While answering the phones for a suicide hotline, not a day would go by that I didn’t receive one to six calls from suicidal teens, many of them citing sexual orientation as the source of their pain, confusion and suffering.
Homosexuality is no longer an issue in mainstream society. Other than the church, most people are accepting and blind to the issue. It is even accepted among teens themselves. On a recent trip to Provincetown, MA, a town known to be a haven for homosexual people, half the tourists were breeders and many of them brought their small children with them. Homosexuality wasn’t even something that needed to be tolerated, it just was. Indeed, within this small town, the lion lays down with the lamb and the child plays at the den of the cobra. I just wasn’t sure who the lions or lambs were. It didn’t matter. Persecuted and persecutors, no more.
Some of my gay teen callers are sometimes threatened and bullied in school and it is usually because they are in the closet and the bullies are trying to elicit a response from them. For the kid who is openly gay, a bully can’t hold anything over them and tends to leave them alone. The kid who is out also tends to have support from other kids who can see the value in them and appreciate their honesty. It has been my lifetime observation that in five or ten years, homophobic bullies eventually come out of the closet themselves as their bullying was really the exploration of their own sexuality and boundaries. They are more to be pitied than censured.
Predominately, having found acceptance by their peers, my gay callers are more alienated by their parents or by the teachings of the church than peers. Since the Westboro Church has taught us that God hates, and He hates gays most of all, it is no wonder that a teen struggling with his identity can feel alone, abandoned, forgotten, hated and ostracized. If even God hates you, who could be for you?
Back in biblical days, the life expectancy of an adult was thirty or forty years of age and further complicating matters, most children died before their tenth birth-date due to disease or illness. If there was a famine, food was given to adults before being given to a child because the chance of a child making it to adulthood was slim and feeding them was considered to be a waste of resources.
Anyone who partook in homosexual practices or committed “the sin of Onan” (masturbation), was participating in an act which wasted seed. Those activities did not produce offspring and in those days, for the good of the tribe or community, it was important for procreation to take precedent over self pleasure. It was also common practice for thirteen year old girls to be sold into marriage as soon as they hit puberty, in an effort for them to produce as many children as possible before they died at the ripe old age of thirty. A perfect example of this practice is Joseph who was about forty and Mary who was thirteen.
The church and society have long forgotten why homosexuality and masturbation was frowned upon but they still hold blindly on to those archaic prejudices today. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 5000 teens commit suicide each year and approximately 2 million U.S. teens attempt suicide.
Enter Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta). She is a marketing genius for using gimmicks, controversy and over the top behavior and costumes to build an estimated net worth of $190 million. What she does with those millions of dollars speaks volumes. Being the product of a Catholic school education, she knows the pain and anguish of being different, even in a Roman Catholic school setting – where she herself was bullied and teased. Because of the pain the church has inflicted upon her in her youth, the church has become a target in her her music and marketing genius.
Together with her mom, Lady Gaga created a foundation called “Born This Way” which is a non-profit organization founded in 2011. It has the support of Harvard University, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the California Endowment. In September of 2012 Gaga was awarded the LennonOno Grant For Peace from Yoko Ono for her work with the foundation actively campaigning on pro-tolerance and peace issues.
The foundation aims to create a “braver, kinder world” for youth, to create safe-spaces, promote the learning of life skills, and provide opportunities to improve their local communities. Some priorities of the organization are teen suicide, bullying, homosexuality and school violence.
It appears that Lady Gaga has done much to save the lives of many teenagers struggling with sexual identity while the institutional church appears to be unconcerned for the loss of many. The score is Gaga: one; the institutional church: zero.
Lady Gaga teaches us the very valuable lesson that even the most ardent Puritan can learn, that acceptance does not make “wrong” right, it only makes what was “wrong,” precious. Another lesson Gaga teaches us is that oppression breeds the power to oppose it and oppose it she has. She has used the church’s own intolerance to challenge it to grow. Don’t hate her when she blasts the church. Instead, ask why she is blasting the church. Maybe it is time for the church to fix something.
Ultimately, who cares what a hater thinks. I often try to get my callers to discover that the wrong person they’ll never mean anything. To the right person, they’ll mean everything. Thank you Lady Gaga for making my job answering the suicide hotline much easier. To any church of intolerance, I’ll pray for you.
There are many churches who are gay accepting and they proudly wave the rainbow flag but, the gay community doesn’t want their own church. They just want to be part of everyday society. We don’t see signs at restaurants advertising “Blacks welcome here” or, “Woman may use front entrance.” Why do we need flags and signs advertising acceptance? It should just be. Isn’t “Come, all are welcome,” enough?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL)
“To understand blue, first you have to understand yellow and orange. In other words, in order to really understand anything you have to understand its opposite.”
-Vincent Van Gogh