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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘anti-bullying campaign

“How I Feel”: 11-Year-Old Girl Talks about Being Bullied

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A member of the facebook blog page sent me a message that she’d gotten through yet another friend.  I’m so glad she did.  The story I read was heart wrenching.  It was heart wrenching because, with this, one can see that it doesn’t get any clearer that there’s amajor injustice being afforded young people all around this country, and around the world.

How I feel: I want to leave the underworld that I’m in. I get hurt, cussed at and flipped off every day. Where ever I go at (school name) I feel like I get killed and go to the underworld. Whenever I see and /or hear the place, I get afraid. I don’t want to lie, I don’t feel safe, and I don’t want to get hurt. All I need is an apology from the whole 5th grade classes. I need to feel safe. The teachers aren’t listening at all. I even get threatened at (school name). It’s named after a solder, but nobody is that in my class. I feel that I am better in jail than (school name). I don’t need education, I need safety. I don’t need to lie about the cussers, I tell the truth. I think their motto isn’t true. I think it’s a lie. I’m scared!!! I’m better in an underworld than in (school name). I just want to be on earth, not the “H word” (hell)”.

This girl is just 11-years-old.  At that tender age, she’s already having to go through now only the bullying that we’re seeing far too much of today, but yet again an administrative staff that does nothing to intervene or prevent it.  And, because of their lack of responsibility in this case, her musician, single-parent dad has to embark upon a crusade to draw attention to the situation.  It shouldn’t have to be that way.  Luckily for her, she has a father who is committed to making sure his daughter’s well-being is a priority in her school.

[I’m going to leave her anonymous for now.  Her father will make comments to the blog if and as he sees fit.]

As part of his mission, he had his daughter write, in her own words, exactly how being constantly bullied made her feel.  On the up side, hearing a first-hand, first-person recant of what it’s like to have to endure constant bullying it extraordinarily powerful.  The down side, of course, is that she and her dad have to go to this length in the first place.

The part that really got under my skin, however, was the girl saying that her “…teachers aren’t listening at all.”  How can that be?  How can it be possible that, in today’s world, with bullying and teen suicides being in headlines around the world and almost daily, the school administrators can even think of taking the easy way out and not pay attention to a student who’s reaching out for help?  Worse, there are those who simply say they don’t believe the bullying is taking place!  Once again, I have to say that there needs to be accountability.  What my hope is, of course, is that the father will provide the necessary information, i.e. school name, name of administrators, etc., so that a massive email and phone call campaign can descend upon that school.

Things are only going to continue to change as long as people like this courageous and devoted dad continue to stand up and speak out again the environment of hatred and intolerance that we’re witnessing today.  Keeping bullying, and all of the tragic aftermath that comes with it, on the back burner and out of the headlines is a travesty.

Kudos to you, dad, for stepping up and forcing this issue to be looked at on your daughter’s behalf.  Whether you know it or not, your efforts will have a ripple effect on countless other students who are also dealing with being bullied.

Ignoring It Doesn’t Make it Go Away

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I read story after story, comment after comment about how some teen was bullied, they report the incident to the proper authorities, only to have it treated as it’s a non-issue.  Too many suicides have resulted from this.

In one high-profile case recently, a spokesman from the local Sheriff’s department went on record as saying that despite media and online reports of the teen’s suicide being a result of bullying, their “investigation” concluded that “that was not the case”.  Yet, my own personal contact with someone very close to the family and the situation told me exactly the opposite.  And, of course, it was later made know that bullying was, indeed, at the root of the suicide.  This wasn’t the first instance.  In the trailer for the controversial, and very necessary, movie, “Bully”, a teacher foolishly goes on camera to say that she’d “ridden on that bus” where a young boy was allegedly bullied and the kids “…were as good as gold”.  Ultimately, this boy committed suicide because of the bullying.

Sometimes, in some cases of bullying against LGBT teens, the victim is blamed for the bullying!!  In the case of one high-profile LGBT teen suicide from a couple years ago, the parents were told that if their son didn’t act [gay], he wouldn’t get bullied.  How is THAT acceptable?  That’s not “not taking bullying seriously”, that’s turning a blind eye to what’s going on.  Worse, that’s essentially sanctioning the violence because this boy was simple being himself.  The sad end result was him taking matters into his own hands and ending his life.  

On my facebook blog page, read comment after comment from real-life people who were bullied, went to the authorities, and nothing was done about it.

