Category Archives: Bullying

The Make it Better Project

Make it Better Project

http://www.makeitbetterproject.org/

About

Make It Better Project

What is the Make It Better Project?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project on October 1st, 2010 to give youth and adults the concrete tools they need to make schools safer for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students right now.

Through our YouTube channel, social media, and the campaigns, initiatives, and resources available on this website, the Make It Better Project aims to educate, motivate, and unite students and adults to effectively take action to stop bullying and harassment in schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  Our goal is to create safe, welcoming school environments that actively support LGBT youth and prevent suicide.

GSA NetworkContact Us

The Make It Better Project is sponsored by Gay-Straight Alliance NetworkGSA Network empowers youth to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training youth activists and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California and throughout the country.

How does the Make It Better Project differ from the It Gets Better Project?

Columnist Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” video campaign to send a message of hope to LGBT youth who are experiencing bullying and contemplating suicide.  His project, along with a swell in media coverage of youth deaths by suicide in the fall of 2010, ignited dialogue across the country about the epidemic of bullying in our schools. But it left an important question unaddressed: what can we do to make it better?

GSA Network launched the Make It Better Project to let students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and adult allies know that there are concrete actions they can take right now to make schools safer for all students.

Is bullying is a widespread problem?

Yes. The federal government estimates that 2 out of 10 high school students experience bullying each year, and the problem is typically worse for middle school students.  For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, this rate is 9 out of 10.   Bullying, particularly bullying based on bias or discrimination, is an epidemic in our country.

“The Make It Better Project is a chance to do something about injustices in our schools. It’s an opportunity to have a voice, to be known, to be understood, and to be accepted. It will NOT get better until we MAKE IT BETTER!  I participated because I know what it’s like to be discriminated against, not only because of my gender identity, but by my skin color as well. It hurts to know that someone will not be accepted and it is devastating to feel so unwanted and hated that you get pushed to the brink of self-harm. I’ve participated in Make It Better because it gives me a chance to help the ones I wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.” - Buddie Sims, student, Pomona, California

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

This article… this hate is why we started this project.

One Town’s War on Gay Teens – Rolling Stone Magazine (online)

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

by: Sabrina Rubin Erdely

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.

A candlelight vigil in Minneapolis for the victims of gay bullying.
© Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMApress.com

Every morning, Brittany Geldert stepped off the bus and bolted through the double doors of Fred Moore Middle School, her nerves already on high alert, bracing for the inevitable.

“Dyke.”

Pretending not to hear, Brittany would walk briskly to her locker, past the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who loitered in menacing packs.

“Whore.”

Full text after the cut.

Continue reading

RIP Jamey Rodemeyer

thedailywhat:

RIP: 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, a victim of relentless anti-gay bullying, was found dead earlier this week of an apparent suicide.

“I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens,” Jamey wrote on his Tumblr blog in a post dated September 9th. “What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”

The bullying got particularly intense about twelve months ago, when classmates started leaving homophobic remarks on Jamey’s Formspring page. “JAMIE [sic] IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!,” read one of the many vicious comments.

Friends were always there to defend him, however, and Jamey himself even appeared to be taking the abuse in stride, contributing a video to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, in which he echos the words of Lady Gaga, telling other bullying victims to “hold [their] head up.”

Sadly, despite assuring his parents multiple times that everything was fine, all was not as it seemed. On Sunday, Jamey posted one final note on his Tumblr: “Thank you Lady Gaga.”

“He touched so many hearts, so many people,” Jamey mom Tracy’s told The Buffalo News. “I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”

As American servicemen and women across the globe celebrate the long-overdue demise of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Jamey’s untimely death offers a stark reminder that the struggle for tolerance is far from over.

It’s OK to be Takei!

Actor George Takei has an excellent response to the idiotic bill in Tennessee prohibiting people from saying the word Gay.

Support George! Fight back at http://bit.ly/dontsaygay

George Takei takes on the Tennessee Legislature and its “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in the way only George Takei can!

A bill now pending in Tennessee would prohibit teachers in that state from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. The so-called “don’t say gay” law is premised on the misguided belief that, by not talking about gay people, they can simply make us disappear.

George is here to tell Tennessee, and all the LGBT youth and teachers who would be affected by this law, that he is here for you. In fact, he is lending his name to the cause. Any time you need to say the word “gay,” you can simply say “Takei.”

You can buy T-shirts and other items that say “It’s OK to be Takei”, to wear and display with pride and to show Tennessee and the world that you’re against censorship and bigotry….

