Advice To The Parents Of A Bullied Boy

Today on FaceBook a friend directed me to a mother who’s trying to fight against the bullies in her son’s middle school. After introducing ourselves and telling her about my book, she asked to read it. This is the letter I sent her.

Hi C—-, nice to meet you. The more people like us talk to each other, sharing our stories and telling our truths, the sooner acceptance of bullying will end. Working together we can make a difference.
 
I can’t know for sure, but I’d bet you and your husband have heard phrases like these: “Kids will be kids.” or “Boys will be boys.” and “All kids get teased. I was teased and lived through it, so will he.” and “It’s a rite of passage. He’ll be the stronger for it.” These seem to be the knee jerk responses from authority figures when confronted by parents whose kids are bullied. You’ll hear them even from people you know are supportive, like friends and family.
 
But you know better. You can see what it’s doing to your son. I know better too. I was a sixth grade teacher (now retired) and have my own experiences behind me. Which is why I’m going to butt in where I’ve not been invited.
 
I strongly suggest you not visit your son’s school unannounced to catch the bullies in the act. Your son will suffer from your very public appearance, I guarantee you, especially given the post you put up yesterday about no one sitting with him already. And by trying to go around the school administration you’re going to get the school staff steamed, which unfortunately does leak over to your student. In other words, the little good it will do you (a grudging admission from the principal that there does seem to be a problem and a promise to ‘deal with it’ will result in the principal taking out his anger on the bully. All well and good, but the bully will then take it out on your son. Sounds like they’ve already got everyone else cowed into silence.
 
Instead, I suggest you pay a visit to the principal today and tell her once more, and very clearly, of your concerns for your son’s ability to do well in her school while constantly in fear. Tell her every one of the things your son has told you happens. Make an appointment with her for the three of you to watch your son at lunch unseen. Explain that your concern is so deep that your next step will be to go to the school district Superintendent and the School Board. Give her the distinct impression that you are not going to let this go, that you demand her cooperation to see your son succeed unimpeded in school. But do it all in a calm, in control, even polite manner. You’re in the right, so there’s no need to shout. Don’t let them get under your skin, no matter how emotional you and your husband may be about this. Do not lose control of yourselves for even a moment. Show no weakness.
 
And, at least for a time, you might consider removing your son from school. Keep him home and demand lesson plans and supplies from the school until they guarantee his safety. Each day of public humiliation and shame is harming him, scarring his psyche, so if it is at all possible, remove him from the place that makes him miserable. If you get nowhere at his current school, check with your district to see if you can get him transferred to another.
 
Remind yourself constantly that this is not his fault, and that he needs extra love to make it through okay. Pile on the affection and positive reinforcement at home and do your best to make him feel secure and valuable. Give him little special jobs so he can be praised for his smarts, or creativity, or compassion. Your house is his safe place, and as such must be as nurturing and encouraging as possible.
 
Anyway – that’s my advice based on what little I’ve seen on your page. Attached is my book. I hope you enjoy it, but I would like to warn you that it has made people with bullying in their own pasts very uncomfortable. Because I take bullying so seriously I didn’t pull any punches in my book, I tell it like it is and the shocking brutality I expose causes some people to get upset. I hope you’re not one of them, and instead see that this message is for those who will not open their eyes to the truth. I wrote this book for the teachers, and principals, and parents of those kids who are bullied, or are bullies, or are just standing by and not doing anything to stop bullying when they see it.
 
Let me know what you think.

~ Genta
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The Best Revenge

As the author of The Boxer Rebellion it may be obvious that I have strong feelings about bullying. You can therefore imagine how happy I was to find this on YouTube today. It’s a highly emotional piece, so be forewarned. And remember: It does get better. If you’re being bullied now try to find help, and if you think that’s just impossible then hunker down and wait until you get out of school because IT DOES GET BETTER. And then you can turn all that pain and anger into art. Like this:

To This Day Project – Shane Koyczan

She Asked, "Why Are Gays Pedophiles?"

Three months ago, while I was busily putting 50,000 words of a novel together during National Novel Writing Month, a curious thing happened. I’d recently started The Ladies Who Write, a group of women authors who get together to write, discuss ideas, hash out difficult plot problems and other things. Because of the nature of the book I had just finished writing, The Boxer Rebellion, I had outted myself as a lesbian to them. One night, just before last Thanksgiving, I was gathering my things to leave a meeting when one of the authors, Renae Edwards, asked me, “Why are gays pedophiles?”

