Tag Archives: harassment

Bullying and Suicide

cmimg_74970Bullying is an extremely complicated — and emotional topic. There is some conflicting evidence out there and it is hard to figure out what is really true about bullying. This article helps us understand some of the science and research behind bullying. This includes that those who are bullied are at higher risk for mental health problems, including suicide. And, those from minority groups such as LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be bullied. While there has been some backlash to the topic of bullying, it is important to not lose sight of the very real and horrible impact that severe and chronic bullying can have upon youth who are already made vulnerable through being part of a targeted group. Read more at Oxford Univerisity Press’s article Youth suicide and bullying: what’s the connection?


Queer Youth & Cyberbullying: Suprising Statistics

Technology can be great and we’ve all benefited from increased contact with our loved ones.   Most of the young people I work with say they like being in touch with friends and family over the internet. Facebook, Twitter and texting are an integral part of their social lives. However, cyberbullying also means that anti-LGBTQ slurs can hurt young people at any time of the day or night in the place they should be able to feel safe — at home.  And, combine this with being closeted to parents or feeling ashamed or responsible for being bullied and you have a set up for trauma.  Although it can be hard to spot, we need to look closely for all of the places that our youth can be bullied and hurt.

CNET wrote a great piece on the cyberbullying of LGBTQ youth and the surprising statistics from a recent study:

A recent Iowa State University study surveyed 444 youth ages 11 to 22, including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects and 94 people who identify sympathetically with LGBT youth, often called straight allies. The study found that 54 percent of these youths report being cyberbullied within the 30-day period prior to the survey–either about their sexual identities or for their identification with LGBT people. The next highest percentage is among females, 21 percent of whom report being cyberbullied about their gender…

Read the rest of the story here

Think Before You Speak

Click Here

Amazing Video: Just Say No to “That’s So Gay”

Inspiring message, awesome music by Will.i.am and a connection to the civil rights movement.  What else do you need? Students who are bullied because of their real or perceived sexual orientation are subject to harassment and violence to the point where they miss more school than most other students.  They experience depression, anxiety and traumatic reactions.  It is time to stop stop saying “That’s so gay,” even if you’re not talking about a person.

Colors by Will.i.am

Stand for life
Stand for true
Stand for somethin’
Don’t fall for nothin’

Stand for love
Stand for power
Stand for somethin’
Don’t fall for nothin’

Stand for me
Stand for you

Stand for somethin’
Don’t fall for nothin’

Don’t fall for nothin’
Don’t fall for nothin’

Stand for life
Stand for true
Stand for somethin’
Don’t fall for nothin’

Huffington Post — Be Who You Are

As many youth excitedly or reluctantly begin a new year of school, some queer youth feel more trepidation than they should.  For them, school can be a scary, violent place where they experience harassment on a regular basis for being non-heterosexual.  Here is an inspiring piece from the Huffington Post on your right to be who you are in school and be safe from harassment and bullying.

Online Producer and blogger at Campaign for America’s Future.

Posted: August 5, 2009 03:08 PM

School will soon start again, and countless LGBT youth will return to classrooms all over the country. Some will return to schools where they find support and protection from harassment — where administrators and teachers work together to ensure a safe learning environment to all students.

Some won’t.

Some students will return to schools where officials turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment. Some will face administrators who tell them “it’s only words and words can’t hurt you”. Some will return to schools in communities where people oppose protecting LGBT students from harassment. Some will contend with people who believe some students should be harassed — and that some harassment should be permitted — “for their own good.”

Some of those students will make it, but some won’t.

Some will have no one to stand up for them, or to show them how to stand up for themselves.

I hope someone tells them about Rochelle Hamilton.

From The San Francisco Chronicle :
“A high school student who says that she was harassed by her teachers in 2007, because she is a lesbian has won a legal settlement from the Vallejo City Unified School District, officials confirmed Monday.

Under the agreement, the district will pay $25,000 to Rochelle Hamilton, 16, who had come out as a lesbian at age 13. The district will also bolster its anti-gay-discrimination training and complaint procedures for all staff and students and be monitored by the American Civil Liberties Union for five years.

… Rochelle began attending Vallejo’s Jesse Bethel High School as a sophomore in the fall of 2007, and was accosted with verbal harassment that continued for months. Most of the attacks, she said, came from her teachers and school staff.

According to Rochelle, a teacher approached while she was hugging her girlfriend and said, “This is ungodly, and you’re going to hell.”

Another teacher allegedly asked her, “What are you, a man or a woman?

She was required to participate in a school-sponsored “counseling” group designed to discourage students from being lesbian or gay.”

I hope they have adults like Cheri Hamilton in their lives.

From New Media America :
So tell me, what’s this journey been like for you?

Cheri: It has been long and painful. With the support from De-Bug and the ACLU, I felt I finally had people who understood our pain. I had to write many letters and make many phone calls, not allowing the district to run from this. Every issue Rochelle faced and every tear she dropped, I brought it to their attention.

