.)

Why it would seem to be concentrated in the military I don't know, but it would seem to me that the young man in the news story faces not one but two threats; the overt condemnation by the religious homophobes, and the unexpected, unpredictable one of the random homopsychotic in his town, who may seek him out to do him grave physical harm.

And two threats should elicit two responses. His family and friends should be made aware that if some stranger comes around asking after him that he could be in great danger; but the local yokels are just pestiferous and can be dealt with through normal means such as court.
posted by kablam at 9:58 AM on March 16, 2003

kablam I think y2karl was trying to say what I am repeating now. "Homophychosis" is just an excuse and a scapegoat for a mode of behavior that should be seen for what it is. It is hate, even if you excuse it with fear (however irrational we might all agree that fear is, giving it a name like this is just scapegoating). Ignorance breeds fear, which breeds hate. It doesn't matter what that hate is of.

"if some stranger comes around asking after him that he could be in great danger"

Isn't this the warning our parents gave to us about strangers in general. I don't mean to be paranoid, but one could be in danger from a stranger like this for any number of random meaningless reasons.
posted by BlueWolf at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2003

And this, my friends, is why I send money to the ACLU.
posted by aacheson at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2003

The problem is that with homophobes, you are dealing with people who are essentially sane, but bigoted or prejudiced; but with homopsychotics, you are talking about people who, at odd times, and unpredictably, are insane and maybe even homicidal. Don't make the mistake of treating the two as the same. Sane people usually respond to argument or lawful coercion; insane people don't--the lights may be on, but nobody's home.

It may be gratifyingly de-humanizing to call all people who hate homosexuals the same thing. But while you might argue, or legislate, or threaten, or otherwise persuade the sane to stop hating, or at least to not do anything about their hate, the insane cannot be changed.

It is not a pleasant experience to work around the truly, violently insane, as any healthcare worker who does so will tell you. Smiling and talking about kittens one second, and stabbing your hand with a fork the next. The true homopsychotic is just as bad, but with a trigger than may not be activated for years. Someone who seems to be just like anyone else, but suddenly, if temporarily, snaps and possibly becomes a killer.

Ironically, how would this be dealt with in a court of law? A man who has perhaps committed a few violent crimes before, bar fights, domestic dispute, whatever, suddenly drives to another town to find someone he has never met and kills them. But to a psychiatrist, after the fact, he appears sane. Rationalizations abound. Undoubtedly he is convicted, little good it does his victim.

And that's the bottom line. For homosexuals forced into the limelight like this, they *need* to separate the idiots from the truly dangerous. If you spread your defenses too thin, you will be just as vulnerable as if you act like there isn't a threat. And, judging from what I have seen in the military, the incidence of true homopsychosis is enough so that any homosexual should be aware of it.

And it also shouldn't be looked at in the same light as anyone who finds celebrity should watch out for the occasional dangerous kook. For I fear there are a lot more homopsychotics out there then just about any other kind of unpredictably dangerous lunatic.
posted by kablam at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2003

You know what?

Before today, I'd never heard the phrase 'homopsychotic'. And I'll bet, neither had the bastards who've thumped me, threatened me, kicked me and spat in my face.

But their lawyers probably had - hence the 'homosexual panic' defence used in many assault cases.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2003

BTW: what a brave lad he is. This has only just begun for him... I hope he finds the happiness that we all deserve.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:21 PM on March 16, 2003

I must say, kablam, that while I can't say I agree with you here, you are an interesting thinker. Now didn't you used to have something on your user page about your experiences among the Yaqui Indians or was that in a thread? Or did I dream it?
posted by y2karl at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2003

How on earth did the school administration find out the kid was gay before his own parents?

This, to me, illustrates one of the most frustrating things about being both gay and a minor ... when a youth is a member of almost any other minority--be it racial, religious, class-based, etc--a youth, if facing harrassment at school, can go home and find love and acceptance from people who gave him birth and who usually share the same minority. In other words, they're just like him and have a natural empathy and sympathy for the situation.

Not so with gay kids, usually.

I came out at 14 (to my mom, who threw me out of the family, a trauma which never even started to heal itself until nearly fifteen years later), and was outed in high school not long after that. I definitely understand what's ahead of young McLaughlin, even if his family is supportive of him.

Reading this article also makes me wonder what ever happened to Aaron Fricke who was my hero and inspiration for my own coming out. Sad to see that for all homosexuals have been mainstreamed in media, things in the real world still haven't changed much since 1980.

dash_slot-, I hate the 'gay panic' defense. That's just a dodge to try and avoid the fact that whomever committed the crime is probably going to jail by hurting or killing a person, thus doing the very one thing to ensure for themselves that they'll be spending a good portion of the remainder of their lives having same-gender sex (usually situational homosexual behavior, but also often prison rape). We'd rather use 'gay panic' as a scapegoat than deal with all the shit that's come down the pike since we made 'homosexuality' a noun rather than a verb.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2003

Good Lord. Do you think anyone's lawyers would try to get away with, say, a "black panic" defense?