As the words left my eardrum and traveled to my brain, a defensive fight or flight instinct kicked in. I looked her right in the eye and said, “I’m going to knock you down,” and I said it with a smile.
She said, “Okay, but really, aren’t they child molesters?”
“I’m going to knock you down,” I said, with slightly more warning to my tone and decidedly more assertion.
“No, really, I was a Jehovah’s Witness for eighteen years, and that’s what I’ve heard. That’s all I know,” Renae said with such an ingenuous smile I had no choice but to take her at her word. So rather than knock her down, we sat down together and began a long conversation that has gone on for many weeks now.

The other day I was bemoaning my lack of ideas for this blog. She suggested I do an interview with someone who had once held prejudiced views concerning homosexuality and has since changed her mind. I thought that was a wonderful idea. Here are author Renae Edward’s responses to my questions:

First of all, Renae, thank you for doing this. I know it’s probably not easy for you.
Hello Genta. Thank you for interviewing me. I want to take a moment to catch your readers up on a little about me and why I agreed to this interview. In 1994 I met a nice woman who I began studying the Bible with. A year later I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. The next 18 years I tried to be the model Witness and kept my thinking in line with what I was taught. Four years ago my second son told me he didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness and that crumbled the remaining support structures of my desire to continue being an active Jehovah’s Witness.
I am not blaming my sons for my decision to go inactive. Though I felt and feel that there are many good qualities about Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they come much closer than some churches to following the Bible, I realized that no matter what religion, church or sect, they were all based on someone’s view of the Bible. Each view being different, but most not necessarily wrong.
I also grew tired of being told that I needed to spend more time out in service –going door to door – and less on trying to write my fantasy novels.
So, after eighteen years of looking to others for the shaping of our opinions, Ayron, my husband, and I stepped back and began making our own decisions. I spent a lot of time on the fence the first couple of years after leaving the Kingdom Hall, but I find myself becoming more opinionated and firmer in my opinions.

Based on your first question to me, I’ve put together a list of prejudiced statements. Could you tell us if you’ve ever believed any of the following statements?  

1.         Gays are pedophiles.
 I never believed that all gays were pedophiles, nor that all pedophiles were gay, but I was of the impression that both were choices that needed to be fought to be a good Christian.
2.         Gays are damned to Hell.
No, but here is the twist. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in Hell. We are taught that Hell actually means the common grave. Ecclesiastes 9:5 is the main scripture used to explain the belief. “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead they are conscious of nothing at all…” Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and I still do also that when we die we are dead until Jehovah God decides to resurrect us all as stated by Acts 24:15 “and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”
3.         Gays are, or will become, diseased and doomed to die early.
No, I do not believe all homosexuals are or will become diseased because they are gay. I do believe that some lead reckless lifestyles by refusing to use proper protection and that has lead to a higher incidence of AID especially in the male gay community. But the same can be said of needle using drug users and young heterosexual adults who can’t comprehend dying yet and also choose not to use proper protection.
4.         Gays cannot be monogamous. They all have multiple partners.
Here is where I show what a shallow thinker I am. It never crossed my mind one way or the other. My thought process stopped at 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 “What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous person will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be mislead, Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy persons nor drunkards, nor revilers, no extortioners will inherit God’s Kingdom?” I honestly never gave a thought to how homosexuals hooked up. It was a sin and that was that.
5.         Gays want to recruit straight people, to turn them into perverts just like themselves.
I never believed that gays could recruit straight people. We come back to I never thought about it that deeply. I do remember my last step father worrying that my mother’s gay friend was checking him out. I used to think that was funny.
6.         Gays choose perversion, walk willingly into sin, and they must pay.
There was a time that I believed that being gay was a choice and I clumped all gays in the same category or pedophiles. Both acts were wrong and it was a sickness that needed to be fought. I have grown and no longer believe it is a choice and I no longer lump the two acts together.
7.         To support gays in any way, even to tolerate them, is to defy the word of God and flout His teachings.
Even as an active Jehovah’s Witness I didn’t believe that way. I did believe that some people were bad association. And the Bible says at 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”
I remember using this quote on my sons when they hung with a person that I felt was encouraging them do things that I felt were wrong, like smoking, stealing or being mean to other people.
 
8.         It is possible to love the sinner, but hate the sin. But the sinners better wake up and stop all that sinning because until they do the Lord’s judgment will lay heavy on them.
At the beginning I mentioned that we all see things differently, that is true even for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I took to some verses more so than others.
1.      John 6:4 “God is love”
2.      Luke 6:42 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, allow me to extract the straw that is in your eye,’ while you yourself are not looking at the rafter in that eye of yours?” Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw that is in your brother’s eye” I always felt I had plenty of rafters in my own eye.
3.      And finally Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged…”
 9.        Children who are exposed to gays are more likely to become gay themselves.
No, I don’t believe and never have. I did at one time lump pedophiles and homosexuals together and feared letting my boys around my one step brother because he had been molested as a child and it was never clear if he was gay or not. All I knew is I didn’t want him around my children. Please know there was a lot more involved. He was always strange and a little off and after what I went through as a child it is amazing I trusted even my husband alone with my boys when they were little.

