This amazing piece at The Good Men Project paints a scenario that would, for the Religious Right, be absolute hell. Not only is the gay kid in school not bullied, berated, or verbally/physically abused, the popular athletic boys talk to him and make friends with him:
Consider the scene: Tom, a small, shy, openly gay high school student, sat at the back of the school bus on his own. He saw three of the most popular, athletic boys get on the bus, fresh from soccer practice. As they made their way down the aisle, they saw Tom alone and moved toward him.
What happened next?
Not what you’d expect. The boys, in fact, sat down to talk with Tom. “I didn’t really know him well,” one later told me. “I knew he was the gay kid at school, that’s all. … He was all on his own. I mean, I couldn’t just let him sit there alone. Nobody should have to sit alone.”
When I started researching the gendered behaviors of 16- to 18-year-old male students at Standard High in the U.K. in 2008, I expected to document the ways that homophobia and aggression continued to stratify young men into a competitive, damaging hierarchy. This is, after all, what decades of research has told us: boys and men use homophobia to “prove” their heterosexuality, and in doing so they simultaneously marginalize other men who are more feminine, or less popular than themselves. This then causes a stratification of men with the athletic heterosexual boys at the top and gays at the bottom. Because this so accurately described my own school experience, it was with some trepidation that I first entered Standard High, the co-educational high school where I spent six months collecting data.
However, on first entering the social area where students socialized in their free time, the difference from my own school experience was palpable. In that large open space, full of students eating lunch and socializing, I was immediately struck by the physical closeness of the male students, and the affection they had for each other. These young men weren’t just close to each other, they were gently touching—and they were doing this as a sign of platonic love.
You will want to read all of this, as Mark McCormack details what comfortable, happy heterosexual teen guys are like, when they’re not taught from an early age that homosexuality is evil or less-than, when they know that gay men are not a threat to them; likewise, it’s very different for the gay kids, under this framework.
In all seriousness, the reason this is such a horrific picture for the Religious Right is that this is a picture of a more harmonious school [it’s in the U.K.], and one of the primary reasons it’s more harmonious is that the Religious Right’s message of hatred, exclusion and the [ha ha] “love of Christ” seems to be entirely absent. Moreover, it’s a terrifying picture for them because it shows how much better things work out when they don’t try to help.
Also absent are the traditional strictures of the patriarchy, which encourage the social strata in high school as most of us remember it. In this school, the jocks aren’t necessarily the most popular kids and being dorky isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, McCormack identified the main components to popularity at this high school as being “charisma, authenticity, emotional support, and social fluidity.”
It’s fascinating what happens when kids are raised and schooled to value the important things, rather than worn out, failed notions of superiority and male privilege.
Seriously, read it all.