As you read this, an eleven year old boy is fighting for his life. Usually after a statement like that, one follows saying “drunk driving accident,” or “donate so research may be done to cure their illness,” generally something that was an accident or out of our hands. However that is not the case here. This was not an accident, and society definitely plays a part in the outcome. When society clings to our strict definitions of what it means to be masculine or feminine, when it becomes the norm that bullying targets our youth simply because they do not “fit in” with enforced gender roles, when a young boy is made to feel guilty enough to no longer want to live based on his preference for a TV show, that is when we need to realize that there is a huge problem in our society that needs to be addressed.
Last Tuesday I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, when I came across a story you don’t hear every day. It was one of those stories that you don’t expect to read about at all, one where you question how could something like this happen.
“Michael Morones, 11, attempts suicide after being bullied over My Little Pony.” –ABC 7
According to ABC 7, Michael Morones was consistently bullied by his classmates, to the point where he felt the only way to escape it was to hang himself off of his bunk bed.
ABC news reported that each day he’d come home and tell his parents what he’d been through and how miserable he was feeling. They would stand by their son, telling him to not listen to the bullies and to continue being himself. But even with their words of encouragement, that did not change what Michael faced everyday upon arriving to school. When talking about a conversation he said with his step-son, Shannon Suttle said, “He felt conflicted. ‘Am I supposed to feel ashamed like how they’re trying to make me feel ashamed if I was gay? Am I supposed to not like My Little Pony? ”
My initial reaction was speechlessness, followed by confusion and anger. How could this happen? Isn’t he too young to be thinking that way? If everyone knew he was being targeted, why didn’t his teachers, classmates, somebody stand up for him from within the very institution that was oppressing him? I’ve heard of the expression “kids can be cruel,” but it is something beyond cruel when an 11-year old boy feels like the only way to escape constant tormenting from his peers is to end his life.
And all of this started, just because he liked a TV show. What does it mean to be a My Little Pony fan? I needed to research this a little myself as I was not too familiar with this fandom, other than the “obvious” that the target audience is adolescent girls. However, in the past four years, the fan base for the new Friendship Is Magic series has expanded greatly to young boys and adult men, who call themselves “Bronies,” according to USA Today.
In a story by Fox news, fellow Bronies stated that their reason for loving the show was “because of its message of friendship and camaraderie.” I decided to watch an episode of it on Netflix to try and understand why it had become so popular. I am not a fan of the show, but I did end up watching more than one episode. But frankly, it’s not the show that is important here. Whether I’m a fan, you’re a fan, or if the majority of our peers are not fans is not the issue. The issue here is that throughout history, whenever the majority of society sees something as different, odd, or dare I say wrong, the individuals who engage in that behavior or belief are targeted through a variety of forms of bullying. As Gawker.com stated, “Brony culture might be kind of silly, but it’s not as idiotic as bullying someone for liking something you don’t, especially a cartoon that encourages kindness.”
And that is the larger issue here. According to bullying prevention expert Nancy Mullin who was interviewed by ABC news, “Eleven to 15-year-old boys are very much at risk for thinking about suicide when they’re perceived as being gay.” Socially enforced gender roles have been highly influential for generations in serving as guidelines for what is considered “right” or “wrong” for men and women to do. Starting at birth, we tell people they can’t behave or express themselves a certain way or like a certain thing, because if they do then there is something wrong with them. Societal pressure urges conformity, rather than celebrating and appreciating differences. Either you change who you are so you can be who they tell you to be, or face constant torment from ignorant peers until you find a support group to help you get through. However sometimes, with or without a support group, some are pushed to a point where they feel there is only one way to end it all and never have to feel miserable again.
If we keep enforcing strict gender roles, by saying boys and girls can’t be fans of certain TV shows, by saying that skipping and dancing to class is behavior only reserved for girls or boys that identify as gay, by not stepping up and supporting, or simply just accepting, someone as who they are and not making them feel inferior, that’s when the problems continue. That is when we leave the door open for more tragedies like this to occur. It’s time for this to stop.
As of now Michael is still in the hospital. Doctors initially reported the possibility that he suffered brain damage. According to the Chicago Now, Michael is beginning to show signs of improvement. Funds are being raised to help the family in covering the medical costs and go towards bullying prevention agencies. Money can be donated at any State Employees Credit Union under the Michael Morones Recovery Fund or through PayPal firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can also be mailed to:
The Michael Morones Recovery Fund,
c/o Team Trivia Inc.,
1380 Woodvine Way
Alpharetta, GA 30005
For more information on Michael’s condition, visit: http://www.michaelmorones.org
Written by: Amanda Aldama, Diversity Advocate Intern, Web/Promotional