All the proceeds from the sales of these items will be donated to charity. Have a TAKEI old time!

Damian Furtch shares his experience of being a victim of anti-gay violence in NYC

Damian Furtch Shares His Story About Being a Victim of Anti-Gay Violence in New York City

Credit for story goes to GLAAD’s Website.

GLAAD sat down with Damian Furtch, the 26-year old who was violently attacked last Sunday in front of a West Village McDonald’s, for his first interview since the attack. Damian shares his story of what happened.

“My name is Damian Furtch, and I was violently attacked on March 27 by two men in the West Village. My friend and I were at the local McDonalds ordering food when I noticed two men staring at us. My friend and I ordered our food and waited for our order to be filled. I stepped outside to make a phone call in an effort to avoid the tension in the restaurant and remove myself from the situation.  The two gentlemen stepped out after me and asked if I had a problem. I told one of them that I had stepped out just to use the phone and had no problem with him or his three friends. Then, all of a sudden the second gentleman hit me on the right side of my face causing me to stumble. Then I felt three punches to the face.

After the attack, I stumbled back into the McDonald’s and told my friend that we needed to go to the hospital because I had been attacked. We then rushed to Roosevelt Hospital where I received medical attention.

The attack against me is part of the larger issue of violence against gay and transgender people in New York City.  While I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story, I hope to shed light on the larger issue of violence against my community. This has to stop. Under no circumstance should a person be attacked for their sexual orientation.

This has been a traumatic experience for me, my friends and my family.  I’d like to thank my close friends and family who have been supportive and loving through this situation.  I’d also like to thank City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office, the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit and the LGBT and ally community for their continued Facebook and e-mail support. It’s much appreciated and recognized.

GLAAD provided Damian with a media training and is also helping garner media attention around this particular incident and the larger issue of violence against the gay and transgender communities.

 

The Force is With You, Katie, ‘Cause We Got Your Back

You may have heard about Katie.  She’s that adorable little girl who was teased at school because she likes Star Wars – and Star Wars “isn’t for girls.”  When I read Katie’s story, I teared up just a little bit.   I’ll admit, I got a little miffed on behalf of Princess Leia and my man Yoda.   But that’s not what upset me. I think I have a pretty good idea of what Katie must have felt when her classmates told her that Star Wars isn’t for girls.  My entire life people have been telling me what’s for girls and what’s for boys.  The clothes I wear, the way I cut my hair, the people I love, and the movies I watch have been judged for their appropriateness for someone of my assigned gender.  As a queer person, what happened to Katie has happened me too.  And I can’t help but cry a little when I think of one more kid going through that.

But when I read the article “The ‘Force’ is With You, Katie!”, I started crying for a whole different reason.  This article tells the story of Star Wars fans who rallied around Katie.  They sent her encouraging messages and Star Wars clothes that fit girls and donated Star Wars toys to other kids in her honor.  Thanks to these geeks, Katie’s awesome mom, and a school that’s taking bullying more seriously, Katie is getting the message that it’s okay to be who she is and that there are a lot of people  standing with her.

Of the Star Wars fans who supported Katie, Katie’s mom writes: “What strikes me is how these individuals who were once so isolated are now part of a very tight community.  They have found each other; they are plugged into each other, and they have each other’s backs. Now they have Katie’s back, too.”

That, my friends, is what we’ve got to do. This story is a wonderful example of the sort of movement we have to build – a movement against bullying and oppression that goes beyond words into action

My fellow star Wars fans, I’ve never been more proud.

You are Loved…by Gennie Z

I guess you could say that I’m not your standard bullying victim. I’ve never been physically assaulted. I’ve been called names, but ‘fortunately’ that had nothing to do with my sexual preferences. As far as bullying goes, I’ve been lucky.

I wasn’t attacked. I was invisible.

I had a few friends growing up in elementary and middle school that I could spend time with. In high school I discovered the music department, and made friends with some of the other ‘music geeks’, though at times it seemed they were just tolerating my presence because they felt sorry for me. I later switched to another high school, where I was an outcast because I was quiet, shy, and a good student. I spent my lunch breaks sitting on a bench in the sun, wearing sunglasses and pretending to be asleep because it was better than being rejected, than admitting that I was lonely.

