Education | Fashion Men | Gay Youth

Tyler Chase Harper and his Anti-Gay Shirt are Back

Tyler_chase_harperThose who have been reading this blog for a while may recall the story of bigot-in-training (actually, scratch the "in-training" bit) Tyler Chase Harper and the T-shirt he wore to Poway High School near San Diego. In 2004, Harper wore the shirt, which said "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned'' on the front and "Homosexuality Is Shameful" on the back, to protest the "Day of Silence", a day in which students take a vow of silence to make a statement about tolerance of gays and lesbians.

The school principal told Harper he couldn't wear the shirt to school, and the case was picked up by the conservative legal organization Alliance Defense Fund and has been climbing up through the court system ever since.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a high school "can forbid a high school student from wearing a T-shirt that denigrates gay and lesbian students."

In his ruling, 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote: "Public school students who may be injured by verbal assaults on the basis of a core identifying characteristic such as race, religion, or sexual orientation have a right to be free from such attacks while on school campuses. As Tinker clearly states, students have the right to 'be secure and to be let alone.'...Being secure involves not only the freedom from physical assaults but from psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society. The 'right to be let alone' has been recognized by the Supreme Court … as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.''

The issue is expected to eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Court Rules Against Gay-Bashing T-Shirts [la times]

Fashion Statement [tr]

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  1. Cyd, I take issue with you lumping "Nazi" and "prick" in with the term "bigot." I use the "b" word and words like "cultist" because they accurately describe how I feel about them. Just like this kid means the words he uses. He didn't use the term "faggot" to describe me, so I won't call him a prick. But I don't think there is anything wrong with calling someone who obtinately sticks to their prejudices a bigot. If the pump fits...

    Posted by: Anon1 | Apr 21, 2006 4:10:01 PM

  2. ANON1 -- I generally agree with your statement, but wouldn't let my feelings define regarding whom I would use the "b" word, but rather behavior which one makes publicly known. If someone advertises their intolerance and prejudice toward others, I think the word has become descriptive and not a judgment.

    But Cyd's reminder is apt; we don't like to be dismissed and categorized with a stereotypical slur, so why would anyone else? Besides, when epithets are used, political discussions become very, very boring.

    Posted by: Kevin | Apr 21, 2006 4:35:12 PM

  3. Mike, I've made three posts on this subject and only one mentions President Bush. Oh damn it, make that two, with this one. You tricked me! No fair.

    If I mention President Bush out of context, it's probably because he's a common topic of discussion on this blog and so many of the other blogs I read. Besides, everything wrong is his fault anyway. He probably called this kid and told him to wear the t-shirt.

    Posted by: Cyd | Apr 21, 2006 4:43:21 PM

  4. Cyd: I totally disagree with you. The context of a web log...especially one like Mr. Towle's that allows most people access and freedom to post a totally different thing from espousing a notion that gay=evil in a public school. Mr. Towle can (and has) removed posts and restricted ability to post when he (and on Towleroad he is the traffic cop, judge and jury—don’t you just love the metaphor?). I, you, Leland, Mike et al can say whatever we like—within the broad lines drawn by Mr. Towle.

    You muse on how many of us would think that two hypothetical statements would be acceptable. I would. I don’t know that either would necessarily be off-limits in a public school, either. They don’t say “you suck” or “people like you should be ashamed.”

    You say “If you want to limit this kid’s freedom, you have to limit everyone’s.” Guess what? Our schools do that every freaking day. They have to in order to be effective learning communities.

    There’s a huge difference between Mr. Harper and hecklers of Mr. Bush. That difference is venue. Go back to the discussions about Ms. Sheehan at the SOTU. She was wearing an inappropriate shirt and was removed. Everyone agreed, later that she shouldn’t have been and that she has the freedom to wear what she likes. Mr. Harper doesn’t have that freedom in a public school. Consider Mr. Bush giving a speech and being interrupted by a heckler. If the speech is not in an invitation-only venue, the heckler is generally free to tell the pretender whatever he or she wishes…or should be free to do so, just like Ms. Sheehan’s circumstance.

    Lance: I think Mr. Harper was well-coached in what to write. It’s pretty clear that he (or his handler) was trying to steer clear of personally attacking any person or group. That’s probably what Cyd is alluding to.

