I was in a local restaurant chain recently. I looked up from my meal and saw a poster on the wall. The words that jumped out at me were: “…Bully Burger…”
I called for the manager and told her bullying was a life-threatening behavior sometimes and always a behavior that affects quality of life. Yet this poster could be interpreted to say, “Come be macho like the bullies and get your Bully Burger.”
The fact that an enjoyable thing like a burger is named “Bully Burger” puts a fun and joy spotlight on bullying. I asked her to call that to the attention of the management. I mentioned that anti-bullying organizations would likely be setting up pickets in front of their stores if the Bully Burger hangs around.
I have friends who are very much involved in fighting bullying. In one way or another we know that stronger people sometimes use various anti-social techniques to torment, intimidate, harass, and/or tyrannize a weaker person they have singled out for their target.
This is called bullying, and it is a serious problem in society. Some people say it has entered “epidemic proportions.” The perpetrator can use violence, forced sex, threats of violence, social relationship attacks (slander, gossip), and cyber bullying (which can include any use of Internet and telephone and other gadgets and games.) Risky behaviors of any kind can be forced (motorcycles without helmets, non-use of condoms, misuse of alcohol, use of drugs, etc.)
The Philippines does have a law against bullying in school settings. The “Anti-Bullying Act of 2013” includes “gender-based bullying.” By that the law means that any behavior that humiliates or commits violence upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Philippines is punishable under the terms of the law.
LGBT people experience bullying in a higher proportion than other segments of society. There’s usually not much logic in bullying, but in simple terms, bullies mistreat their victims for any numerous “trigger” reasons. It could be too short, too tall, undesirable color of skin, scorned religion, too rich or too poor, etc.
The favorite target, in school, out of school, is same-sex attraction or gender preference contrary to the bullies preference. And, of course, this adds to the urgency of LGBT in the Philippines having the protection of an “anti-discrimination law.”
One study reported that fifty percent of school students in the Philippines experience some kind of bullying – whether it’s removing a chair a student is about to sit on or whether it’s the physical violence we read about in the newspaper that puts the victim in the hospital.
In this day of extended use of internet, bullies resort to cyber bullying that can be expressed in numerous weird ways – from ridicule to threats of harm to unsolicited pornographic attacks.
Perhaps the most alarming statistics documented in the Philippines is the 2013 study by UP Prof Eric Manalastas, “Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk in thePhilippines: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Sample of Young Filipino Men.”
The bottom line is that LGBT youth are more likely to think about suicide and to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth. Many factors contribute to this result. Perhaps family rejection is not termed bullying, but it certainly reinforces bullying that is experienced elsewhere in society. These attacks on self-esteem, whether bodily harm or verbal abuse is suffered, not only produce a higher suicide rate, but Professor Manalastas’ excellent but alarming study also reported an increased likelihood of a variety of other effects such as depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse.
Besides suicide risks, school bullying, family rejection, and harassment in church and society, LGBT people have to contend with bullying in the work place, where I suppose the school bullies graduate to in order to continue their hideous games. (We won’t try to psychoanalyze their sickness here.)
Anti-bullying programs do exist. Organizations are attacking this social issue in the Philippines.
Far more extensive studies, programs, and organizational projects have been conducted and are in force in the United States. A priest-sociologist friend of mine in Michigan founded and chairs a large anti-bullying project of many volunteers who gang up on these senseless and dangerous thorns in their society.
My friend sent me amazing statistics regarding bullying in the United States. Very widespread and very depressing. But he also told me that concerted effort is being pushed nationwide to put a stop to it. He said that “It Gets Better (itgetsbetter.org)” is a website where over 580,000 pledged to stop bullying of LGBT youth, which features over 30,000 user submitted video messages of encouragement.
What can be done about bullying?
When we ask that question we have to add whether we are asking about the perpetrator or the victim?
For all the reasons we mentioned above people, especially young people, very often need psychotherapy to “fix” the harm that among other things causes such devastating flip-flops to the victim’s self-esteem that self- inflicted death is contemplated or carried out. I suppose we can all recognize that very cogent need.
But what about the perpetrator of such anti-social behavior? Many of us do not realize that young people who bully too often (research shows) become the criminals of tomorrow. It’s not only that the bullies of high school become the bullies (the fatal hazings) of college. Even more menacing is the “playing around” antics of school days is upgraded to criminal acts in society. Senior citizens become the targets along with LGBT people of all ages.
School bullies who are not rooted out, stopped, helped by therapy develop character traits that get them in trouble with the law as they jump into more sophisticated (shall I say, dangerous, ugly, deadly) bullying as adults. So while we are concerned about the school kids who are victims today, we, and parents especially, should do all they that can be done to alert society and “help” the perpetrators of today become peaceful and peace-loving citizens of tomorrow.
That’s it in a nutshell – and we didn’t even mention the injustice such violations of human rights inflict upon LGBTI people.