Most bullying is acknowledged as physical and verbal abuse. But often people forget the emotional bullying, which leads to mental abuse. No, I wasn’t attacked. But the isolation, the loneliness, began to make me think that there was something wrong with me. That something about who I was, was simply unlikeable. My confidence and self-esteem plummeted, and I stayed shy and quiet, trying to stay out of the way of people who were more important than me. Because clearly, I wasn’t someone worth knowing. It was better for me to stand back and let the people who were right, and strong, and good take the spotlight.

That wasn’t to say I was always miserable. I was happy with the few friends I had, to the point of being clingy. When I was happy, I threw myself into the feeling, desperate to hold on to it. Which made the days when I was lonely, sad, and miserable, even worse.

As I hit my mid-teens, things started to get complicated. My friends and family began to make comments about my sexual preferences, hinting that they thought I was gay. I wasn’t very feminine as a teenager, because I didn’t know how to be. And something about that made the people who were important to me, as well as the people who weren’t, believe that I was hiding my interests.

Continue reading

Brandon Bitner: Anti-gay bullying leads to another tragic teen suicide

Brandon Bitner

MIDDLEBURG, Penn. — Anti-gay bullying has reportedly claimed another teen life.

Brandon Bitner, 14, of Mount Pleasant Mills, Penn., walked 13 miles from his home early Friday morning to a busy intersection and threw himself in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer after leaving a suicide note at his home, according to The Daily Item.

There seems to be little doubt in the students’ minds why Bitner did what he did.

“It was because of bullying,” friend Takara Jo Folk wrote in a letter to The Daily Item.

“It was not about race, or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual preferences and the way he dressed. Which,” she said, “they wrongly accused him of.”

Brandon’s suicide note reportedly explained that he was constantly bullied at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, where he was a freshman.

Bullies allegedly called Brandon gay, girly, fag, and geek. He stated in the note that a humiliating event in school this past week was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Brandon was an accomplished violinist, having been a member of the Susquehanna Youth Orchestra in 2009.

His death came just days after an anti-bullying assembly at the high school, which, according to district Superintendent Wesley Knapp, was not held in response to any specific problems at the school, but because it is an issue Principal Cynthia Hutchinson has always felt strongly about.

After the assembly, according to student Briana Boyer in another letter to The Daily Item, “No one took it seriously, and joked around about it.”

Friends of Brandon have set up a Facebook page, “RIP Brandon Bitner.”

A memorial website is here, and the Patriot-News has Brandon’s obituary here.

Show your face – A Message from UW Madison

GetEqual Youth response to President Obama’s message to lgbt youth

Watch: Anti-Gay Bullied Teens GetEQUAL Message To Obama, Congress

by David Badash on October 26, 2010 · Comments (0)

in Civil Rights,Gay Agenda,Legal Issues,Legislation,Marriage,Media,News,Politics

Post image for Watch: Anti-Gay Bullied Teens GetEQUAL Message To Obama, Congress GetEQUAL co-founder Robin McGehee reached out to three icons of gay teen activism, Ceara Sturgis, Constance McMillen, and Will Phillips, all of whom found themselves victims of anti-gay bullying and harassment, and brought them together to make this video message to President Obama and Congress. It’s stunning, heartwarming, and simple: “Display the courageousness that these youth have shown by producing the change they have promised.”

MinnPost – Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’

MinnPost – Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’.

Bullying of GLBT youth: Exploring answers to ‘Why now?’

By Beth Hawkins | Published Mon, Oct 25 2010 10:29 am

Many, many questions have yet to end up with satisfactory answers in the recent spate of suicides of gay teens. Not least: Why now?

Why, in an era when gays and lesbians have gained so much acceptance, are GLBT teens still so much more vulnerable than their classmates? And why, despite having several decades to get up to speed on the issue, are schools still Ground Zero for this front in the culture war?

In the last year, seven teens attending Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools, Minnesota’s largest district with 40,000 students, have killed themselves. At least two were known to be gay, and critics have blamed the district’s controversial policy of “neutrality” in curriculum.

In July, 15-year-old Justin Aaberg killed himself in his bedroom in Andover. Aaberg was openly gay and had a very supportive mother who had no idea he was the target of frequent bullying.

It seems like such progress: A teen who is secure enough to come out to his family and friends and even date, according to some news reports. One would think Aaberg could have turned to any number of places for help when he found himself in crisis.

<– more..>

More high schoolers come out now
Phil Duran is general counsel for the gay-rights organization OutFront Minnesota. His answer to the “why now” question: Visibility.