10.         Civil Unions is enough. Marriage is just a word – one kept strictly for straights.
I believe that as we in society accept that homosexuals should be able to have the same rights as heterosexuals, then yes, they should be able to marry, definitely in a civil union, but if they want to get married in a church that is a fight that the individuals will have to take on with the churches of their choice. Just as I believe it is right for gays to choose to express their love, people in churches have the same right to disagree.

11.         The idea of gay sex is icky, gross, disgusting, etc…
This is a bit of an unfair question. There are certain sex acts I think are icky and gross no matter who does them!
Renae, have you changed your opinion about any of those statements? What happened, and why did you change your mind?
I no longer lump homosexuals and pedophiles in the same category. Homosexuals are usually two adults or young adults choosing to be together. Pedophiles force children whether they be of the same sex or not. And I don’t care what anyone says any child under the age of 16 cannot make a truly informed choice even if they think they can.
I also know what the Bible says, I have read it through several times, but I have taken from it that God is love and I need to mind my own business and let him have the final say. I personally think if we all did a little more of that the world would be a better place.
You are a mother with grown sons. What do you think you taught your boys, when they were growing up, to think about gays?
I know what I taught them. I taught them what I have said here today. In our family we always emphasized love. We tried to keep the lines of communication open and when I watched the Canadian show “Degrassi High” and it hit on a subject that I felt I needed to talk to the boys about, I did. Yes, even homosexuality. I admitted my confusion about how I felt and the suffering portrayed on there by the one young man who was gay.
How would you have reacted if one of your sons had come out to you as gay a five years ago, and how do you think you’d react if one came out today?
I would have been devastated at first. I was a Bible toting Jehovah’s Witness. I can say with a certainty that would have been how I felt. My response would have been to accept them. I had to do that when my eldest son moved in with his then girlfriend. I didn’t stop loving him then and by Jehovah’s Witnesses standards he was living in sin.
Now, I wouldn’t blink an eye. I would meet the young person they chose and would like them based on their personalities as I have my sons girlfriends.
What advice would you offer to those who still believe any of those statements above?
I can’t give people advice. I mean I can, but I can’t expect them to take it. We each have to make decisions for ourselves. Whether a person believes in God or that we came from a primordial soup that got zapped just right, we, as humans, have the ability to choose. They must choose what kind of person they want to be. I want to be loving, kind, and friendly.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for interviewing me and allowing me to show that we all change and grow. Some would say I have grown for the better others not, but what I know is that there was a time I needed the strict confines of being a Jehovah’s Witness and the firm guidance that the Bible provided. Now I feel that I am a better person because of what I learned, mainly to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I know I don’t want to be judged because of my sexual preferences, religious choice or the color of my skin. I want to be judged for the person I am, the actions I take and the kindness I show others.
 
Thank you Renae. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve taken to answer my questions so honestly.

FOLLOW UP THOUGHTS:  I was of the opinion, since her original question to me was, “Why are gays pedophiles?” that Renae was quite prejudiced. I assumed that she also believed at least some of the other most popular stereotypes. I found it hard to believe that someone who’d confused pedophilia with being gay did not accept any of the other stereotypes about gays. Clearly, according to Renae, I was mistaken.

I thought she was offering me an “I’ve completely changed my attitude about gays,” interview, but what she has given me is an “I have always been accepting and was only confused about pedophiles and gays both choosing to sin,” piece. I’m sure the fault was mine. I must not have understood her original offer very well.

Still, it’s interesting to note that someone can hold only a single prejudice concerning gays, without also accepting the other most common stereotypes as truth.Whew! What a relief!



Writing Humor Ain’t Funny

Okay, well maybe it is. I mean I do make myself laugh out loud at my own brilliance, except for the moments when I’m jeering at my total lack of talent.

I’ve never set out to write a funny book before. The four other novels I’ve written have had funny moments, which is what led me to believe I might actually have what it takes. But I’ve been known to deceive myself before.

Excerpt from today’s writing on Jazzy’s Ghost, my new work in progress:

Monty’s eyes followed the graceful figure of the alleged murderer collecting his date from the guru du jour, and thought back over the events of the last few days. A memory was jogged, Chelsea Palmier.

There may not be smoke there, but a simple fanning of smoldering coals might burst into flame.

