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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Trickle-down homophobia" and teen suicide.

-------------good post from

Anti-Gay Bullying Suicides: Who's Really To Blame?

by David Badash October 09, 2010

The media has been awash in news of recent teen suicides, teens literally bullied to death. Much of the mainstream press is reporting there were five or six teen suicides in the back-to-school month of September, all the result of anti-gay bullying. Sadly, that number is much higher. After reports from my readers, and after much research on local news sites, it is clear there were at least ten male teen suicides across the country in the month of September alone. There are reports that almost all of these teens -- many who had either come out as gay or were perceived as gay -- were bullied, and most if not all of the bullying was anti-gay bullying.

But let's be honest. What enables and maintains this culture of hate are groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) which exists to tell America that gays and lesbians aren't good enough for marriage. Or groups like Focus on the Family (FOF) which exists to tell America that gays and lesbians aren't good enough for anything, and even has a "pro-bullying" website, "True Tolerance," dedicated to teaching parents how to rid their schools of anti-bullying programs.

These are but two hate groups, groups whose real missions are neither to "protect" marriage, nor to "focus" on the family.

The Southern Poverty Law Center five years ago listed "a dozen of today's most influential anti-gay groups," including several they today classify as hate groups: American Vision, Family Research Institute, and the Traditional Values Coalition. Others, like the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Minnesota Family Council, and the Alliance Defense Fund should qualify as well.

Anti-gay groups, from the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family, to the Family Research Institute, and the Traditional Values Coalition, to local churches and other houses of worship which preach intolerance and hatred against the LGBTQ community, regularly inject hatred, oppression, and fear into America's families.

It's no wonder, as comedian and activist Sarah Silverman says, "Dear America, when you tell gay Americans they can't serve their country openly, or marry the person they love, you're telling that to kids." She says we shouldn't be "shocked wondering where all these bullies are coming from," because "they learned it from watching you."

America's children are under attack. But what difference is there between the schoolyard tormentor who literally bullies to death a gay or questioning youth, and their adult counterparts -- like the National Organization for Marriage, or Focus on the Family -- shrouded in Orwellian nomenclature, who provide them with the ammunition?

Kathy Griffin calls this "trickle-down homophobia." And she's right.

A sixteen-year-old lesbian who says she just came out to her family recently wrote on my website, "I wish my family will stop treating me like im a freak and love me the way they use to again. Iv been screamed at, emotionaly abused, called names like faggot , bitch , whore. Iv been told i have aids because i had sex with a female. Im trying to stay strong but sometimes you need help from others who been through the same."

Her words, the depiction of her treatment by her own family is exactly what children fear most when they even think about coming out to their families. For many, coming out can be a growing experience for the entire family. For other children, coming out can lead to homelessness and a path to suicide.

Gay and lesbian children and teens, even those who are merely "questioning," are between three and six times as likely to attempt or to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers. The radical and religious right, and groups like the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) would have you believe that is because these youngsters have made poor choices or are defective, that "they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle." In point of fact, the pain that drives these young people to suicide is not caused by being different, it is caused by others who tell them they are "different," and treat them as different.

These ten teens who succumbed to suicide are the ones we know about. Some had full support from their families. But there are countless others every year, hidden from the public by shamed families, too embarrassed to acknowledge either their own failure to see or address the problem, too consumed with guilt for having been unable or unwilling to prevent the bullying, or, sadly, for some, too embarrassed to even acknowledge that their child was "different."

Reading the messages written about these teens on Facebook pages and funeral home websites is heartbreaking. So is reading some of the "code" in the obituaries. No doubt, there are many of this nation's teenagers who love going to church with their girlfriends, but no doubt there are many teens who succumb to suicide because, much to their parents' distress, they love neither church nor a girlfriend.

This "trickle-down homophobia" has to come from somewhere. The torment and bullying doesn't start with parents, or even with the school-yard bully.

So, who are the real tormentors? Who is really to blame? It's time for America to start making the connection. It is unimaginably tragic that so many teens had to succumb to hopeless desperation and suicide for there to be an awakening in America. But I think the tide may be turning. I think America is starting to realize who the real bullies, the real tormentors are. They are the ones with a non-profit tax license, who are using it as a license to kill.

Tagging gets teen a year in juvie prison: for less than $5,000 in damages..

What a tragic way to order a community's priorities. Does no one have any creative, original thoughts on how to work with artistic youth acting out through vandalism? Like having him paint some murals, or put together an art show, or channel that energy more constructively somehow? He could be working off that restitution at a part time job, too.

Do these judges even know what kind of hell they send those kids to when they commit them to the Department of Juvenile Corrections? The gangs, the violence, the bullying, the despair? A year is a huge chunk to take out of a young person's life. They aren't rehabilitating him - they just sent him there to be punished.

A year in youth prison (which just prepares kids for many years in adult prisons) is going to cost the state more than five times as much to cover as the damage this kid did, and in the process subjects him to constant coercion. For what? To make an example of him.
I guess that means that any other kids who go tagging around town can expect to go to prison, too.

The biggest example I see being displayed here is of a rigid and abusive judge and city attorney. That's an example of what not to be like when you grow up, kids. I'd take the tagger as my friend over the people who put him away any day.

Tagging is not a violent crime, by the way. It is a nuisance. Incarceration is violent, however. Prisons keep their prisoners only because they have the authority to chain you up, lock you down, and even kill you if you try to run away. Sometimes people die in there well before their time. They aren't too good at keeping people from killing themselves or each other.

This isn't justice - it smacks more of vindictiveness and abuse.
Guess it's amazing they didn't prosecute him as an adult so they could really draw blood.


Yuma tagger sent to prison for a year

September 29, 2010 5:44 PM

The 17-year-old juvenile tagger known by the moniker of “SKREW,” who caused thousands of dollars in damage in graffiti in Yuma, has been sentenced to a year at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Manuel Villa, who is estimated to have caused between $4,000 and $5,000 in graffiti damage to residential and business structures, was sentenced recently to serve until his 18th birthday in juvenile corrections. He was also ordered to pay more than $2,000 in restitution.

The Yuma Police Department began seeking “SKREW” in early April as part of Yuma Mayor Al Krieger's new campaign to curtail unwanted graffiti and vandalism, dubbed TAGS (The Anti Graffiti Strategy). It includes stepped-up enforcement, more education, an awareness campaign and enhanced partnerships between city departments and other government agencies, schools, retailers and community groups such as 78-CRIME and Neighborhood Watch organizations.

According to YPD, “SKREW” had been actively tagging his moniker since the summer of 2009 to city of Yuma property, several residential properties, a bridge and at least two churches.

After the city of Yuma announced TAGS, YPD turned to the public to help identify him.

After receiving tips that “SKREW” may live in the Carver Park area, which was supported by the numerous incidents of graffiti throughout the area over the past year, YPD canvassed the neighborhood and contacted Villa in May.

After being confronted with overwhelming evidence, Villa confessed and was arrested.

“We now have an example of consequences for vandalism and graffiti damage,” said Dave Nash, spokesman for the city of Yuma.

Nash said so far this fiscal year, city crews have cleaned up 633 incidents of graffiti. For the week of Sept. 15-21, there were 71 reported incidents of graffiti, compared with 93 last week, an increase that is common for this time of year.

“We tend to see seasonal spikes this time of year when people come to Yuma,” Nash said.

Nash added that graffiti incidents range between 70 and 80 week to as low as 30 a week.

The city of Yuma encourages the community to keep up their effort in cracking down on graffiti by calling the Graffiti Busters hot line at 329-2828.

James Gilbert can be reached at or 539-6854.