I was bullied in school for being “different”,”odd”, and my school did nothing about it. Often, they ignored it cuz the kids who did bully me were kids of pta and parents who supported and gave alot of money to the school. My dad fought hard to get me help because other stuff was going on due to bullying, like my academics. I was not sent to a private charter school till I was a junior in high school, and that was due to case workers and an advocate, because i tried to commit suicide more then 3 times in less then 2 yrs. While being at that special school, they (the school) found out I have autism. Had the school I attended prior would have taken the time to listen to my father, I would of been put in the right classrooms and would have gotten the help I needed from day 1. Even when I was in 9th and 10th grade, people where horrible to me. I wonder, now that we are adults, how they would feel if they found out they bullied a girl with disabilities to the point of trying suicide.  I wonder how they would feel, especially if they had kids…bullying needs to stop on all levels.  I just wanted to share my story.

That’s one of the comments left recently on my facebook blog page.  This is but one example.  Unfortunately, there are more.

Problem with schools, I’m a senior in high school, and in all my years in middle school (6-8) I was bullied and fighting back each year leading me to get kicked off to a new school each year….kinda sucks how “they who purposely care” really don’t…..well until until you’re pushed too far.

“Until you’re pushed too far” is 10 steps too late.  Bullying needs to be taken seriously, on all levels:  not only against LGBT teens, but against anyone who’s perceived different, anyone who doesn’t “fit in”.  School officials, elected officials, adults in general!, all need to be re-educated.  And, part of that re-education process needs to be making them acutely aware that ignoring the bullying issue doesn’t make it away.

Passing the Torch

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In any war, the battle is essentially being fought for the generations to follow:  for our children.  And, their children.  Warriors lay their lives on the line so that their kids, their kids kids, can have a better, safer, happier life.  The “warriors” of Stonewall fought for their “kids”, the generation of young LGBT kids coming behind them.  And, behind them.  I’m so glad they did.  See, I’m part of the generation they were fighting for.

I remember Stonewall being in the news.  I was 12.  I knew, instinctively, that what was going on in the newspaper (life before the Internet was vastly different!) was good.  By that time in my life, I was fully aware that I was a gay teen and had already had my first boyfriend.  Seeing them lay their lives on the line against an establishment that hated them touched me in an indescribable place.  I knew.

The war we’re fighting today is for the liberty, justice, and equality for our LGBT youth of today.  We’re fighting for their freedom to live happily without a government or religious body that sanctions their being attacked, both emotionally and physically.  We’re fighting for their freedom to marry the one they love, just as their straight counterparts will do.  We’re fighting for equality, for ourselves as well as for them.

And, we’re passing the torch.

Because of the Internet, there’s a “right-now-ness” that we didn’t have in generations gone by.  We can, and do, connect with people all around this massive globe at the click of the “send” button.  And, as a result, there’s a movement going on right now that is going to change the world as we know it.  A paradigm shift.  Yes, we the children of Stonewall are paving the way.  However, the torch is also being passed to some very strong, very dedicated young leaders.  And, they need to be recognized for the work they’re doing:

  • Christi O’Connor contacted me about a month ago about the Monster March Against Bullying.  The goal is for at least 10,000 LGBT teens to march to the step of San Francisco’s City Hall in an effort to compel their leaders that “It HAS TO Get Better”.  The Rodemeyers will be there.  Jonah Mowry and his family will be there.  That’s powerful stuff.  And, all of this was organized by TEENS!!  On her wall, Christi posted this:

“Hi Everyone.The good news is we have more wonderful content, new partners and teens’ videos we hadn’t anticipated this week. The down news is it has delayed our launch of our www.themonstermarch.com site until MONDAY. We’ll remind everyone to go to it Monday. So sorry for the delay. Big announcements coming on the site!”

The official website goes up on Monday.  Looking forward to checking that out.  Looking forward even more to October and their Monster March!!