“Twenty-five years ago, the issue didn’t get much attention,” said Duran. “No one really thought to be out in high school.”

In four states, gays and lesbians can now marry. More kids now come from families headed by same-sex couples. And the number of openly gay celebrities has exploded.

With all of this seeming normalcy, more kids feel it’s OK to come out — which is a good thing, Duran said. Except that as a society we haven’t dealt with lots of baggage from previous eras.

Suicide rates have always been higher among gay teens than straights. And thanks to a study done by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office in the 1990s, we know that GLBT teens and overweight children are bullies’ most frequent targets.

Suicide, dropout rates high
Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, according to the Department Health and Human Services. And 28 percent of gay students will drop out of school — more than three times the national average for heterosexual students.

At the same time, bullying on the whole has gotten worse. Kids used to at least be able to get away from their tormentors by going home at the end of the day. But cyberbullying [PDF] happens around the clock, and frequently in places where adults aren’t paying attention.

The problem is so bad, in fact, that some Minnesota lawmakers have called for a special session to address the issue. In the last session, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed anti-bullying legislation.

Add to this complicated stew the fact that equality for gays and lesbians is possibly the most divisive issue in today’s culture wars, and you end up with a situation in which those gay teens must navigate some bizarre adult politics.

Confusion about policy
Future Learning Curve blog posts will take more thorough looks at various aspects of the sprawling controversy, but the abbreviated version of what happened in Anoka-Hennepin is that the district attempted to respond to the concerns of community conservatives by implementing a policy mandating curriculum be “neutral” on matters of sexual orientation.

“It took a year and a half for Anoka-Hennepin to tell staff what it meant,” said Durant. “In that time there was confusion about what the adults could and couldn’t do.”

He and other critics say staff were given little guidance on how to interpret the rule, creating, in effect, a situation where anytime a student’s sexual orientation came up the adults in the room took two steps back.

District administrators have since clarified the policy: Curriculum must remain neutral, but intervention is warranted on behalf of any student who reports bullying of any kind, and when teachers and others learn that a student is struggling with his or her sexuality or any other issue, they should act to help the student find appropriate resources.

An avalanche of comments
Just that clarification has stirred a political hornet’s nest. Anoka administrators are struggling to deal with an avalanche of angry calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the issues. Superintendent Dennis Carlson was even contacted by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this fall about the possibility of community-wide mediation; Carlson is interested, but the feds have yet to follow through, according to his office.

The grownups had better get their acts together, said Durant, because teens will continue to leave the closet and will continue to struggle as a result. Thorny issues are already showing up at far earlier ages than ever anticipated: “More and more elementary students will now talk about a transgender experience,” he said.

“Ultimately what needs to happen is there needs to be an engagement of students and families when they start kindergarten: ‘This is how we treat people,’ ” Duran said. “You can’t train kids to like the person next to them. But you can say ‘This is the code of conduct.’ “

 

High School sucked … by Erin

I went to a school in the exurbs of Detroit (for those who know the area Northwest Oakland County), one of schools that is a selling point for the nice houses in the newly sprouted subdivisions.  It was one of those schools that even offered a variety of support groups for kids who  may have had various problems.  It should have been a great place for a kid with some of the “issues” I had (new girl, introvert, depression, queer). My junior year was miserable, but my senior year, I started to pull my self together and started to be more out publicly, and then there were problems…

The first problem was when the student newspaper was going to do a story on the queer students at WLC, and I was expressly forbidden to use my real name during the interview; because, I might not really be gay (besides, I don’t look like a gay),  and the school doesn’t want to be responsible for me if I come out.

I don’t listen very well, so I came out in other ways than in a HS newspaper. I came out in AP English, I told people at lunch, I called people on their hetero-sexist bullshit. And it caused problems…leading to a moment where I was walking the gauntlet of junior and senior guys (aka the hallway to get from English to US Government)  and a group of guys circled round and told me how they were going to “make me straight”. I was rescued by a sympathetic teacher, but when I sought to have the problem addressed. The school councilor told me because she didn’t think I was really a lesbian, the guys who threatened my safety in school were completely unpunished.

The Safe School Improvement Act of 2010 should be passed, so that kids can feel safe going from English to US Government. So that don’t have their identity invalidated by a school professional. And so things are actually made better for kids now; rather than telling kids it might get better later.

“Trans-nationality”

I am multiethnic and transgendered. I am the human label-breaker.

