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Photo: Benson Cua

David Devitt talks about his own experience of bullying, LGBTQ speaking out, and how anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from politicians and other adults is harming children in society.

I grew up in a tough post-industrial Ohio town in the 1990s where ignorance and bigotry were often prevalent. I have stood up to bullies all my life, and when I was physically threatened, I fought them.

No bullies could intimidate me, so even though I was a weird kid, I was funnier, smarter and stronger than them.

They checked on me like kids do and learned to be respectful. They also knew that I wouldn’t tolerate bullying others, so if anyone picked on someone just because they were different, we were going to be in trouble.

Hooligans are low, broken people; weak-minded and insecure.

But instead of being tough on themselves to become better people, they desperately try to mask their weakness and insecurities by acting tough in an attempt to intimidate others.

It’s tragic to see in any child and sad to see in any teenager, but when bullying manifests itself in adults, it’s pathetic; unforgivable and disgusting mental retardation.

When I was in high school 20 years ago, being LGBTQ was a big goal for you.

Our American culture at the time still largely held LGBTQ people ostracized, shamed, bullied, humiliated, and “othered.”

Powerful, influential LGBTQ people in sports, music, film, and business have often hid in the closet, preferring to torture themselves mentally by living a lie rather than risk the very real possibility of deadly physical abuse.

Nothing made these terrible stakes clearer to my young mind than that Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten to death in 1998.

He was 21 years old, only eight years older than me at the time – thinking about what a terrible world I would have to live in.

I grew up knowing how to be tough in a tough town, but I knew I couldn’t get out as long as I lived there, or I would be a constant struggle, no matter how much respect I earned. I’ve never been afraid of a fight, but squaring off with idiots every day to assert my right to a peaceful existence is not my idea of ​​a good time.

After getting far enough away to feel safe, I came out and my life has been absolutely happy and beautiful ever since. I am very lucky and grateful for that. I wish the same for all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

Over the past 20 years, I have watched America transform from a dark place of hate and intolerance to widespread tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ people, at least in our popular culture and some of our laws and cities.

I give credit to all enlightened citizens with a clear conscience and to each new generation for largely throwing off the hideous societal bonds of the past to pave a new path.

Unfortunately, many Americans remain captive to weak, insecure, hateful bigots and bullies who seek to instill fear in our new cultural acceptance in a vile attempt to once again dehumanize us and erase our lives and experiences.

They want to scare and intimidate us by spreading malicious lies and attacking anyone or anything that allows LGBTQ people to know that we are safe, accepted, loved, and not alone.

From the Anti-Defamation League:

Far-right and extremist voices launched a significant attack on the LGBTQ+ community in 2021-2022, demonizing people through repeated false claims that LGBTQ+ people are “pedophiles” who “groom” children to abuse them. This false and malicious narrative has been used as a weapon to label the LGBTQ+ community as “groomers” and has fueled a host of hostile legislation and policies aimed at destroying discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools, removing LGBTQ+ books from schools and public libraries and, especially, for the ostracism, denigration and persecution of transsexuals.

The push against mainstream LGBTQ acceptance has been relentless, devastating and deadly, especially for young LGBTQ people.

This was revealed by a survey by The Trevor Project in 2022 45% of LGBTQ youth nationwide have seriously considered suicide in the past yearwhile 14% had actually attempted suicide.

The rate was even higher among transgender and non-binary people, who became prime targets for hate-mongering authoritarians.

It breaks my heart. These children are already going through enough, and the last thing they need is a toxic policy that further victimizes them.

In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign a record number of violent cases with a fatal outcome is being tracked against transsexuals and gender-nonconforming people — with 50 deaths.

These are children, family members and friends of people whose last minutes of life were spent under the abhorrent violence of hatred and intolerance.

LGBTQ safe spaces and celebrations have been the target of threats or acts of violence, including in Columbus in December.

New the staggering increase in anti-LGBTQ violence directly reflects the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric among right-wing politicians, pundits, and loser internet trolls.

Only last year, in March, US state legislators came up with a proposal a record 238 bills restricting the rights of LGBTQ Americansand about half of them are aimed specifically at transsexuals.

The despicable jackals in the Ohio State House have repeatedly tried to pass anti-LGBTQ laws that baselessly attack trans athletes and health care. They decided their time would be better spent bullying one of Ohio’s most vulnerable youth groups.

The laws they proposed were so thoughtless and cruel that they invented one without consulting even one member of the trans community and created a national shame for the state suggesting another subject trans athletes to genital examinations.

We learned this week that a group of failed Republican Central Committee and local school board candidates filed a lawsuit against Hilliard City Schools, alleging teachers engaged in “sexually intimate conversations” with students and calling for the removal of badges supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Their evidence? A survey asking for preferred pronouns and some teachers wearing badges to let LGBTQ students know they are safe adults.

These people are either gullible and easily fooled by misinformation and hateful rhetoric, or they are just small-minded, hateful bigots who mislead others into hatred and intolerance. Either way, they are part of an insidious movement trying to terrorize all LGBTQ people.

They are bullies trying to get the school district to bully the kids the district is supposed to protect.

They are grown bullies and they are pathetic.

Twist the pig’s ear and listen to it squeal. Ask the fanatics for a modicum of decency and they’ll scream like wild banshees.

I could never have imagined the progress LGBTQ people have made in the past 20 years, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

But we cannot rest. We can never rest.

The forces of hate will continue to desperately try to manipulate the public with odious lies about us.

That’s how the whole authoritarian terrorist game works, and they’re as energetic as ever.

LGBTQ people and our allies must constantly speak up and be vigilant to stand up to these bullies.

We are funnier, smarter and stronger than them.

While they gather in delusional, dark paranoia, we gather in open, honest support.

Their cries of hate can never again overcome our songs of love.

This story was originally published Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.

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