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Licence to bully? Licence to fight back?

BY ROB SALERNO –Just when you think we’ve reached a general consensus that bullying is bad, the Michigan Senate passes an anti-bullying law that actually creates a licence to bully.

The proposed law, which still must pass the Michigan House and be signed by the governor — and both are Republican — spells out that bullying is okay as long as it’s done because the bully has a sincerely held religious belief. This is the actual insert into the law: 

"This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief
or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil
and parent or guardian."

So, in short, as long as you wear your crucifix, you’re allowed to shout, “Burn in hell, faggot” with impunity at the gay kid until he kills himself. Because, as Jesus said, he who goes to church at least once a year may cast as many goddamned stones as he wants.

Republican senators also stripped the bill of enforcement mechanisms, record keeping and enumeration about vulnerable classes of students, because they say no one [read: queers] should be treated special. Instead, the bill treats one group with special exemptions and impunity.

Ironically, the bill may actually create licence to bully Christians, if, for example, an atheist, Muslim or Christian of a different denomination could argue that it was his “sincere religious belief or moral conviction” that led him to bully (and vice-versa, of course). 

In an even more bitter piece of irony, the licence-to-bully bill is named Matt’s Safe Schools Act, after Matt Epling (pictured above), a 13-year-old who killed himself after being bullied at school. Democratic legislators are incensed. Watch Senator Gretchen Whitmer lash out at her Republican colleagues:

Meanwhile, comedian Scott Thompson has a message for kids being bullied: fight back. 

The AV Club Toronto created a minor tizzy by selectively quoting a Thompson interview with PrideSource magazine, in which he asserts that it doesn’t always get better:

"Here’s the thing: the world is not kind to us; it never really will be. The
gay male is always going to be at the bottom. I believe the things that happened
to me as a child scarred me terribly, and I wish somebody would have helped me
with some of the things that happened. But you have to fight back. So much of
these bullying campaigns are part of the trend that we were just talking
about — the recasting of gay men as eternal victims and it’s like, fight back!
Fathers should start teaching the boys how to punch. He does that to you, here’s
what you do: you fucking punch him in the face."

In fact, when you read the whole interview, you’ll see that Thompson goes on to say that he could never do that as a kid and so eventually realized that his comedian’s microphone was more powerful than bullies. 

"When I’m on that stage and if you come at me, you’re going down. You feel like
the lion tamer. It’s very powerful,” he says. 

I like that Thompson is encouraging kids to stand up for themselves, but I’m not sure how helpful telling a suicidal kid “it doesn’t get better” is. After all, a lot of what Thompson is bitching about — makeover shows that cast gay men as accessories and emasculated poodles, and the fact that gay men don’t come to see his shows like they go to Kathy Griffin — are pretty remote concerns for the kid who just wants to make it through another day of 11th grade without getting beaten up.

But if you want to see the king of “it doesn’t get any better,” I guess read this interview with gay rights pioneer, novelist and playwright Larry Kramer (whose The Normal Heart is playing at Buddies until Sunday). At least he’s fighting for more than just a bigger audience, but the guy just refuses to celebrate any of the advances made by the gay community in the last 30 years, and it’s an utterly depressing read. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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