Monday, October 25, 2010

Homophobia and Cultural Change

With the passing of my dear friend, Lisa Levi, who at the age of 94 and only days before her death could discuss Woody Allan's newest film, I read of intolerance in our culture and think of her as an example of a woman of great compassion.   She was fascinated by the black Jews of Africa, by the homeless, by the mentally ill and by the queer of this world.  She would find and celebrate the humanity in anyone.

As I read on a daily basis about the deaths earlier this month of many young gay students, I, of course also must think about how we can bring about change.   Watch here the two minute Ellen DeGeneres video where she implores us to stop validating ignorance and intolerance that lead to suffering, suicide and wasted lives.   The New York Times magazine this weekend featured a story on the change of culture that led to the cessation of foot binding in China in the nineteenth century, based on a new book "The Honor Code:How Moral Revolutions Happen," by Kwame Appiah.  "Change,"  he notes, (begins) "with a dialogue of mutual respect, free of self-congratulation."

If you are a parent, a friend, a teacher, a clinician or a student begin by observing the language around you;step in when it sounds wrong. Here are a few easily accessible ways to help spread the message and change the language to begin a more civilized dialogue:

The Trevor Project: "The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including our nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone."

ItGets BetterProject: "Many LGBT youth can't picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can't imagine a future for themselves. So let's show them what our lives are like, let's show them what the future may hold in store for them."
Scores of notables (Obama, Ellen, Anderson among them) speak out to teens, often with their own personal stories and help kids see though the difficulties of defining themselves in a culture that does not validate them.

Stories are Good Medicine: a creative website written by a Columbia pediatrician-turned-Young Adult Fiction-author who teaches through story telling.  Ultimately it's through relationship with Other that we will learn not just tolerance, but compassion and responsibility for others.

The way Lisa taught us to live.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Dr. Engelland, for the reference back to my website and this important post!
    --Sayantani DasGupta