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03 October 2010 @ 12:41 am
So many people on my flist have been upset by the death of Tyler Clementi, a young American student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate broadcast images of him having sex with another man on the internet.

And that's a proper thing. It should upset people.

But it should also inspire people to act.

Write for the fandom meme that's going around if you want, but, more usefully, act locally.

Smile when you see same-sex couples, smile that 'Ah, young love ...' smile that Maurice Chevalier perfected. Especially if you're 20 and they're 60.

If you're at school, support your GLBT clubs. Do what you can for their campaigns, because you benefit from them even if you're straight.

If there are GLBT political issues ongoing in your local area, from gay adoption or marriage to literature 'promoting homosexuality' in schools (many of you are too young to remember Clause 28, which is a Good Thing), write to every political figure you can think of on the topics: conservative as well as liberal. Write to the ones who are dead against it, because you will at the very least remind them that their prejudices are not universal, and may help to humanise issues that they have somehow managed to look at through the lens of 'The Other'.

Refuse to accept 'The Other', even if you're as straight as a straight thing. Biologically, morally, logically, there is no 'other' about it. Personalise the issues, because the prejudice is all personal bullshit, so why should we be denied our personal stories in response? When I hear someone pontificating 'Will no one think of the children?' I pick up my pen and say 'I was one of the children, and now I am an adult and I am happy and fabulous.' The number of times I have been able to cut through bullshit by saying 'you are talking about my mother' is remarkable. 'You are talking about my brother, my friend, my doctor, me ...' is so powerful, just have those conversations.

Question prejudice when you see it. You don't have be confrontational, a simple 'Why do you believe that?' or 'Does that make any sort of sense in terms of the real world?' can work wonders. I remember being a young woman and seeing a gang of skinheads hassling two Chinese students, so I went up to them and asked them about their philosophy. They told me white made right, I pointed out that I was far whiter than any of them, and that I thought they were wrong, so by their logic, I was righter than they were. They told me I had no idea, but backed down and left, because there is nothing more embarrassing than monstering a five-foot-one girl with pigtails. It wasn't dangerous -- people are reluctant to do more than sneer at those who question them in good faith, and we can all cope with a sneer. It appalls me that it was my whiteness that made me so safe in that situation, but given there was no risk, it was incumbent on me to speak. For many straight people confronted with homophobia, there is a chance to speak in similar safety -- take it. The worst response likely is the disdain of people whose good opinion is clearly not worth having.

And finally, keep an eye out for each other. Keep each other safe. There are all sorts of calls for Something To Be Done, but bugger waiting for laws, be there yourselves. The two kids who set the video of Tyler streaming anounced it on their Twitter stream. At least 150 other kids had access to that information, but none of them went round to bang on Tyler's door. Some of his classmates have been reported as saying they would have been there if he called, make the call yourself. Be the person who smiles and is friendly, rather than the one who looks away, or the one who is a bit of a cunt, because it's easier.

And be that person generally, even if it doesn't seem important at the time. When I was 20 I ran into a boy I had known in first year at uni. He insisted on buying me a cuppa, which I thought was a bit weird, because I did not really know him well. He told me a story about a party at a mutual friend's house two years earlier, and asked if I remembered talking to him at it. As it happened, I did. He had been looking bored, and I was a bit drunk, so I sat down with him and chatted about why Morrissey was a wanker and other important mid-80s issues, and made him laugh with my Morrissey impersonation. After a while, I swanned off with his hot mate and thought nothing more of it. Two years later he told me that he had decided no one cared, and was going to kill himself after the party, but because I had thought it worth sitting down and chatting with him, he'd changed his mind.

To this day that sends chills down my spine, because I had no idea. I didn't talk with him out of any sense of Doing Good, or of cheering up the woebegone, or being a saintly person (I'm not, I was there for sex, and went off with the hot friend), I talked with him because I was a tipsy show-off and he looked like someone I could be a goose with for half an hour until I had a better offer.

And I stammered something to that effect, and he patted me on the head and said, 'Yeah, you're still a bit of a goose, but all I needed was someone to sit down with me for a bit and smile, and you did that.'

Since then, the smiles of strangers, and the carelessly given time of acquaintances and friends have sometimes lifted me on days when things seemed very dark indeed. The power of kindness, the grace of a gentle word, of acceptance and understanding, cannot be overstated.

And perhaps that kid on the train you smile at is a kid who is having the worst day of his life, who needs a moment of grace to remind him that it does get better and that how he feels now is not how he will feel forever.

Because learning that lesson gets you through everything else. It's just a matter of learning it in time.
libby_drew on October 2nd, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
Awesome post, B. Thanks.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
As I get older, I realise that the old The Personal is Political, which I used to trot out at every occasion from the time I was very wee, is exactly right the other way around, too.

And if all of us personally take responsibility to make things better ... well, in most of our countries, the political body has to follow, because otherwise they lose votes.
The Political is Personal - edm on October 2nd, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - embolinaoz on October 3rd, 2010 07:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - embolinaoz on October 3rd, 2010 08:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
Catscatsintheattic on October 2nd, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
Well said and true and moving. You made me think about priorities with that post, and about what really matters.