Are you jealous, lover? Jazzy’s ghost spun a silky thread of herself from Monty’s mouth, a cool kiss blowing across his lips. Her long legs and delectable bottom coalesced in mid-air in front of his face and drifted down to hover just above the ground as he watched the rest of her naked body appear. His dead wife peered coyly over one shoulder, hands on her knees, and tempting as hell. It was all he could do to keep from reaching out to touch her.

“I see you,” cried Mrs. Wallingford from directly behind him, making him jump. “You naughty boy, you’ve been hiding all night.” She wrapped an arm through one of his, capturing his now frustrated attention. “You know, my oldest girl is only a few years younger than you, Monty. I’m sure you remember her? Jessica?” Monty was steered back into the throng of his party, Jazzy’s laughter ringing in his head sub-vocally.

Oh well. It’s making me laugh. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

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Excerpt:

The hair on the back of Nick’s neck stood up. Something was not right. Warning signals were sounding in his head. But what was it? What was there about this group of students milling around the parking lot that was different from any other day?

They were the same kids as always, well, mostly. The pep squad girls and their football jock boyfriends were under the tree, the druggies giggled in their cluster between parked cars, the band/chess club nerds with their instrument cases and boards stood around awkwardly. He looked them over again and it occurred to him that most were on cell phones. And too many of them seemed to be casually checking him out.
Nick turned slowly all the way around. He scanned the area for Julian, but didn’t see him among the crowd. Perhaps he was just being paranoid.
He tried to shrug off the feeling, but it persisted as he walked past the old sugar maple and across the parking lot toward the sidewalk that led home. He wasn’t imagining it, people were watching him. He turned all the way around again; most of the students were following him. His heart started pounding.
Nick broke into a sprint, and groaned as he saw a contingent of football players also start running. His house was ten blocks down; he’d never make it.
After the first block the biggest, fastest jock was almost on him. Nick turned long enough to throw his backpack right at his pursuer’s feet. The giant crashed face downward but Nick didn’t see it. He was taking advantage of the momentary confusion to race down the sidewalk.
But he’d only made it to the third block before a big hairy hand spun him around and Nick came face to face with fury. He knew this jock with the skinned, bleeding face. He was the senior who’d been held back in algebra, a dumb football player named Brent. What’s his problem anyway? More jocks ran up behind him.
“What do you want?” Nick asked, ignoring the squeak in his voice and trying to balance on his feet like Dad taught him. He bunched his hands into fists, remembering to leave the thumb out. Six against one were serious odds, but he was determined to go down swinging.
“Well, queer,” said Brent, “my cousin Julian says all fairies wear red sequin jockstraps. So we made a bet, and I’m here to collect.” He turned to face the other jocks behind him and the onlookers who were just catching up. “Give us your underwear, Tinkerbelle.”
“What?” asked Nick as he heard laughter from the crowd. “What?” he asked again, trying to make sense out the jock’s words.
“You heard me, faggot,” sneered Brent. “Give me your underwear.” Nick froze, terrorized. Brent laughed, reached out to grab his arm, and the punching began.

Pondering Plot Twists…

Life is a complicated thing. There’s so much more to it when you really pay attention.

I learned this from a High School Teacher (thanks Mr. Lipston) when he asked the class to watch a lit candle in a glass container as he topped it with a lid. He told us to repeat the experiment and write down exactly what we saw.

Being all of fifteen at the time, I think my brilliant response was simply: The flame gets shorter until it disappears.This is a true statement, but it is so much less than what I see now when I snuff out candles. I watch the light in the glass dim as the size of the flame is quickly reduced by the smoke unable to escape. But the stubborn flame wants to live, so it climbs the wick and concentrates its totality in its innermost blue, gasping for its last breath until it dies, immediately releasing a steady stream of gray smoke that swiftly swirls within the oxygen starved confines of the glass.

Maybe watching candles die is what inspired me to make my new novel’s main character a ghost.

When you think about it, a lot of intricacy goes into making up each of our moments, hours, days and years. There’s so much more to my story than just a recital of what I did today, where I went, who I spoke to. Their stories and my history also color each moment. The place and time in which we live definitely help shape our reality.

So when I took a look at the novel I’m working on, and started thinking about rewrites, I decided that a few sub-plots were necessary to bring a three dimensionality to my characters and their world. I”ve made this decision before, but I haven’t always been pleased with the results.

My inner control freak wants to cut away everything except my primary characters and their story. The artist in me is convinced that the Mona Lisa wouldn’t work half so well without the landscape behind her, and that Les Miserables without Eponine’s unrequited love would make the Cosette’s love affair too easy.

Tonight my task is to introduce new elements to my established plot and complicate everything with the odd twist and, providing intricacies to my character’s moments, hoping to make them jump to life like a candle freshly lit.

Wish me luck!