  • While not at teen, at 23, Mark Blane is still young enough to be considered part of the youth movement.  This very talented director/playwright/activist is putting his best effort into making a difference.  On June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the play, which Mark wrote and directed, “The Rock and The Ripe” will go into production in Chicago.  The play is about “the bullied and bruised Gay Youth of America”.  There’s also a book by the same title.  But, most importantly, Mark has a fundraiser page in place in an attempt to take this provocative and important play national.  This very compelling video makes you understand what’s at stake.
  • And, then there’s 18-year-old Brett Simpson.  I had seen this video response floating around for a while but, quite frankly, didn’t watch it because I’d grown weary of the “flash-card messages”.  Eventually, of course, I gave in and watched it. (it kept popping up here and there, so I figured there had to be something to it.  I was right.)  Watching that video changed my life.  Here was this handsome 18-year-old who, himself, had been badly bullied!, reaching out to other teens who were in crisis!  He opened his life to the world of LGBT teens, giving almost all of his personal information, and told them “I’m always here for you”.  That, alone, made my eyes water.  Refusing to be “the victim”, Brett instead stood strong and reached out.  And, the teens have been responding!!!  As an example, this message was just posted to his wall:  Zachary Smith: “Brett, this is amazing. I know you can do great things for the future of this country. It would be wonderful to meet you someday. Also, make sure you save this somewhere, because coming from someone who wrote something similar about a long battle with learning disabilities, personal written pieces such as this one are very appealing to higher learning institutions, if that’s what you plan on doing in the future.”  He has quite a following in his facebook community, Click “Like” if You Support the LGBT Questioning Community.  I’ve been so impressed with the work Brett’s doing, I made him an administrator on my facebook blog page.  And, he’s done great there, as well.

  • As a testimony to the impact Brett is having on the young, up-and-coming LGBT teens, this video was made by a 14-year-old LGBT youth named John.  The video is stunning, to say the least.  And, to think that a 14-year-old produced it just warms the heart.  The message is clear and, coming from someone who is in the age group most affected by the bullying against LGBT teens in this country, and around the world!, it’s extremely powerful.  If the readers of this blog post click no other link herein, do check out this video.

Obviously, there are more teens around who are doing some great things, like Daria, Amber, and Alexis in Indiana who have their own anti-bullying page.  And, they’re only in middle school!!!  I could probably dedicate an entire week, at least!, recognizing the efforts being undertaken by our youth, gay and straight alike, as they take matters into their own hands in attempt to make their world a better place.  This is just a few of them.

The world truly is changing, right before our eyes.  And, it’s changing for the better.  Most importantly, the youth-led movement is really getting traction and making a difference.  It makes us older warriors feel good to know that the torch is being passed to such capable hands.

Supporting Diversity Role Models

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This is getting good.  Lately, there’s been more “good news” stories to write about than the heavy alternate.  I like that.

In the U.K., there’s an organization called Diversity Role Models.  Their mission is to do just that:  provide role models for LGBT teens in an effort to help combat bullying and avoid attempted suicides.

The movement is growing worldwide!!  I wrote earlier about the Monster March Against Bullying that’s set to occur here in the U.S. in October.  And, there’s more coming all the time.  Power in numbers.  Our numbers are growing worldwide, and this is a prime example.

From June 29th through July 20th, Andrew Makin will bike through England, Wales, and Scotland – over 700 miles!! – to raise money for Diversity Role Models.  It’s a cause everyone can get behind.

“Why Does It Matter?”:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Two thirds of them suffer bullying at school. They often don’t have an adult to talk to at home or at school. We all know bullied students can’t focus on learning and achievement.

But it’s not just LGB and T young people. Straight students are terrified of being called ‘gay’. Girls drop out of sport and boys hide artistic talent to conform to gender roles and avoid being labelled gay or lesbian.

And what about the young people who have LGB or T family members? Do they feel safe talking about their loved ones openly?

This issue affects ALL young people. Someone needs to talk to them about diversity; it’s a difficult topic. We accept this challenge.

Says Diversity Role Models:

Not only does Diversity Role Models help the young, it is changing the standing of all LGBT people for the better. By educating schoolchildren, and challenging the remnants of homophobia in popular culture, it breaks down barriers by showing LGBT individuals as real people.

We are all too familiar with the effects of homophobic bullying as it pertains to LGBT teens.  We are, sadly, also too familiar with the reality that “the other side” still doesn’t get it and is more than willing to turn a blind eye or sweep it under the carpet.  Therefore, it is completely up to us, the LGBT community – both young and old – to take matter into our own hands and protect, and nurture, our LGBT teens.

Andrew Makin is doing his fair share in June.  We can all be a part of it, though, from wherever we are in the world.  We can learn more about Diversity Role Models on their webpage; and, we can donate to his fundraiser page for this summer’s bike ride across the U.K.

There are a lot of great causes out there today; however, being involved in turning the tide on homophobic bullying of LGBT teens, and homophobia in general!, and attacking the LGBT teen suicide rate ranks right at the top of the list for me.