(WolfDaddy: When was "homosexuality" a verb, exactly? "Dammit, ma, the damn dog's trying to homosexuality my leg again!")
posted by webmutant at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2003

webmutant: uh, thanks for catching that. I'm trying, clumsily, to describe the transformation of 'homosexuality' going from something one does to something one is.

Given my experience in life that many many people engage in same-gender sex but would never self-apply the label of gay (or any other label but 'straight' for that matter), I contend that homosexuality is an action, not a ... state of being. And in fact, homosexual behavior used to be defined as just that ... behavior. I think in an attempt to legitimize homosexuals to the world at large, a shift in thinking took place. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I find myself wondering, quite often, if indeed it was. I think it just might have served to create artificial divisions between those people who call themselves gay, and those that don't, yet still do precisely the same things in bed with people of the same gender.

Today, we call someone who has sex with their own gender but who doesn't choose to come out and say they're gay "in denial". I don't buy that. I used to. Not anymore.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2003

Once again, it's a perspective thing. I use the term "homopsychotic" from the victim's point of view, not as any kind of "gay panic" defense.
By comparison, if you have to be in a room with 100 people who don't like you, and you know that 1 of them has brought a gun because he wants to *kill* you, if you can relatively ignore the other 99 and pay attention to the nut with the gun, you'll probably do better. And at that point, who cares what his motivations are and what defense he plans to use in court--he has a gun!
It behooves you to pay attention to avoiding him, or getting him arrested, or stopping him, or blocking him. And to hell what the other 99 are about.
Now this is not to say that the other 99 are sweetness and light, because you know they don't like you either, but you will probably survive *only* if you focus on defending yourself against the 1.

dash_slot: wouldn't it have been to your advantage to distinguish those individuals who "thumped me, threatened me, kicked me and spat in my face", from the rest who were just assholes, *before* they went violent?
(This is not to say that they have some distinguishing label or anything.) Instead of lumping them together with all the others who "hate", doesn't that just make it harder to protect yourself?

Can you "profile" your enemies? "Threat-assess" them?
posted by kablam at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2003

In as far as "It behooves you to pay attention to avoiding him, or getting him arrested, or stopping him, or blocking him", and if it was just "99 are sweetness and light, because you know they don't like you either, but you will probably survive *only* if you focus on defending yourself against the 1", and if able to in the workplace (school, big wide world), I agree with you. And I take greta care not to be vulnerable, but I still walk home at night by myself: and I walk defensively. If 10% of 1000 men are violently homophobic (and I'd bet it's higher) during my walk home, I only wish I knew the skills to suss which 1 of them, on your 1/100 analogy, might suddenly try to kill me..

More to the point, this kid was not used to sophisticated coping startegies, nor, it seems, had he been allowed or encouraged to learn any.

So,, it seems, just at the moment of an emotional crisis, when he needs a support network taken for granted by heterosexuals - extended family, school and teammates, siblings, the school authorities - he's totally marked, vulnerable and punished. He did not choose that, when he came out to his friends. This sort of state abuse of it's minor citizens is beneath Little Rock's honour.

WolfDaddy: you make even more sense, every time I read you. And I'm touched by the echoes in the lad's life, of yours.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2003

Small Michigan town --including school officials -- has been treating two gay kids in an appalling fashion. I've vacationed there, and I'm planning on writing the Supt. of Schools and telling them the staff needs sensitivity training. Also plan on reminding them that many of the tourists who keep the town hopping are from the big (slightly more enlightened) city, and some are even - gasp - gay.

Details here (search word: Tawas)

The school administration has done everything but forbid Krista to set foot on the grounds.
"She only gets an hour of school," he mother said. "She can only come in three days a week, after regular hours when the other kids are not around. She has been given a desk in the principal's office. She is not to go in the halls, the bathroom, to her locker, or around any of the other kids. She cannot attend any school dances..."
A letter signed by the principal, William J. Grusecki threatens Krista with truancy if she fails to comply with these rules.
Grusecki presides over the junior high school. James Kiblinger is the principal of the high school. Neither principal returned repeated phone calls for this article.
Robert Brewer has also received numerous death threats in Tawas .....
Ironically, Robert's family moved to Tawas because of the gay-bashing he was enduring in a neighboring town.
Unfortunately for Krista, the nightmare will continue indefinitely. The police have been utterly non-responsive.
"They say things like, 'You've brought this on yourself,' and 'Suck it up,'" her mother says, furiously.

posted by NorthernLite at 2:27 PM on March 16, 2003

"But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority's opinion may inspire fear. Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance."AARON FRICKE v. RICHARD B. LYNCH, Principal of Cumberland High School Civ. A. No. 80-214 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND
491 F. Supp. 381; 1980 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11770 May 28, 1980.

Not just in Arkansas, eh.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:39 PM on March 16, 2003

dash_slot: I agree that this kid is currently in a mess, however, his mess may get a lot worse if there's some wacko gunning for him. And it being Little Rock, he's got the equivalent of a big target tee-shirt with who knows how many po'buckers literally gunning for him.