I grew up hearing that I’m half Japanese and half Jewish. For the
observer, this genetic algebra equated to a whole person. I wasn’t put
in a box- I was sliced in half; subdivided and subjugated. In truth I
carry twice the heritage and just as much angst.

In life, I check the box marked [other].

I am a gender-ninja, hiding in plain-sight. The Japanese American
community isn’t one that is particularly open to talking about…
anything. Because of this, I have never come out in public. It’s not
that everyone in the community is closed-minded. Culturally, it is
seen as intrusive to either ask or tell something so personal about
yourself. Though frustrating, it afforded me the room to grow.

My cultural heritage taught me the importance of community and the
bravery to stand up in the face of ignorance and hate. It is a comfort
to know that wherever my journey takes me or how dark it becomes, I
belong to something bigger. My ethnic identity helped to build a
foundation upon which to discover myself. What I developed was the
resolve to self-advocate; to believe that a world without me, my
perspective and my voice, would result in even more generations of
We,the lost children of a Black and White, Male and Female, straight
and narrow world.

Be you. Be us. Be free. I’ve got your back.

-Anonymous

Bullying and the 105% (reposted with permission from rm on LJ)

bullying and the 105%
Bullying happens for lots of reasons.

These include:
- bullies choosing to bully.
- cycles of abuse.
- biological impulses towards hierarchy.
- cultural glorification of violence.
- cultural shaming of various traits and interests.
- adults who look the other way.
- childhood and adult fears about identity and fitting in.
- features that people who are bullied can’t change.
- features that people who are bullied shouldn’t be asked to change.
- features that it may be reasonable to suggest people who are bullied address.

But when I was bullied as a kid, and prank calls came to my house calling a “cock-sucking whore,” let me tell you the right response, when I was TWELVE and at an all-girls school, was not for my father to ask me what I had done to deserve this.
*
I’m one of those people who tries hard to live life at 105%. I realize that’s a privilege to a given degree, but I do also think — perhaps wrongly and ruthlessly — that everyone’s always got another tiny, extra sliver of fucking effort to give.

But it’s not a damn obligation.

And while I am also always about strategy and pragmatism and survival, because those are my choices and my nature, victim-blaming is always wrong.

Which is why I find this post from [info]theferrett upsetting. And his response to my (very possibly distressing for many) comment even more so.
*
I have made the choice, more literally than most people, over and over again, not to change my name, not to change my face, and not to run away from home.

Would you like me better if I was named Heather? How about Aleksandra? Andrea? Jenny? When I joined SAG, I thought long and hard about these things, and it was a terrible moment. Look, it’s my actual job to make people like me.

You know who doesn’t have that job? Some random eight-year-old who isn’t beautiful, who has “weird” interests, who’s a different race than her classmates, who has non-gender confirming hobbies, who’s too smart, who has a difficult home life, who lives with a disability, etc., etc., etc.

So don’t fucking tell me I didn’t work hard enough not to be bullied. Or that I should have just worn a pretty dress. Or not been sick. Or tried not to learn things. Or made my parents name me something else.

I lived. That was, in this regard, all the work I was ever supposed to have to do.

What is wrong with this world? Another young life gone too soon.

Second gay teen this month takes his life — another case of anti-gay bullying

LGBTQ Nation • Thursday, October 21, 2010 • Comments (3)

Teen suicides within the LGBT community continue at an alarming rate — todayLGBTQ Nation has learned of another recent victim of anti-gay bullying.

Terrel Williams

Terrel Williams, a 17-year-old native of Beverly Hills, CA, took his life on October 13, just hours after being attacked by five other high school students, and pushed and thrown into a brick wall at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, WA.

Terrel’s mother, Cheryl Williams, found her son in their Lakewood home — he had hanged himself in his bedroom closet. Terrel left a suicide note:

“I’m sorry to my immediate loved ones, but I feel suicide is the only way out. I felt coming out, and being happy with Daric, was the best thing I could’ve ever done. But I didn’t think it would lead to my death at an early age.

“Today, was the record worst day of my life, some kids at school stole some of my stuff that I got from people I really cared about, and that really pushed me over the top, next to being shoved into a wall, and my ribs being broken.”

Terrel’s boyfriend, Daric Rawr, told LGBTQ Nation that following the incident on Oct. 13, Terrel had to be picked up and brought home from school. Daric said he was unaware of the attack and was on his way to Terrel’s home to attend a family dinner when Terrel’s mother called to tell him she had found her son hanging in his closet.

