In response, gay and lesbian groups called on schools to institute more stringent protections for gay students. Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan got in on the act, attributing these “unnecessary tragedies” to the “trauma” of homophobic bullying. “This is a moment where every one of us . . . needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms.”
He’s right, of course. But to fight intolerance against gay boys, we also need to acknowledge its toll on straights – and our entire culture. Homophobia hurts all of our boys, by driving a wedge between them. Sharing your deepest feelings with another man? That’s so . . . gay. Or so we’ve been taught.
And we’ve known about this problem for a long time. In the early 1980s, observing hundreds of elementary-school boys, sociologists Barrie Thorne and Zella Luria noticed that kindergarteners and first-graders hugged, joined arms, and held hands. But by fifth grade, boys had forsaken these customs in favor of mock violence – poking, pushing, and shoving – or ritual gestures like high-fives.