12 responses

  1. Mana
    January 3, 2011

    Bullying on the basis of gender conformity should be stopped, regardless if the victims are LGBTQI. The fact that someone doesn’t have to actually be gay in order to become the target of this socially endorsed cruelty does not mitigate the fact that such behavior is absolutely unacceptable. That’s the cognitive disconnect I see in such research – even if what the media has labled a “suicide epidemic” is simplified or exagerrated, and even if it does not apply exclusively to gay youth, that does not mean the bullying climate is tolerable.

  2. Edwin
    January 3, 2011

    No child should be bullied and threatened. Just because they don’t conform to what the bullies prefer. Some of those that are bullirs are hiding who they really are. But they don’t want anyone to find out that they
    to might be gay.
    I substitute teach and when I see kids picking on others I tell them that is a form of bulling and ask them if they would like someone picking on them too. After they think about their ideas change. But bullies aren’t always a gang of people.
    I was bullied by one person when I was in junior high in the 50′s.

  3. jpeckjr
    January 4, 2011

    Although these studies look at LGBTQ youth, it seems they tell us some important things about bullies. That bullies are motivated in some way by wanting to enforce conventionality and conformity, at least as they perceive it, is important. Perhaps that should be the focus of someone’s research, the role of conventionality and conformity in the incidence of bullying. How different can a teenager be before attracting the attention of a bully?

    Pressure to be conventional and to conform may vary from setting to setting and from community to community.

    From living over a decade in Minnesota, to choose one pertinent example, I observed a rather strong pressure to “not stand out too much” — conform — as part of the general culture, even directed at me as a 40-something adult from somewhere else.

    Now living in northern California (not the Bay Area), the general culture has almost no expectation that someone will “not stand out too much.” Actually, sometimes, I think around here “fitting in” is considered unusual.

    I also think this factor might vary from urban to suburban to rural settings. A sociologist should do this kind of study, not a psychologist, or maybe jointly. Maybe it’s been done and we don’t know about it yet.

  4. Matt
    January 4, 2011

    While I agree that Savin-Williams is a little too in love with his look-at-me-I’m-an-academic “post-gay” thesis, I think that what he has to say in the linked New York Times article is fair. He’s making a point about gay teenagers as a whole, and I’m not so sure he’s wrong.

    I don’t see where he says that we should “ignore the unemployed because most people are working.” He’s just pointing out that most gay teenagers are working. Honestly, I think it could be helpful to lonely/just-coming-out gay teenagers to hear that.

  5. Priya Lynn
    January 4, 2011

    Excellent analysis Timothy and Mana. I agree completely.

    Jpeckjr said “Although these studies look at LGBTQ youth, it seems they tell us some important things about bullies. That bullies are motivated in some way by wanting to enforce conventionality and conformity…”.

    That may be the case, but I think it could also be that bullies don’t care so much about conformity, they are just looking for an excuse to bully someone and being like everyone else doesn’t provide that excuse. There’s strength in numbers and the bully sees the large group of people who are the same as too intimidating to bully and so seeks out the individual(s) who are not part of the largest tribe.

  6. Mihangel apYrs
    January 4, 2011

    the issue isn’t exclusively anti-gay bullying, it’s power structures that exist in schools that marginalise, exclude and stigmatise “the other”.

    I will be happy when sexuality and identity are seen and accepted as a continua (though I don’t expect it in my life time), but all societies as currently structured are intrinsically heteronormative: and children are very alive to identifying those perceived as outsiders

  7. jpeckjr
    January 5, 2011

    @Priya Lynn: A thoughtful observation from a psychological perspective. I’m suggesting a sociological approach that looks at the role of the bully in the wider social network. Psychological knowledge helps us understand the bully and how to work with him/her. Sociological knowledge helps us understand the system/community in which bullying does or does not arise, does or does not flourish.

  8. Donny D.
    January 5, 2011

    Wow, there is so much in that New York Times article that’s objectionable. Ritch Savin-Williams sounds like his mission is to provide cover for the anti-gay movement’s opposition to school policies that specifically address anti-LGBT bullying. It’s as though he’s trying to do work that the anti-gay movement can cite in their bogus studies and “news” articles.

  9. Mike
    January 6, 2011

    Just one of MANY examples of how this guy is damaging efforts to assist in protecting our youth. Just when schools, after all this time, get an open ear as a result of the recent press on youth suicides, this loser has to discount the attention to promote his theories and sell books. It’s seriously disgusting.


  10. Donny D.
    January 7, 2011

    I just picked up Savin-Williams’ The New Gay Teenager from the library today, and I find myself disagreeing with multiple things on every page I’ve read so far.

    He seems to be creating a straw man claim that the social sciences, mostly pro-gay social scientists who are pushing particular agendas in regard to gay youth, have put out skewed studies which have showed gay youth as worse off than they really are, to the point that gay youth are now viewed as universally bullied, mentally tormented and suicidal. He puts forward the idea of a Baby Boomer gay establishment that vehemently attacks the idea that it might be okay for some homosexual people not to adopt a conventional gay identity, and a social science community that to some degree buys into this. And there’s much more wrong with the book, including its central thesis (today’s young people not choosing to call themselves gay anymore).

    He seems to be making a case that he’s not admitting to, one with many different parts to it but a lot of them easily useful to anti-LGBT ideologues. With the lack of qualifiers in his writing, and many broadbrush statements, I’m surprised Harvard University Press chose to publish his book. I’m also surprised I hadn’t heard of Savin-Williams as someone gay social scientists and bloggers have discredited by now. (The New Gay Teenager was published in 2005.)

  11. Chris
    January 7, 2011

    I think there is a real issue with people making assertions about the overall state of affairs in this country based upon their own personal coming out experiences or stories of selected others’ experiences as having been much easier. Parents of many teenagers today are in their 50′s. These parents are not byproducts of this new generation of supposed “acceptance.” School boards consist of the same age group, as do CEO’s, bosses, teachers. My point is that, maybe when the more narrow-minded generation passes on and is replaced by those who grew up in a more tolerant era, then maybe then it will be safe to say all is good. But until then, we CANNOT for the safety of our youth continue to make claims that all is good because IT IS NOT GOOD FOR EVERYONE YET. This psychologist should lose any license to practice for such blatant irresponsibility.

  12. b
    October 28, 2011

    When Savin Williams says that it is gender nonconformity that is targeted, not gay sexuality, and that that means that the gay kids are ok, he is being obtuse and kind of irresponsible, because the stigma of gender nonconformity is all mixed up with homophobia in our culture (as others have said!). I would recommend C.J. Pascoe’s ethnography, Dude, You’re a Fag, on how the f-word is sometimes about sexuality, sometimes about gender performance, and sometimes both. So I actually felt that the writer of THIS piece was too keen to claim all bullying as being directed at gay kids and “about” sexual orientation. I have recently read work that says that most children who are gender non-conforming will grow up to be straight. The key point, I think, is that we have to fight both homophobia AND the pressure on boys to be “manly,” because that combined bullshit hurts all kids.

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