In a statement posted on Terrel’s Twitter page on Wednesday, Cheryl Williams wrote:

My son meant the world, and high school bullies pushed him over the edge. I hope and pray, that no other child ever has to go through what he did. Bullying isn’t worth it. Why can’t people just be nice?

This Saturday would have been Terrel’s 18th birthday, and the 7th anniversary of Terrel’s and Daric’s relationship.

The boys met and became friends when they were 10 and 9 years old, respectively. “We began as play dates, like anybody else would, and as we got older into the teen years, his parents allowed us to give dating a shot,” said Daric, who is now 16 years old.

“Terrel was a compassionate, fun loving, outgoing person who enjoyed life to the fullest,” said Daric.

“He loved life, but felt the need to take it, because [the bullying] didn’t stop … respectful, whole hearted people like Terrel, and the growing number of others, shouldn’t have to feel suicide is the answer, because bullies won’t stop.”

To date, there has not been any formal action yet from the school district in regards to the bullying incident.

On September 31, Terrel suffered a gunshot wound to the chest while visiting New York City in what appeared to be an attempted mugging.

Terrel’s death is the second reported suicide this month among gay teens, and follows an epidemic of LGBT suicides reported in the past 6 weeks. In September, at least 6 teens teens committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying and intolerance.

Yesterday we reported that 19-year-old Corey Jackson, of Warren, MI, was found in a wooded area of the Oakland University campus in Rochester, MI. The Oakland County medical examiner confirmed Corey’s death was also a suicide by hanging.

 

On Being GLBT* and Living with a Disability by PD

On Being GLBT* and Living with a Disability

I’ve been wondering what to write for the “We Got Your Back” project. Neo Prodigy wrote a great essay (reposted here), which has a lot of generally-useful information as well as information targeted at teens of color. I wanted to expand on it with some thoughts for disabled teens. I use “GLBT*” as an acronym covering Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexed, Questioning, and other non-mainstream forms of gender and sexual expression (I’m a geek, so of course I’d use an asterisk as a wildcard character).

As a note, if the tips below sound like I’m equating homophobia with some forms of violence and abuse? I am. In that vein, I have taken the liberty of adapting knowledge from domestic violence advocacy in developing this advice, including some relevant links. I do this because I’m more concerned with helping people who will be endangered by coming out than in only offering uplifting advice (though I offer some of that, too).

You Are Beautiful

As disabled people, we are often taught that our disabilities make us undesirable. Being GLBT* often adds another cultural message of unlovability to this equation. In my own experience, the diversity of tastes that humans have is so broad and expansive that everyone has something about them that someone else will find beautiful. There is no sound basis to believe that you will “always be alone” when it comes to love and relationships, unless that is specifically what you want.

Your Body, Your Self

You have a right to be sexual, and to decide when, how, and if you want to exercise that sexuality. This is true regardless of your sexual orientation, but it cannot be reinforced enough: Your body is yours. No one else has the automatic right to decide what to do with it.

Unfortunately, disabled people are at extremely high risk of abuse of all kinds: sexual, physical, emotional, and so on. If you a survivor of abuse, I strongly encourage you to find someone to talk to: a trusted adult, members of the clergy, a therapist, or even a support hotline.

Continue reading

Ann’s story

For a long time (over 10 years), my historical narrative skipped from
fall of 1997 to fall of 1998 (fall of 8th grade to fall of 9th grade,
for reference). Spring of 1998, the concluding term of my 8th grade
year, didn’t happen. I did not think about it, I did not care to
remember anything that happened that semester, I actively refused to
admit that it existed.

I was a weird kid, I admit that: awkward, too shy for my own good (and
social-wellbeing), ugly and skinny-chubby in that A Rush of Estrogen
to the Hips kind of way, and, worst of all, admittedly naive with my
own sexuality… not to mention the sexual temperature of the average
American eighth grader. I knew the words they were using when they
called me “lesbo” and “homo”, and I knew they were “scary”, but I
didn’t know why they were so very wrong.
Continue reading

A message from Jamie

Originally submitted for the It Gets Better Project, Jamie shared his video for We Got Your Back.

Thank you for sharing your story!

David Urqhart

Mr. Urqhart shared this video with us, originally done for the IDAHO exhibit in Sydney, Australia earlier in the year.

 

Thank you again for sharing this video David.

