Hamed Nastoh had a high voice and liked to play with girls instead of boys. For these and perhaps other reasons we may never learn of, the 14-year-old was mercilessly teased and bullied by classmates at Enver Creek high school in Surrey, BC.
They called him “geek,” “faggot,” and “gay.”
On a Saturday night in March, Hamed jumped off the Pattullo Bridge and killed himself. He left behind a suicide note, blaming the bullies.
We don’t know whether Hamed was gay. In the wake of his death, his family is at great pains to declare definitively that he was not. But a 14-year-old boy’s sexual preference is about as clear as the skin on his face.
The certainty of Hamed’s family reminds us that parents, as much as they love their children, believe that they can control their children’s lives, even when they’re dead.
Maybe Hamed was gay. How would anyone have known? Certainly he lived his short life in an environment which was hostile to even the mere suggestion of his homosexuality. And I’m not just talking about the school bullies.
“This word is against our religion – against everything we believe in,” Hamed’s father told the National Post about the gay name-calling. “We hate this word. Why would they use it?”
Bullying may be a problem for lots of kids who aren’t gay, but gay kids in particular don’t find much solace at home. Often, home means more bullying, often disguised as love.
It’s not just the religious fundamentalist parents, although they are particularly unqualified to raise their gay kids, stunned as they are by the world’s variously intolerant belief systems.
But even parents who understand the plight of gay kids won’t tolerate anything that might create an accepting environment for them. When BC teachers announced they would consider allowing students to form what they call gay/straight alliance clubs (meant to promote tolerance of sexual orientation), parents threw a hissy fit. They organized protests in front of schools and at the BC Teachers’ Federation annual convention.
Rukhasana Sharif, a Surrey mother, told the Post that she is “deeply concerned” about the bullying of gay kids. A regular sensitive and caring mother. But Mrs Sharif also said she is actively protesting the acceptance of gay/straight clubs because she’s worried they might be used to promote homosexuality or recruit children.
What’s to fear in one of these gay/straight alliance clubs? That gay kids will learn to accept themselves? That they’ll find friends who support them? That straight kids will start hanging around with gay kids? No, these aren’t the reasons why parents are embarrassing their children by parading around with placards in front of their schools.
The parents are afraid that all kids in these clubs might start exploring the possibilities of their own sexualities. That they might question the twisted crap their parents have raised them on. That they might begin to grow up, think for themselves, make their own choices, take charge of their lives, and find happiness on their own terms. This terrifies parents. Because the control freak that lurks somewhere within most parents is intrinsically evil. Especially where gay kids are concerned.
I know that lots of parents do what’s best for their kids, because I was blessed with such parents. But I won’t get misty here about all the great things parents do. That’s already smeared all over our culture like a thick layer of Vaseline.
Parents – for better or worse – are our brainwashers and master manipulators. Their interests are often contrary to our own, and the ghostly power they wield over us is often our biggest impediment to self-fulfillment, even as full-grown adults.
We need to help gay kids by providing alternatives to family. Groups like Supporting Our Youth (416-924-4126 ext 264) give kids places to go and people to meet. Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (416-975-9130) runs a summer program for queer kids. And the Lesbian Gay Bi Youthline (416-962-2232) runs a support line and offers peer counselling.
If parents alone are allowed to determine how their children learn about homosexuality, some of those children will end up dead, and plenty others will be miserable. Help a gay kid escape from the clutches of unfit parents.
David Walberg is Editor-in-chief for Xtra.