    This situation—best expressed by Jonathon—is tough. Those of us who consider ourselves liberal really are in a bind on it. I still, though think (and thank Dog and Mr. Towle that I can say it in print) that he is a shit-ball fundamentalist prick. If I were in school, though, I couldn’t say that.

    Posted by: JT | Apr 21, 2006 4:45:16 PM

  5. Kevin, I see your point. I have found myself having to remind people of Webster's definition of the term "bigot." After all, a gay person can be a bigot. But I don't think that the word "bigot" has sunk to the level of, say, the word "fag." I don't think it ever will. Religious fundies don't like the word, and liken our use of that word to the intolerance we criticize them for. But that's muddying the waters, and I neither buy it, nor do I let them get away with it. I think the word "bigot" is a useful word. But I do agree with you that it might be on its way out. I'll be paying attention.

    Posted by: Anon1 | Apr 21, 2006 5:34:14 PM

  6. It is not primarily Fred Phelpps, Rick Santorum, Jerry Falwell, et al., that make us "underlings" but "ourselves." We are plagued with not just AIDS, and Tinaitis, but the kind of Pollyannaism of Cyd and Kevin, et al. What, pray tell, do YOU call a person acting fascistically but a fascist; expressing bigotry but a bigot? The theater owner/car dealer/rich guy in Utah may have had his mind pried open a little bit, but even he was not walking the streets wearing a T-shirt equating us with shame. The majority of those, of whatever age, individually or collectively, who strike such first blows, with symbolic/real speech or baseball bats, are beyond enlightenment or redemption. And those who are not are certainly not moved by such childish passivity.

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 21, 2006 5:36:42 PM

  7. Leland, yep. I agree, hence my unwaivering use of the b word. I think it's good to meet honest, thoughtful discourse with the same. But I myself can give it pretty good when I need to. It has served me well over the years. I think some confuse honest, fair debate with passivity. I don't.

    Posted by: Anon1 | Apr 21, 2006 5:57:40 PM

  8. Passivity? Walk with me.

    Honest and fair debate? Amen, ANON1! Way more interesting than pejoratives.

    "Bigot" debate? I must have not been clear. Since Tyler clearly wishes to advertise his intolerance and prejudice, his behavior fits the definition; use of the 'b' word seems appropriate to me in this case.

    Pollyanna? Thank you.

    Posted by: Kevin | Apr 21, 2006 6:52:55 PM

  9. When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal by child bigot Tyler Chase Harper they established an important precedent. Christian thug-bigots have no right to espouser bigotry on campus.
    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has more often than not been open to the pressures exerted by changing public attitudes and the political power of determined efforts by lesbians and gays to defend themselves from bigotry. But they’re an exception.
    The judicial appointments of Clinton1(hardly the flaming liberal most gay and lesbian “leaders” mistakenly imagined him to be) and the even worse choices of Bush2 are flooding the courts with judges who can’t counted on to defend the Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights. This is especially true given the upsurge of rightwing christian sponsored violence against judicial officials and employees, which, in spite of their denials, will unavoidably frighten adn silence them.
    Nevertheless, the 9th Circuit’s opinions open an way for us and we have to plow through any obstacles to establish the legal precedent that bigotry is NOT protected speech. An important step in that direction would be to sue little Tyler Chase Harper, and his mommy and daddy and his pastor for damages resulting from his attempt to incite bigoted violence.
    GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network reported in 2003 that 84% of lesbian and gay high school students face habitual verbal harassment and that 40% said they are physically abused. In 2004, with the elections generating higher levels of bigotry, the figures climbed to 90%. These alarming statistics are from a Harris Interactive poll conducted on behalf of GLSEN. "From Teasing to Torment" is the first national survey of bullying in American schools that measures anti-GLBT harassment. It’s based on interviews with 3,400 students ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen and 1,000 high school teachers across the country. The results were released on National Coming Out Day in 2005.
    The US Department of Justice, in its report Hate Crimes on Campus (DOJ Publication NJC187249) says that campus hate crimes usually go unreported unless they involve severe injuries, death, a bombing or arson. They state that “students report hearing degrading language about women, gays and lesbians on a daily basis…” and that “the use of such language creates an atmosphere that permits conduct to escalate from mere words to stronger words, to threats, and ultimately to violence.” It concludes that hate crimes and harassment have a devastating effect on the lives of their victims, often decisively damaging their ability to get an education.
    Teach the little swine a lesson; sue to take his parents house, their car and other assets, and bankrupt them and the church where he was taught to be a heartless extremist. Maybe that will prevent him from physically bashing someone and make other would be bigots think twice before they hurt gay and lesbian children.
    We OWN the moral high ground on these issues. The uncounted Matthew Sheppard’s and Shakia Gunn’s and other victims of beatings paid a blood price for it.
    We need to take the offensive on the issue of violence and duplicate the brilliant work of the Southern Poverty Law Center. They convincingly broke the back of the KKK. The SPLC’s lawsuits proved that the KKK and its officers were directly responsible for violence against African Americans and Native Americans. The courts seized the property and wealth of the organization and some of its leading figures which were dispersed to compensate the victims of racism and violence.
    As for the comment by DP, I'd be very careful, these little swine bite.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue, RainbowRED Organization | Apr 21, 2006 8:36:11 PM