Thank you. &hearts
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome. I still think that political action and campaigns are important, but I'm becoming convinced that it's what we do as individuals that will force change, rather than the other way around.
(no subject) - catsintheattic on October 2nd, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
FEELS TERRORIST!momebie on October 2nd, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Hueyphoenixacid on October 2nd, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
*huggles you tight*

Awesome post!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
*Hugs you back.*
wemysswemyss on October 2nd, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
All good ideas.
Better idea, to my mind, wd be to include flogging and hanging for the sort of creatures who did this, but that's just me.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
Re: All good ideas.
I'm anti-death penalty, but I could come at the stocks. Actually, I could be persuaded on the flogging.
Yes, well. - wemyss on October 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Yes, well. - blamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Hmm. - wemyss on October 2nd, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Yes, well. - inspiredlife on October 2nd, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Yes, well. - blamebrampton on October 4th, 2010 11:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: All good ideas. - annafugazzi on October 3rd, 2010 02:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
creme_bun on October 2nd, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
A moment of kindness is a powerful thing indeed.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
It really is. I was so shocked when that boy told me -- stupidly, I don't even remember his name (nor the name of his mate who I shagged). I'm a bit crap, really, but it's sort of encouraging that even someone as inept as me can be of some use.
Glitter Me Timbers: glamdom - adam/tommy shineciel_vert on October 2nd, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Emmaemmacmf on October 2nd, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
To steal shocolate's favourite compliment: you are the one with the words.

Edited at 2010-10-02 03:49 pm (UTC)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Cheers, dears. It's just heartbreaking to see another kid gone for no reason. Young people are so unconvinced of their importance to everyone else, and so ready to believe that stupid things are meaningful -- in a year he would have been rolling his eyes at the whole incident, while now those who knew him will be missing him for the rest of their lives.
Nennenenne on October 2nd, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
An important reminder. Thanks.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
I know I'm a shocking PSA-er, but it's an issue that means so much. I remember how my mum cried after her (horrible!) mother's funeral, because they had fought and never reconciled thanks to the Evil Gran's bigotry, and I had to remind her that her mother was an idiot, and that we just don't take idiots seriously. But it made me look at mum and wonder how she got through all the years when she was young, and then I looked at her friends, and I knew.
(no subject) - nenne on October 2nd, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
leecetheartist on October 2nd, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
Dear blamebrampton. I love you. May I link this to The Entire World?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
You can always link to my public posts, Leece, and I love you, too. But there's no insight above that most people haven't worked out on their own.
(no subject) - leecetheartist on October 3rd, 2010 12:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - arcadiagt5 on October 3rd, 2010 01:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
sassy_cissasassy_cissa on October 2nd, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Your musings are more brilliant than most editorials...just sayin'.

Excellently worded post, love!

Edited at 2010-10-02 04:12 pm (UTC)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
Don't read papers owned by Fox, Sassy ;-) (Though do read The New Yorker, this has been a golden year for editorials from them.)

Thank you, dear.
The dreamer is still asleepinspiredlife on October 2nd, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
This is such a wonderful, eloquent and heartfelt post. I posted about my thoughts and how I hoped this terrible tragedy would inspire people to act. But I couldn't find the words to say what I really felt. This post...this is it. Thank you so much for sharing. What a gorgeous post.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 2nd, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and I know exactly what you mean: it's hard to find words that go beyond the initial anger and sorrow of being still and again in the place where these things happen. Here, have something that makes me happy and cheers me up when I think people are too crap: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2007/s2958278.htm

(no subject) - inspiredlife on October 2nd, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on October 2nd, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
I have tears in my eyes. It was such a horrible thing to do. How COULD they treat him like that? :( It would have been awful enough if he was straight but in this world were we live it was even worse because he was gay. I really wish he could have talked to someone about what happened. Or maybe moved away. Or something else instead of killing himself. I value my privacy so I understand that he felt mortified but he didn't have to take his own life just because some idiots were bullying him. I'm against death penalty but those morons could be buried alive. After a week or two someone could ask them how are they feeling. I know, I know...but they were really cruel to him.

Your story about the boy at the party was amazing. Thank you for saving his life. Even though you didn't know it at the time.

I totally loved your story about the skinheads. If you are whiter than them you must be right! :)) You should see me. If that's how we measure things I'm always right. Except when some albinos are present. ;)

Thank you for reminding us what's important in this life.

Love, adores_draco (kind of incognito because I'm too lazy to sign in)
maya231maya231 on October 2nd, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Love this post--thank you.
winstonmomwinstonmom on October 2nd, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
My dear Brammers: This wonderful post is why you are the writer and I am not. I feel the same way, but I don't have the ability to put it in paper. There is a commercial here I can't remember the name of the company that has the advert, but the jest of it is that, if you do something good for someone else the people who witness this act of kindness will pass it one to others. We'll never know what impact we can have just by sharing a smile or saying hi to someone.
I know what you wrote is common sense, but you did wonderfully.

PS/ goes back to thinking what can she do...
blamebramptonblamebrampton on October 4th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
The only difference between us is that I have to write for a living, so I find it a little easier. I make up for it by being wretched at many other things!

But yes, that commercial is so true! Seeing people being generous or kind just lifts the spirits in all the right ways. And leaves us with far more attractive facial wrinkles ;-)