The big solution: his support network is taken away from him, so who is standing up to give this kid a break? There *is* a homosexual community in LR, so where the hell are they? Just knowing that there's a mere half dozen big guys out there who *will* come if he gives them a call could make all the difference in the world. Not full time bodyguards, just dial-a-friend. He's a kid, so they don't wait for him to ask, they volunteer. They even tell his parents, "We're not here to be he boyfriends, we're here to help him stay alive." If his parents don't understand that, then they are part of the problem.

This isn't unrealistic, but what sounds unrealistic is that the powers that be in the LR government would lift a finger to help this kid. They won't ever. Not now, not ever. Not in a hundred years.
posted by kablam at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2003

Wolfdaddy, I don't know if you saw this or not, but back in a few posts ago, I used "Born Eunuchs" Home Page and Library where Faris Malik give his brief synopsis of his thesis: that the eunuchs of the ancient world are the gay men of today. That's where I found passages of The Dove's Necklace for my Romantic Love post.

I think most scholars agree the concept homosexual is a recent social construction--Marvin Harris, for one has some interesting things to say on the institutionalized pederasty of those New Guinea tribes (of whom dgaicun posted some months ago) in his Our Kind, for example.

But I ramble. Ijust wanted you to see this--it 's interesting and boy, does he have the ancient texts on all related topics. God, poor Malik--he's gay and Muslim. That would make him a two time loser at this kid's middle school, I'm sure.
posted by y2karl at 2:51 PM on March 16, 2003

WolfDaddy: Someone said "There are no heterosexual or homosexual people, only heterosexual or homosexual behaviors." Wish I could remember who.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, the highly vocal gay population has taught all of us a lot. I'm especially enamored of a book called Families We Choose, which gives case histories of a bunch of people who came to SF after having been rejected by their families, and ended up creating familial relations not based on blood kinship. Great reading.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 3:18 PM on March 16, 2003

The big solution: his support network is taken away from him, so who is standing up to give this kid a break? There *is* a homosexual community in LR, so where the hell are they? Just knowing that there's a mere half dozen big guys out there who *will* come if he gives them a call could make all the difference in the world. Not full time bodyguards, just dial-a-friend. He's a kid, so they don't wait for him to ask, they volunteer. They even tell his parents, "We're not here to be he boyfriends, we're here to help him stay alive." If his parents don't understand that, then they are part of the problem.

Ok, I give up. Could you tabloidise that for me?

I think, honestly, that we fundementally agree, kablam. It's just that I just got my rosy glasses smashed...
posted by dash_slot- at 3:31 PM on March 16, 2003

y2karl, thanks for the linkage, ramble or no, I'm fascinated by the information presented there especially when I consider just how much of gay culture can be absolutely obsessed with youth ... obsessed to the point of pathological behavior and/or stunted adolescence.

In turn, and since I normally eschew dry academics, I'd like to share with you the writings of a number of males who have relationships with other men, but also feel completely rejected by mainstream gay and straight cultures alike. While the words are fine, the imagery the site designer has chosen to accompany the words ... especially outside of the link I'm providing ... is not safe for work or those males whose eyes fall out at the sight of an erect penis anywhere near another erect penis. We're talkin' hardcore here! The site administrator also tries to present and politicize the site and its contents as an 'anti-analist' political view, but most of the people who just share their thoughts don't seem to pick this up, and thank god. And in the interests of full disclosure, I've contributed some of my writings from Everything2 to this site as food for thought.

The people that share their experiences there yearn, it seems, to attain the kind of culture that Malik writes about. I can certainly understand their desires, especially when it comes specifically to male sexuality. I've long said men are in some ways far more in need of liberation than women these days.

Okay, I'm rambling, too, but I feel that in light of the current topic we need to understand as many points of view as possible in order to understand the situation the post tells us about. Without further ado, here is one portion of the Heroic Homosex site.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:24 PM on March 16, 2003

dash_slot - that's an interesting story, because I think fraternities, the military and pro sports are all breeding grounds for what kablam calls the homopsychotic. Obviously this wouldn't be the case in a gay fraternity, but there's a suppressed homoerot icism in "fraternal" organizations that finds its most extreme denial in these most extreme "manly" institutions. Members must live in denial about their sexuality (not that they're all secretly wanting to "homosexuality" the other guys, just that they ma y have even the mildest feelings of affection which must be ignored and/or deflected into camaraderie) and believe themselves to be 100% straight (which, sorry, nobody is) or, in the case of sports folks, 110% straight. If anything suddenly challenges tha t, either explicitly or implicitly, there's a huge resevoir of fear and anxiety built up that can, in the more screwed-up members, explode back out at the target - a projection of that terrible thing that they aren't and will never be, as long as they can destroy it out in the world.

What I'm saying is I think kablam's got a very good point about homopsychosis being possible in people who are not clinically psychotic. Although it may only be because we live in a society that's plainly, utterly homophobic, so it's hard to find a baseline, or a control group.
posted by soyjoy at 10:01 PM on March 16, 2003

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