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Dear America: You Have a Gay Problem

Posted: 02/10/2012 11:59 am

Dear America,

It must be hard being you these days. You have so many big issues -- from the economy to national security and the looming election, just to name a few. If I may though, I'd like to focus on another one.

This is Canada, your northern neighbour (I spell it with a "u"). Blessed with a bird's eye view, I've watched troubling developments unfold below. Before more damage is done, I thought it best to offer some Canadian insight in the hopes that it may assist you as you move forward in your struggle.

I've wanted to write this for a while. During the lead up to Proposition 8 and the continued legal battle that has ensued, as debates over gay marriage spread to other states, you questioned if allowing soldiers to fight and die openly would ruin your military just as teenagers across your country tragically took their own lives after being bullied for who they were.

What finally forced my hand was a heartbreaking and infuriating article in Rolling Stone chronicling how one school district in Minnesota not only condoned but actively promoted the bullying of its LGBT students.

The result of the Anoka-Hennepin school district's policy has been devastating. One can only pray (isn't that what they'd want us to do?) that the souls of those who took their own lives are now at peace.

You Americans don't pay all that much attention to Canada. We know, and are mostly okay with it. But as you strive to build your land of the free, it might do you good to look up every now and then.

When you do, you'll discover something that might surprise many of you: We aren't all that concerned about gay people. Our Conservative government has said it has no intention of re-opening a debate on same-sex marriage, which is legal. Abroad, it has become a consistent and strong advocate for gay rights. Contrary to some beliefs, no radical gay agenda came and hijacked our society. The sky hasn't fallen.

Now sure, things up here aren't perfect. We too have unfortunately been faced with instances of homophobic bullying and tragically, gay-teen suicide. There are Canadians unhappy that Bob and Joe can express their love just like Bob and Joan. And I certainly don't want to imply that all, or even the majority, of Americans are anti-gay.

But there's something different, something malicious about the debate in your country. The haters are too hateful and the vilification of the LGBT community has spread too far. In what other free and equal society would those seeking to be Commander-In-Chief stand silently as a crowd of citizens booed a soldier because he was gay? It is a true juxtaposition of cowardice and courage, and such a moral deficiency should automatically qualify one as unfit to lead a nation.

Back to Minnesota, where Justin Aaberg, gay, hung himself in his bedroom in 2010. He was 15. His mother found him. This past December, according to Rolling Stone, his nine-year-old brother tried to kill himself in the bathtub. He wanted to see Justin again.

In response to Justin's death, Rolling Stone quotes Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard, who blogged, "Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk [of suicide], because they've embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle."

What world is this?

Not to mention this took place without a response from the district's congresswoman. When public pressure forced Michele Bachmann to respond, she couldn't even say the word gay. This is the same woman who felt herself fit to be President, and too many others agreed.

When teachers are afraid to stand up for their students, as were Justin's, and when leaders stand by and allow masses to trample over the vulnerable, what is there left to teach, and who is left to lead?

America, you have a problem. You need to grow up. Life is too short and the world too complicated. You have too much to give to your country and others to be dragged down over gay and straight. So please look up.

When you do, you will see a country of multiple faiths that is learning to live with faith, difference, and dignity. Civility and decency are not virtuous aspirations; they are necessities. Like it or not, to borrow a lesson from one of your favourite books, we are our brother's keeper.

I know this is none of my business. Yet I couldn't stay silent any longer. It's like watching two trains headed towards each other in slow motion.

From time to time it's necessary that friends speak from the heart. And frankly, you need it now, because from your big neighbor to the north, not only literally, but also figuratively, you're looking kind of small.

Sincerely,
Canada.

Also on HuffPost: TEEN BULLYING CASES

Loading Slideshow...
  • Tyler Clementi

    The disturbing rash of LGBT teen suicides began receiving attention last fall. Among those who took their own life was Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York after his roommate allegedly filmed him having sex with another man.

  • Seth Walsh

    Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California teen, hung himself in September 2010 after reportedly being bullied because he was gay.

  • Raymond S. Chase

    Gay Rhode Island-based student Raymond S. Chase, 19, became the fifth in 2010's disturbing spate of teen suicides last fall.

  • Obama's Anti-Bullying Video

    In October 2010, President Obama released a video in support of LGBT youth who were struggling with being bullied.

  • Pastor's Confession

    In November 2010, Jim Swilley, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch, revealed to his congregation that he is gay. The 52-year-old father of four said the recent spate of teen suicides, particularly that of Clementi, prompted him to change his mind. "For some reason his situation was kind of the tipping point with me," Swilley told CNN's Don Lemon this weekend.

  • Daniel Radcliffe Honored

    In June, "Harry Potter" actor Daniel Radcliffe was honored with the Trevor Project's "Hero" Award for his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/26/daniel-radcliffe-speaks-o_n_478960.html" target="_hplink">ongoing suicide prevention efforts</a> for LGBT youth.

  • Jamey Rodemeyer

    In September, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, N.Y., took his life Sunday after what his parents claim was years of bullying because of struggles with his sexuality, months after posting this "It Gets Better" clip on YouTube.

  • Lady Gaga's Dedication

    After vowing to stop bullying and make it illegal, Lady Gaga -- a longtime advocate for LGBT causes -- dedicated a performance to Rodemeyer at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. "I wrote this record about how your identity is really all you've got when you're in school," Gaga told the crowd. "So tonight, Jamey, I know you're up there looking at us, and you're not a victim. You're a lesson to all of us."

  • Bachmann Speaks Out

    Days after being faced with a petition that urged her to publicly address gay bullying in her district, Rep. Michele Bachmann noted, "That's not a federal issue," according to CBS News. Previously, Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, a gay teen in the Anoka-Hennepin school district who committed suicide after having been bullied in area schools, delivered petitions to Bachmann's office asking her for support.

  • Jamie Hubley

    Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old from Ottawa, Canada, committed suicide Oct. 14. In this clip, the teen performs Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me."

  • Hubley Tribute Video

    Friends created a poignant tribute video to Hubley, the Canadian 10th grader who committed suicide on Friday.