  10. Uhmm public school doesnt operate exactly like the rest of the world. There have been rules in place for students that are less than democratic for decades because school is there for one primary reason. To learn. You can go on and on about Constitutional free speech all day and night but we are talking about minors here. I know my highschool had restrictions on religious, offensive and drug related clothing. There was nothing stopping students from intelligent debate of issues though.

    I happen to believe that this kid is akin to a Nazi. He is disrespecting me without even knowing me based on something which is not my choice yet I would just as horrible of a biggot for calling it like it is??? Wow Im really tired of self loathing gays who dont care how they are treated as long they are aloud to live.

    Posted by: Toto | Apr 22, 2006 12:32:27 AM

  11. FREE SPEECH FOR ALL. I'm gay and value the freedoms that allow all viewpoints to be expressed, including ours. This guy is a twit but we have to stop gratifying this stupid fascist impulse to ban everything we don't like. Jesus!

    Posted by: Dan | Apr 22, 2006 3:37:44 AM

  12. The tragedy of this situation is that this young man most assuredly is the product of poor parenting. Unless he is given proper guidance, his judgmental hatred will only expand. Ultimately, he will find himself very alone in this world. People like this need to find the value and virtue in "live and let live."

    Posted by: Johnny Lane | Apr 22, 2006 1:16:46 PM

  13. Oh dear. This is simply a silly teenager. Can't any of you remember what it was like to be teenage?
    Do stupid things that you thought were rightious at the time. More likely he feels the passion of the teen years, thinks HIS rights were infringed by the headmaster by denying him the right to wear what he did, and is angry about it. I think that he got sucked in by the ADF, who have snowballed this out of control and context.
    The ADF should be the target of your hatred, not this silly young boy.
    It is the ADF who have continued this situation.

    Posted by: Jamie | Apr 22, 2006 1:52:34 PM

  14. He's cute.
    *wanks cock*

    Posted by: Hugh | Apr 22, 2006 2:07:27 PM

  15. A few years ago there was a documentary about young people and tolerance in that neck of the woods... it wasn't pretty. For every person trying to bring logic and understanding to the community, there seem to be three making it one of those communities that America wants to pretend don't exist, where people of color, lesbians and gays, and anyone who is "different" live in constant fear for their safety. Women don't have it much better, either. Hate and vilification of "others" who are different is American as apple pie. From time to time, somebody figures a way to shine the light of reason on one place, but we've got a long, long way to go. Too often, we fail in teaching people why it's wrong to hate and fear irrationally. It's tough, but consider the alternative, if no one ever takes up the challenge...

    Posted by: circuitmouse | Apr 22, 2006 3:20:01 PM

  16. "Oh dear. This is simply a silly teenager. Can't any of you remember what it was like to be teenage?"

    I don't remember being a rampant homophobe with notoriously anti-gay organizations behind me bouying my hatred for gays.

    Posted by: Chad Hanging | Apr 22, 2006 3:45:35 PM

  17. I am glad that I am not judged by what I was at 17 years of age. "Beyond redemption and enlightenment," Leland? Perhaps I am Pollyanic, but I hope no one is beyond enlightenment. Check out "The Gayest Story Never Told" at Malcontent in the April archive.