11 facts about school bullying from Do Something

11 facts about school bullying

  1. An estimated 2 out of 3 teens are verbally or physically harassed or assaulted every year.
  2. The most common reason cited for being harassed is a student’s appearance or body size. 2 out of 5 teens feel that they are bullied because of the way that they look.
  3. One-third of teens are harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
  4. 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% percent of the time.
  5. A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim.
  6. 64% of American school principals say that student who is a racial minority would feel safe at their school.
  7. Physical bullying peak in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse rates remain constant from elementary to high school.
  8. Researchers feel that schools should not be treated as part of growing up (with the attitude “kids will be kids”).
  9. 41% of principals say they have programs designed to create a safe environment for LGBT students, but only 1/3 of principals say that LGBT students would feel safe at their school.
  10. 57% of students who experience harassment in school never report the incident to the school. 10% of those who do not report stay quiet because they do not believe that teachers or staff can do anything.
  11. Schools with easily understood rules of conduct, smaller class sizes and fair discipline practices report less violence than those without such features.
  12. Sources: NASP, The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network,

It Gets Different: An Essay from Marianne Kirby of The Rotund

 

I can’t actually promise anyone it will get better. And I think it would be, with the lived experience of my life, disingenuous to try. And I’m not going to lie to anyone: it doesn’t always get better.

But it does get… different. That might not seem like much, especially when you are on the low side of down, but it means everything to me.

Bullies are trying to exert their power over someone else. I’m not entirely sure why that feels good for some people – though I sometimes think it is to make up for a lack of power in other areas of their lives, I tend to shy away from pat, universal answers. Sometimes people are just cruel people.

That doesn’t go away when you’re an adult.

But here is what happens: When you’re playing an RP game, and you first start out, there are these enemies at the beginning of the game who seem impossible. All you’ve got is, like, a flashlight, if that, and you don’t know where you are or what to do. You fight those enemies and sometimes they wound you gravely and you limp along avoiding other fights until you find something that will heal you. You repeat the process, and you level up.

You keep leveling up until, when you go back and fight those early monsters, they seem like a cakewalk in comparison. The enemy isn’t changed at all – they are still the same low-hit-point ridiculous monsters they were at the beginning of your campaign. But you have changed. You’ve survived in spite of them and sometimes you even get to deliver a hearty fuck you in the midst of it all.

That’s very satisfying, I’m not gonna lie.

Read the rest of the great, geeky, and wise essay at the Rotund!

Queer and Loathing: Does the Foster System Bully Gay, I mean Trans Kids?

Mother Jones has published a heart-breaking article about the bullying of LGBTQIA kids in the foster system. The article tells the story of a teenager named Kenneth and the struggle to find an accepting foster family. Kenneth has good grades, no criminal record, and is coping with the challenges in his life well. But when he brought home his first date, here’s what happened.

James, Kenneth’s foster father, returned to the apartment one night to find the boys talking and laughing in the front room. The introductions immediately turned into what Kenneth calls a “life-or-death situation.”

James wasn’t blind to his foster son’s sexuality. The young man was decidedly out—preaching tolerance at school assemblies, appearing on teen panels, and advocating gay pride in rainbow pamphlets. He even showed up to court hearings wearing lipstick. Privately, though, James dismissed all of it as a phase. And Kenneth, to avoid rocking the boat, had downplayed his sexuality at home—until now.

When James—a retired demolition worker with missing front teeth and a heavyweight’s body—saw Kenneth with his date, he grew livid. “What are you doing bringing a boy into my house?” he screamed, according to Kenneth. He ordered them out, but the boy stood his ground. James got up in his face. “I’ll kick your asses,” he threatened. Taking him at his word, the couple fled, with James chasing them down the stairs and out the door. The boyfriend called 911.

This night began Kenneth’s struggle to find a new foster family.  I hope that you’ll read the rest of the article.  If you do, you may notice something that I noticed.  Through out the article, Kenneth’s gender expression is mentioned – Kenneth paints his nails and wears lipstick.  Kenneth’s mannerisms are described as feminine.  My ears perked up.  Is Kenneth just a femme gay boy or is this an example of a transkid being assumed to be gay because too few people think that a teenager could be transgender?   Of course, only Kenneth can clear up this question.  But then I read the last line of the article:  “After the New Year,[Kenneth]  settled on the solution [for the state's inability to find an appropriate foster family]—a sex change. He’d been considering it for a year and had enrolled in the required counseling sessions at a local clinic, but only now could he articulate his reason for wanting to reboot his identity: He would be safer as a woman. “I’m getting really tired,” Kenneth explains. “I don’t have no other options left.”

