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In this day and age and in what I generally consider to be a fair and decent newspaper, I was shocked to see such a blatant display of homophobic prejudice in Ted Rall’s cartoon last week (7/3). That he would draw such a cartoon is alarming enough, but for the editors of the Washington City Paper to print it is even more disturbing.

The cartoon may have seemed harmless enough, but as the director of an agency that serves more than 800 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth each year (and a City Paper advertiser), I can tell you it is not.

These young people (we serve about 60 percent youth of color, and half young men and half young women) suffer daily from the effects of a society that encourages them to value their lives less than their heterosexual peers. These youth attempt and complete suicide at rates that are up to seven times higher than their heterosexual friends; 30 percent of young gay men drop out of school to avoid the constant harassment, intimidation, and violence that most gay youth suffer; they represent 40 percent of the homeless youth population, because one out of every three gay teen males are kicked out of their homes when their parents discover their sexual orientation. To these kids, cartoons like this one are yet another painful reminder that society is hateful and mean.

I’m sure you know this, but the City Paper is popular among young people. What you choose to print means something. When you publish cartoons that use terms like “friggin’ faggot,” you are sending a powerful message to thousands of kids who may be reading. You must never forget how powerful your words and actions can be, especially in the hearts and minds of young people. Cartoons like this one have very real, often life-threatening consequences for youth who are already being victimized in our nation’s schools, at home, in church, and on the street.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth suffer because as adults we are not fulfilling our responsibilities ensuring that every young person, of every race, religion, or sexual orientation, grows up in a safe environment, tolerant environment, an environment that nurtures and supports their hope and dreams.

I hope that in the future you will give more thought to what you print in your paper, whether it’s in the guise of humor or more serious editorial content.

Executive Director, Sexual Minority

Youth Assistance League

via the Internet