    Self loathing, Toto? Cyd can speak for himself, but I believe that the work he has done in and for the GLBT community speaks more eloquently and adequately than words. Check out

    For myself, I know that full acceptance of who I am was the end of loathing others and dismissing them with a name, even when I disagree with them vehemently (e.g., the anti-gay agenda). I think that is far from childish, but is rather part of being a full-participant in the market of ideas in a free society in which we (Meaning all of those in this discussion.) are striving towards the same end -- i.e., freedom means equal rights, freedom and respect for all.

    That does not mean bigotry should not be called by its name and taken to task. Ironically, it was, in part, the bigotry of Phelps, et al, at the time of Matthew Shepard's funeral in '99 that convinced me I could no longer be closeted. So as nauseous as his actions made and make me, I'm glad I have had an opportunity to witness them.

    Posted by: Kevin | Apr 22, 2006 6:37:35 PM

  18. Probably too much has been said already, but Anon seems to be taking the most common sense approach. This isn't a 'freedom of expression' issue at all. High School principals and local school administrations have the right to decide ..within reason of the community...what is and what isn't permissable attire. The shirt isn't permissable. Most like an 'I love cock' shirt wouldn't be either.... This isn't the same as wearing it on a public street, where, as much as I hate the shirt, there is simply no way I could support banning it. Sadly, the best thing that could've happened is for some out and built football player jock to punch the punk in the face. That's exactly what would settle the issue for most other groups. I'm not really advocating violence...but damn I wish we had the balls in high school that at least some of us develop later in life. I'm not pointing a finger..god knows I didn't.

    Posted by: PSMike | Apr 22, 2006 8:52:25 PM

  19. "Ironically, it was, in part, the bigotry of Phelps, et al, at the time of Matthew Shepard's funeral in '99 that convinced me I could no longer be closeted. So as nauseous as his actions made and make me, I'm glad I have had an opportunity to witness them."

    I'm sure the opportunity would have presented itself to you before long but I guess we all remember our first time don't we.

    Posted by: Chad Hanging | Apr 22, 2006 11:28:23 PM

  20. Not in a school. A school is supposed to be a haven for learning, where everyone should feel safe.

    Posted by: CLOSE_TED | Apr 27, 2006 2:11:30 PM

  21. I saw quite a few comments online about how the school allowed one side of the "controversy" to be expressed when they let GLBT students organize the Day of Silence, while at the same time refusing Harper to wear his t-shirt. The biggest thing that these arguments miss out on is the fact that GLBT students were not wearing t-shirts that said "Christianity is a piece of shit". If the school had allowed that, and disallowed Harper from wearing his t-shirt, THAT would have been one-sided. If Harper wore a t-shirt that said "Jesus is awesome" and the school prevented that, that would have been one-sided. Basically, what was happening here was that the GLBT students were trying to express the harrassment they experience and Harper was only adding fuel to the flame. Hiding behind the first amendment in this case is inscrutable. Do unto others what you would like them to do to you. If you can tolerate anti-Christian t-shirts, wear anti-gay t-shirts by all means. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Posted by: I, Anonymous | Aug 19, 2006 1:03:58 AM

  22. Tyler Chase Harper keep up the good work! We need more people in this world that stick up for what they believe, not what the damn minority believes.

    Posted by: N. Arnott | Sep 3, 2006 10:26:07 AM

  23. I think this kid is very brave and full of conviction to spread the truth in the face of hideous immorality. And...he's right!

    Posted by: Joe Vadis | Mar 23, 2007 7:34:33 AM

  24. How sad a young man's life has been
    ruined, wasted in a cloud of bigotry.

    A spinoff of Hillsboro Baptist, no doubt.

    Posted by: Karen | Nov 6, 2007 3:47:52 PM

  25. I just watched a documentary on HBO called "SHOUTING FIRE: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF FREE SPEECH" that had Chase in it. I don't agree with what he had to say but I agree that he has the right to say it.

    The reason that I don't agree with what he says is that in Hebrew and in Koine Greek there is not a word for homosexuality. The word was coined in the late 1800's and didn't appear in English versions of the Bible until some time around 1942. I believe that we are all God's creation.

    Posted by: George W | Jun 29, 2009 10:24:29 PM

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