Actor takes stand to ‘make it better’

October 23, 2011


Zachary Quinto came out recently.

Ordinarily, the news that Star Trek’s new Mr. Spock had told New York magazine he was gay would barely register. It has become, a rather ordinary thing, celebrities disclosing their hidden sexuality.

But Quinto came out for Jamey.

Jamey’s death, he wrote on his blog, showed him “that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.” Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, hanged himself in September. Just a few days into his freshman year, he apparently felt he could not take the bullying he endured in the hallways of Williamsville North High School in greater Buffalo, NY — or online.

“JAMEY IS STUPID, GAY, FAT AND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” one individual posted, using the all-caps style favored by the shrill and the unhinged.

“I wouldn’t care if you died,” another wrote. “No one would.”

Incredibly, it continued even after his suicide. Jamey’s sister Alyssa went to a dance trying, she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, to not “be in pain for just these two hours.” She says some kids at the dance chanted that they were glad her brother is dead.

Jamey’s “sin” is that he was bisexual and most of his friends were girls.

“I promise you, it will get better,” he had said in a video for the It Gets Better Project, a website (itgetsbetter.org) of 25,000 videos from everyday people and luminaries like Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Hathaway and President Obama to encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered kids who are bullied and ostracized.

There is something inexpressibly poignant in watching this child, who had complained for years of being bullied, try to convince others of something he apparently found hard to believe himself.

The dynamics of bigotry are remarkably consistent whether the bigotry be racial, religious, ethnic or sexual: The target group is invariably defined as a threatening, inferior or offensive “other” to whom no ordinary duties of human decency and respect are owed.

But with sexual orientation, it is easier to hide the offending trait. The abuse becomes something you have to volunteer for. That’s what Quinto just did. And what other gay people must find the courage to do.

Yes, that is easier said than done. To hide in plain sight is to protect yourself from rejection by those whose acceptance means everything. But it is also to flinch from the moral responsibility of standing with and for your own.

It is a good and honorable thing to remind troubled kids that high school ends, that it gets better. Yet that can be cold comfort when you’re 14 and facing four more years of abuse. Four years is nearly a quarter of your life. So what is needed is not simply to encourage kids to be patient until graduation but, rather, to root out that which makes patience necessary.

Meaning the cruel intolerance that calls itself moral righteousness and still finds far too much comfort in our homes, worship houses and schools.

By coming out in honor of Jamey, standing with and for this tortured boy, Zachary Quinto acknowledges the obvious.

It does not get better on its own.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Liberty_One 6 years, 7 months ago

Surprise surprise, bullying at a government school. Still think compulsory tax-funded education is great?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

So, you're saying that elimination of public education will also eliminate homophobia and bullying?

It'll probably eliminate halitosis and flatulence, too, right?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

I'd like to request that you not post on any article that I'm posting on, or might post on.

Let's must make it simple, though. Before you post on anything, please send me a PM requesting permission.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

The tos state that you should stop responding to somebody's posts once they've asked you to do so.

Your exaggerations of that are not covered.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm disappointed in your lack of respect for the tos, and the other posters on here.

Continuing to respond to somebody's posts after being asked to stop is very disrespectful of them.

Why would you keep trying to talk to somebody who doesn't want to talk to you anymore?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

LO is frequently disrespectful to me, and many other posters, often without any provocation. As usual, his hypocrisy is hip-deep.

And if we're all going to demand that others stop responding to us because we think they've been a tad disrespectful, or because they point out something that we just find uncomfortable to acknowledge or discuss, what's the point of having a forum at all?

Why don't we all just writer our separate little blogs and invite only those who we agree with to have a "discussion."

But if LO prefers to be a drama queen, I'll let him pout to himself all he wants.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

He is.

Which doesn't make it right for the rest of us to follow in those footsteps, especially if we don't like it when he does it.

We all have the right to talk with those we want to talk with, and not with those we don't want to engage.

I agree that if everybody did it all the time, it would restrict conversations quite a bit.

But, on the other hand, if people really do want to discuss things, perhaps they'll improve the quality of their posts, so that they aren't asked to stop.

P Allen Macfarlane 6 years, 7 months ago

Your statements are a bit of a stretch, don't you think: looking at a situation through Libertarian glasses rather than seeing the situation for what it is. Shame on you!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

Your argument is against compulsory attendance, not public schools. And no one is compelled to attend a public school.

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One, Bullying at private schools is legend. And at those places, often the school directors encourage it on the grounds that "competition builds character."

voevoda 6 years, 7 months ago

Look it up for yourself, Liberty_One.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

LibertyOne, as soon as you can prove that bullying doesn't happen in private schools, you will have a point. Until then, you have none. You are only towing the libertarian line of the market being the cure all for everthing wrong with society.

This is being directed to you dispite your having called me a "monster," "hysterical" and a "lunatic" in the past for not believing we should do away with laws forbidding child labor. However, feel free to respond to my post. See if you can do so without calling me names.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

You're not really responding to anyone anyway. You're just here to pick fights with those who disagree. Run tell dat.

workinghard 6 years, 7 months ago

Amazing that this story was immediately turned political. This is not about politics, it's about something terribly sad that should never have happened. Also sad is the fact that these bullies were probably just looking for someone to bully and it didn't matter what it was about.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, I disagree. As one of my best friends puts it, "The personal is always the political."

workinghard 6 years, 7 months ago

I have heard a lot about political sex.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 7 months ago

The bigotry is so ingrained that Rick Santorum will "die" to stop gay marriages. Makes me think of back in the day (not so far back, fifty or so years ago) when politicians would "die" to preserve miscegenation laws.

kernal 6 years, 7 months ago

working hard, is your statement an attempt at humor?

Bullies learn to be bullies from their parents. Someone should have shown and taught Jamey how to stand up to those bullies and helped him find the courage to do so. Too many shouldas and couldas in that situation. Hope the Buffalo area school districts have woken up and others will as well.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

"Bullies learn to be bullies from their parents." === This is true and the real point. Nearly all behaviors are learned through modeling and repetition. When we are young, we watch our parents and generally model the way they treat each other and the family as we move out into the world. The same people who claim schools are ineffective are often those who pass laws telling them to 'fix' the most ingrained behaviors. We can be loving chimps or bullies, depending on how we are raised.

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