“Bully” (UPDATED)

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There’s a powerful movie coming out in March called “Bully”.  Since this blog pertains to that subject, and its tragic results, I’m sure many people who read this blog are already aware of its impending release.  Judging by the trailer, alone, it’s a must-see movie.  What I’m not sure everyone is aware of is that the MPAA, that autonomous group of people who decides what is appropriate for us to watch, has deemed “Bully” inappropriate for teens to watch without parental supervision.

UPDATE:  Incredibly,  someone left a comment to this blog post chastising me for calling a film that I haven’t seen yet a “must-see” movie.  Well, let’s see:  of the five youngsters who were featured in the movie, two have already committed suicide.  That, to me, makes it a “must-see”.  This issue is real; the people in the movie aren’t actors.

On the surface, this isn’t a bad thing:  this is one of those movies that parents should watch with their kids so that they can have an open dialogue afterwards.  The problem with the rating is that it assures that the movie will not be screened where it needs to be seen the most:  in the classroom, where the worlds of the bullies and the bullied collide.  The precise audience that really needs to see this won’t be able to unless their mommy or daddy takes the to see it.  Why?  Because, according to MPAA, “Bully” contains strong language.  See, in their world, they still pretend that teens don’t hear, or USE, that kind of language.  I haven’t seen the movie, yet, so I don’t know just how strong the “strong language” is.  However, I would bet that it’s no stronger than anything they’re not already hearing in school.  Or, in some cases, even at home, for that matter.  Does that make it right?  No.  Does it make it reality?  Yes.

Here’s the issue, as I see it:  this is a movie that desperately needs to be viewed in every school across this country and around the world.  The classroom is the perfect “theatre” for this film, for reasons stated earlier.  That’s bringing both sides together on the battlefield in an effort to end the war.  That’s showing the aggressor, the bully, the consequences of his/her deeds.  The impact would be potentially enormous.  Forget the language!  Lives are being lost.

To be sure, two of the five teens featured in this movie have committed suicide already.  That, alone, speaks volumes to the need for this to be viewed, universally, in the classroom.  Perhaps the members of the MPAA aren’t attuned to the severity of the situation.   The Weinstein Group, producers of the movie, has already met with the MPAA in an effort to convince them to reverse their decision.  No dice.  What will it take?  More teen suicides?  The suicide of a teen close to them because of bullying?  I don’t know that answer.  What I do know is that this problem is real.  This is a problem that needs to be addressed.  And, make no mistake:  there are efforts worldwide to address it.  Now, we need people like MPAA to stop putting up roadblocks to slow down the movement.

UPDATE:  Since posting this article, there has been a petition set in motion to attempt to get the MPAA to reverse their rating.  This is, without a doubt, a movie that HAS to be shown in classrooms across the country and around the world.   With enough signatures, we can show the MPAA that a little “strong language” pales in comparison to having another family lose their child to bullying.  So, it is my hope that everyone who reads this will SIGN THE PETITION.

There are a lot of wonderful things going on across the country and around the world as people, young and old, are speaking out and making a strong effort to do what our leaders have so far failed to do:  rid this world of bullying once and for all.  “Kids will be kids”?  Save it.  Too many lives are being lost from “kids being kids”.  “Bullying will never end?”  I agree, as long as there are people willing to accept that backwards philosophy.  I’m a believer that anything is possible if your willing to work hard for it.

We Need Voices, Voices, and MORE Voices!!!!

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In Maryland today, Gov. Martin O’Malley made history by signing into law the same-sex marriage bill.  It goes into effect January 1, 2013.  And, before it even has chance to go into effect, before the first same-sex couple has the chance to tie the knot, the opponents are already in high-gear to get the law repealed.

Over the weekend, 18-year-old Cody Rogers was savagely attacked in a homophobic rage.  The only provocation was that he was who he is:  a gay man.

Stacey Campfield is STILL trying to pass legislation that would effectively legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, putting more LGBT teens at risk.

In that same state, Tennessee, a school principal resigns under pressure after telling gay students that they’re going to Hell!  A SCHOOL PRINCIPAL!!!

Newt Gingrich makes the assinine statement that TEACHERS are to blame for same-sex marriages!!!

ENOUGH!!

Understand that that’s just the short list.  I could go on and on and on ad nauseum.  The point I’m making should be clear:  the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance (and, ignorance) is very far-reaching.  With all of this lack of acceptance, bigotry, and utter ignorance, it’s no wonder we’re seeing so many LGBT teen suicides; it’s no wonder that a Cody Rogers can’t go to a party without fear of being attacked simply because of who he is.  The hatred is being taught by lawmakers, teachers, religious leaders, and in some cases parents.

