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Who Is In Favor Of Bullying?

October 27, 2010

[UPDATE: In comments, the campaign says that opposition to the anti-bullying law is not their position. That’s fine, but I don’t accept the suggestion that my wife misunderstood the campaign canvasser. Whether their staffer got it wrong by accident or on purpose, or whether the campaign is walking away from the things that are said door-to-door when they come out into the light, I can’t say; and if it is a mistake, it’s their responsibility to keep their people on message.]

My spouse is a nicer person than I am, and so, when some asshole came to my door not long ago, he was lucky that he was talking to her and not to me. I know who that asshole was. His name is Bob Cohen, and he wants to unseat my state Senator. Here’s Bob:

Almost anything Bob said to me was going to be no sale. I’m against him and for my current state Senator, Suzi Oppenheimer. But my spouse is a nice person, and she took a few minutes to listen to what he said he was for, which was an array of Republican stuff. The thing that got him totally shut down, though, was when his aide touted his opposition to New York’s new and very important anti-bullying statute.

And, who, after all, could be against trying to prevent bullying? The vote was 58-3, with just three Republicans voting against. Even one of the three Republicans to vote against it bent over backwards to find some absurd rationalle:

But a spokesman for Sen. Dale Volker, one of three Republicans to vote against the bill in the otherwise bipartisan 58-3 vote, denied that his “no” vote had anything to do with gender identity or sexual orientation.

“No one wants children to be bullied,” said C.D. Miller, Volker’s spokesman. “It’s an inequitable bill. It only protected children from bullying in public schools and did not afford students who attend other schools like Catholic, Lutheran or Jewish schools the same protection.”

Courts have generally ruled that government cannot make laws pertaining to the internal workings of private schools, particularly religious schools.

So he would be for the bill if only it applied more broadly than the Constitution allowed …? An explanation that stupid can only mean that the opposition dare not speak its name. Here’s the real reason:


The law now requires schools to protect GLBT students, including those who are gendervariant, from bullying. And right now, everyone in the United States is aware of exactly how important that is, right? We all know about Dan Savage and “It Gets Better,” about the rate of suicides among GLB/pan/queer teens, right? And we all realize that this has primarily to do with the bullying and discrimination they experience, right?

I also expect that a lot of the regular readers here will understand why those two words in the last clause I quoted, “gender … expression” are so important. Because trans teens have a suicide rate that dwarfs even gay, lesbian and bi teens, and trans people and teens face levels of violence higher than … well, I’m not sure, but I’d think trans folks experience levels of violence at levels of violence that are tough to find in any other population, including incarcerated populations. (I know some disabled populations face high rates of violence, though I’m not clear on how high.) From what little I know, it’s that bad.

And the two cannot be separated, no matter what some may say. When kids that get beaten and get bullied and called “faggot” and “dyke”, is it because of their sexual orientation, or other students’ perception of it, or because of their gender identity or expression? Especially for adolescents, these things are overlapping and fluid. Protection from discrimination for sexual orientation without protection from discrimination for gender expression is full of holes. Does a bully get less punishment if he says, “no, I don’t care that he’s gay, I just pissed in his locker because he’s swishy. If he’d butch up a bit, we’d get on just fine!” Really? The idea that we can neatly separate those two things, especially among schoolchildren, is absurd. And so the net of protection must be cast over the lot — identity, orientation, expression — to offer real protection to the kids at risk.

And who could be against that? So Bob Cohen showed up at my house with his campaign staffer, taking a conservative position so radical that only three NYS senators agreed with it, and they wouldn’t say what the real reason was, but instead relied on a bullshit stalking horse microtarian local control argument, because where I live, politicians don’t dare say that they want bullies to keep being allowed to harass the queer and gendervariant kids.

So kids are dying because of bullying. But Bob Cohen is against a well-designed statute, that passed 58-3, that would make schools responsible to stop it. His reason was that it should be subject to local control. When I think about local control, I think that some schools would do very well. My district, for example, is one I have some confidence in. But some kids live in districts like this. How well would that school do, left to its own devices, at protecting the queer and gendervariant kids from the bullies? About this well? That’s what I’d expect.

But make no mistake; where it’s politically permissible, folks will admit that that is what this is about.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 12:25 pm

    I can’t remember the exact statistic, but the UK found that we get murdered at a rate far exceeding any other minority. And that’s just murder- I’ve heard of trans people getting brutally beaten even in LGB”t” spaces. One was at a trans event and the bouncer just watched. That’s not hte only one I’ve heard of. Awhile back a cis lesbian was bragging about how she and her friends beat up a trans man for daring to be in an LGBT club. Not saying cis LGB people are bad, plenty are allies, but there is a problem that we face violence even in spaces that claim to be safe for us. It’s disgusting.

    Glad the bullying bill passed, though, and I kind of wish that you had been the one to answer the door. I can’t believe anyone would say “we don’t support a bill to stop bullying” to get votes. I’m more disturbed that it probably works for some people…

  2. Adam Cohen permalink
    October 27, 2010 3:35 pm

    Hi Thomas, I work for the Cohen campaign and this post turned up in one of our news filters.

    I just wanted to clarify that this isn’t Bob’s position *at all*. I’m not sure which aide you spoke to, but Bob in fact supports anti-bullying legislation.

    The confusion may have been that Bob does not support unfunded school mandates, and this bill has a fiscal cost for local school boards in terms of reporting requirements, paperwork and the like. Bob has held this bill up as an example of a good piece of legislation that Albany ought to have funded, rather than shifting the costs down to the individual school districts.

    We appreciate the debate, but just wanted to make sure that you weren’t inadvertently spreading incorrect information about Bob’s positions. Thanks, and please feel to contact us for more details if you would like.

  3. February 22, 2013 7:09 am

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

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