Nigel Hardy was a cheerleader. Cheerleading, in the minds of some, is a sport for girls. Our society is notorious for denigrating and/or objectifying anything feminine. (Story for another blog post!) I am not suggesting or implying that Nigel Hardy was a gay youth or in the closet. However, with the prevaling ignorance in our society, a young man who is forced (his choice is taken away) to hide his sexual orientation is sad but understandable. If the late Nigel Hardy was indeed gay, there was nothing at all wrong with that fact. Neither was there anything wrong with his love for cheerleading. (It is a sport that has significant risk and requires athleticism and strength. Let someone throw you in the air and you trust they are going to be able to catch you! Or you be able to catch them as they torpedo toward you.)
What is wrong is the abuse that he suffered at the hands of bullies. Bullying is not harmless child’s play. It was reported that Nigel had just turned 13, placing him in middle school. As a parent, I understand and remember the social challenges and internal awkwardness that my middle-schoolers experienced. Any angst is compounded when the teen is trying to understand their sexuality if it falls into the category of gay, bi, trans, queer or alternative. Sadly, Nigel Hardy took his own life after being suspended from school for fighting. Supposedly, he was in a fight with someone who had been teasing him. The specifics were not released, but this is a tragic story that has a familiar tone. It is what I will call Closet Abuse. Social pressures and a need or desire to fit into a larger group forces individuals to compartmentalize their lives in such a way that they live in a ‘closet’, until the pressure is too great, leading to some disastrous outcome.
If you agree that this type of ‘closet abuse’ needs to stop, than you can do something. Use this family’s tragedy and other situations as teachable moments. Explain to someone close to you, how important it is to offer the same acceptance and respect that they want from others. Some call it the ‘golden rule’. I find it to be Godly behavior taught in Matthew 7:12 of the Bible. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Basically, you treat people how you want to be treated. How hard can it be to do this and teach it to our children? It may take a conscious effort, but it is not difficult. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Will you join us? Let me hear from you.
Eradicate ignorance one word at a time.