Just moments ago, I was talking to an 18-year-old LGBT man who is trying to make a difference.  He had a girl he was talking to who was being bullied and wanted help making it stop.  She told her mother.  Her mother didn’t listen.  She told her teacher.  (S)he didn’t listen.  NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION!!!  Yet, as soon as one of these young people take their life, there’s the redundant outcry of “THIS HAS TO END!!”  Damn right this has to end, but what are we doing to make that happen?

People are denying, or attempting to deny, the LGBT community everything from the right to marry the person they love to equal protection under the law.  To be sure, Cody Rogers’ attacker was charged with simple assault for the very brutal and savage beating that Cody endured.  Why?  Because, in Oklahoma, sexual orientation isn’t protected under their hate crime laws.  How is this even possible in this country in 2012!?  Do you want to know how?  I will tell you.  It is possible because we, as a community, allow it to happen.  Plain and simple.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying:  we, the LGBT community, and society as a whole, are making enormous strides in the right direction, which is equality for ALL.  At the same time, it is my opinion that more can be done.  Lots more.

What’s needed is we need to keep increasing our numbers in the battle to win equality, in the war against bullying, and in the attempt to end this plight of LGBT teen suicides.  Since the time I got actively involved, I’ve witnessed amazing growth in numbers, and I’ve seen some great things come from it.  We can never be complacent.  There’s always more to be done.  Why?  Because for every gain we achieve, “they” are lining up to take it away from us.

We need voices, voices, and more voices.  Are you signing petitions when they come around?  Are you speaking out against the hatred and intolerance?  Are you supporting the Cody Rogerses of the world?  That’s what we need.  We need voices.  As the poisoned, culturally crippled faction try to undo everything we accomplish, we need to meet and at least double their numbers.  It would be a travesty of justice, not to mention just plain wrong, if “they” were to win in Maryland and get this new same-sex marriage law reverse even before the first couple gets to marry.  We can make sure that doesn’t happen.  As has been proven over the course of history, and as has been witnessed right here within the community of this very blog, there IS power in numbers.

Listen, we will win this battle.  I have no doubt about that whatsoever.  All around us, culture is changing.  People’s attitudes are changing.  Twenty-five years from now, there will be marriage equality from coast-to-coast and, most likely, around the world.  The social climate towards the LGBT community will have shifted to a point where gay and lesbian teens won’t feel such a sense of hopelessness that they feel they have to end their life.  That’s coming!  I have no doubt about that.  However, in the here and now, we still have plenty of work to do in order to get to that day.  I recall being a young man in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic there.  I remember watching friends die, literally, on a daily basis.  I became active with a group called ACT-UP.  My bosses were gay, yet they were very annoyed with me for being a part of such a group.  “You’re part of the problem!!!”  I assured them that they were the problem.  See, they had become complacent.  They owned their own successful business.  They had nice homes and enjoyed a fabulous lifestyle.  They had gotten their slice of the American pie, and they were satisfied.  The rest of the world be damned.  Sadly, within the next 6 months, all three of them had succumbed to the very scourge that I laid my body in the middle of the street for in effort to bring more attention to.

Don’t become complacent.  Stay connected; be involved.  We need your voice.

LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN!!!

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote here about The L Project, a group of highly talented lesbian entertainers in the U.K. who have come together to produce an original song that was written as a message of affirmation to the LGBT youth in particular, and to troubled teens in general.  It’s their contribution as we all work towards the common goals of ending bullying and stopping teen/LGBT teen suicide.  They will be releasing their single, “It Does Get Better”, in less than 48 hours!!  This is an exciting time as people from around the globe are anxiously awaiting its release.

I listened to the preview of it last week and was blown away.  It’s an incredible project put together by some of the most talented musicians in the U.K.

In a nutshell, the main purpose behind releasing the single is to raise money to combat LGBT teen bullying.  That’s crucial especially at a time where we’re being shown time and time again that there are far, far too many people, adults, and people in power who don’t give a rat’s ass about our LGBT teen.  I won’t get into that diatribe here.  The purpose here is to celebrate the continuing coming together of the LGBT community.  In less that 48 hours, the single will be released.  Every single dime earned from the single will go to organizations that will benefit LGBT teens and fund anti-bullying efforts.

So, if you haven’t already, go the their facebook page, “LIKE” the page, then share the link with your friends, as well.  Let’s show them our support!  Then, get ready for the release of “It Does Get Better”.  You’re going to love the song!  Thank you, The L Project, for sharing your talents with us.