I’m not going to draw conclusions about someone else’s gender identity. But this article left me feeling sad for more than one reason.   It’s clear that trans issues need to be in the consciousness of LGBTQIA folks advocating for teenagers in the foster system, journalists writing about queer issues, and everyone involved in the foster care system.   The lives of young people like Kenneth depend on it.  And making that change can start with us at the We Got Your Back Project.

When a youth-services nonprofit surveyed its 246 foster families, it found only 21 who were willing to accept a gay teenager.  Imagine what the numbers might have been for trans-teenagers.  I hope you’ll share your thoughts about this article and the larger issue here or on our facebook page.

Yours,

Joy

Gay Teen Endured a Daily Gauntlet

Gay teen endured a daily gantlet

As a gentle child grew into adolescence, the taunts and bullying intensified. Finally, Seth Walsh couldn’t take any more.

October 08, 2010|By Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times

When Seth Walsh came home from school, he would open the gate to a chain-link fence, walk beneath a tall red oak tree and be greeted by five dogs and two cats.

Seth lived with two brothers and a sister, four children from three fathers who were seldom around, supported by their mother who worked long hours as a hairdresser. Their home was a rental, a few blocks from Tehachapi’s main street.

He was 13, and in the eyes of his grandparents, Jim and Judy Walsh, he was just a normal kid, pushing into adolescence. They looked forward to watching him grow up and never imagined that the harassment he experienced as a gay teenager, or his suicide, would resonate across the country.

Seth’s mother, Wendy, is guarding her privacy, lost in grief, and his friends are keeping quiet at their parents’ instructions. Only Jim and Judy are willing to share their memories.

They want to make sure their grandson isn’t remembered only as “the gay kid who hung himself,” so they tell stories about a bright and precocious child who enjoyed playing with their dog, Bambi, and who liked the Jonas Brothers and Magic Mountain.

“When he smiled,” Jim says, “he smiled with his whole face. His eyes twinkled. It wasn’t just the smile. You got it from the eyes and the beaming of the face. He really meant that smile for you.”

Judy and Jim still laugh over his tastes. He colored his hair blond on occasion and wore it with a long swoop that partly covered his eyes. Judy took him shopping once, and he went to the girl’s department to find pants with tapered legs. He added a vest, and a few months later she noticed the style everywhere.

His favorite songs were Nat King Cole’s “Smile” and Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea,” and he listened to Mozart in the shower. His favorite stop in Bakersfield was Barnes & Noble; he liked James Herriot’s books about animals.

He was a gentle child, they say, who preferred to “relocate bugs” rather than kill them, who made sure his younger brother got his share of Easter eggs and who once apologized to a bed of flowers when he picked one and placed it on the grave of the family dog.

But the Walshes realize that Seth’s gentleness made him a target, and they recall listening to Wendy as she shared her worries about Seth and what he had to endure.

Continue reading

Some stats on bullying & lgbtq youth

While doing more reading and searching for articles to mention/link to here, I came across the following statistics from Campus Pride:Q Research Institute for Higher Education‘s 2010 Campus Climate study.(1) *Stats listed below taken from the CNN.comm article, “Why did Tyler Clementi Die?”

– Twenty-three percent of staff, faculty, and students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ) were more likely to experience harassment (defined as any conduct that interfered with the ability to work or learn) compared to heterosexuals. Eighty-three percent identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment.

– Thirty-nine percent of transgender students, faculty and staff experienced harassment, with 87 percent identifying their gender identity/expression as the basis for the harassment. The form of the harassment experienced by transgender people was more overt and blatant, according to the report.

– Thirty-three percent of LGBQ and 38 percent of transgender students, faculty and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.

– Forty-three percent of LGBQ and 63 percent of transgender faculty, students and staff hide their sexual identity.

– Forty-three percent of all transgender students, faculty and staff and 13 percent of LGBQ respondents feared for their physical safety. This finding was more pronounced for LGBQ students and for LGBQ and/or transgender people of color.

I bolded the last part above because I think that there is still a lack of understanding of LGBTQ issues amongst and regarding people of color. That is one of the reasons we started this project, so that everyone can be heard, and no one will feel as if their story isn’t welcome or will be lost amongst the masses.

Please, take note of these disturbing statistics and make your voice heard, be it in word or by video, we need your stories to make this project a success.

(1) – You can purchase a copy of the study from QIRHE, at their site.