Meanwhile, I held Rochelle, reminding her that nothing was wrong with her, that she was beautiful inside and out. As Rochelle asked me why the teachers wouldn’t stop, I reminded her what her father and I endured for being a black and white couple, and if we would have given in to a hateful society then she wouldn’t be here. As Rochelle listened, she realized that she also had to stand up for herself and others. I was not backing down and reminded the school administrators that my daughter has a right to be herself and receive an education in their district. While Rochelle grabbed her strength from me and as I counseled her through every putdown, she gained strength, and became a shoulder or a ear for LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer) friends wanting to offer any support that they needed. It reminded her how important it was for her to continue the fight for change.

What was the school’s reaction to the case and to Rochelle? Were at least any of them sympathetic or apologetic to Rochelle?

Cheri: The school and the district chose to be sympathetic, but (they were) not willing to apologize. The settlement agreement speaks loudly. Rochelle and I have not focused on a pacified five-letter word “SORRY,” but rather we fought for a six-letter word: “CHANGE.” That was our goal, and we won what we really wanted, to make Vallejo a safer learning environment for all students.

Is there a message you have for other parents of gay teens who have to go through this and don’t know what to do?

Cheri: Always have the will! You are your child’s voice! They are not heard unless you speak. Always be proud of your kids and remember how special they are. Smiles last forever in a mother’s heart. Listen to your kids and find out what is going on at their school, who their teachers are, and if your child is complaining, upset or withdrawn, find out why.

I hope someone shares with them her words of encouragement.

From the Blog of Rights:
A gay friend told me recently that his teacher said to him, “You just want to be a girl.” I told him to write a complaint. I was so proud that now there’s something we can do. There are too many students who are harassed. Students have rights too. Young people are strong. We have a voice. There are students like me all over California who are working to make their schools and their lives better. When something is wrong, we need to stand up and make a difference. Young people like me, we’re not looking for a five letter word, “sorry.” We’re looking for a six letter word: “change.”

I go to school to learn, but the experience of standing up for myself and for my rights taught me some important lessons.

Lesson Number One: Students can take a stand against adults who discriminate. And they can win. Even when those adults are teachers.

Lesson Number Two: I have the right to be myself. You have the right to be yourself. We all have the right.

So this is my message to everybody else being discriminated against: keep fighting, be who you are ’till the day you die, always stand up for yourself. Or, as I say in a poem I wrote: “I’m happy with my sexuality and I say it with pride you see because this is my life and this is me.”

I can tell you from my own experience that they really need to hear it.

It can make all the difference in the world.

Young, Queer and Terrorized

On Halloween in 1998 I decided not to go out to the party-in-the-streets extravaganza that is Halloween in The Castro.  It was just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming and although I lived in San Francisco, the world no longer seemed like a safe place to be out, queer and playing on a night that is traditionally about hauntings, restless spirits and unfinished business.

I wasn’t the only person that felt this way.  In one of the “Gay Meccas” of the world, a shadow had fallen, and it wasn’t the first.  That shadow could be described as trauma — or an experience of coming in direct or indirect contact with an event that terrorizes and renders you helpless.  Judith Herman, in her highly respected book on trauma, Trauma and Recovery states that “Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force.” Trauma is when you fear for your life and there is nothing you can do about it.  The mind’s response to trauma — anxiety, vigilance, numbing, disconnection and intrusive thoughts of the event — are the way that the mind attempts to “keep us safe” from re-experiencing the event, but never really allows us to integrate what has happened.  When this persists, it is called “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD).

Trauma strikes the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways.  On August 1st, two young people were murdered and about 15 others badly injured when a gunman opened fire on a group of LGBTQ youth at a Tel Aviv gay centerReports roll in of friends and family of the young people standing vigil, waiting for news of their injured loved ones.  Certainly those that were present at that attack will suffer the effects of trauma.

What of the young people who, each day they attend school, fear for physical harm and threats of physical harm because of their real or assumed sexual orientation?  GLSEN reports that 4 out of 5 gay youth experience harassment at school.

When we hear of violence against LGBTQ youth such as the murders of Angie Zapata, Lawrence King, Matthew Shepard, Sakia Gunn, and the Tel Aviv youth we can experience trauma as well.  When we’re exposed over and over to the video of the “exorcism” of a young gay man that became so physically intense that he vomited, or to pictures of the aftermath of a ant-gay murder, we can experience trauma.  Although it hasn’t happened directly to us, it is a threat to our lives.  “When,” we might wonder, “will I say the wrong thing, be in the wrong area, encounter the wrong people and be the next victim?” We are helpless to prevent this violence although many of us try by hiding ourselves: refusing to hold hands with a partner in public, not showing up to events, keeping our identity a secret, trying to dress and act in ways that are as gender-normative as we can manage. We trade ourselves for a modicum of safety.

When youth are threatened daily at school, when you avoid certain areas, are afraid to hold hands in public, or narrowly miss a bottle being thrown at you, when you hear on a regular basis of horrifying crimes against those like you, this has an impact on your health, your wellness and your life.

Hate crime is terrorism.  It is terrorism because it creates an entire class of people who live in fear.  Emotional trauma contributes to PTSD When the airwaves are full of talk of “gay marriage” (which suddenly sounds frivolous when we contemplate the deaths of young people) we might forget that acceptance of LGBTQ people is a life and death issue.  LGBTQ youth everywhere experience fear, trauma and even terror on a daily basis.  The mind’s response to that trauma is anxiety, depression, isolation, withdrawal, constriction of emotion, inability to sleep, relationship difficulty, anger and agitation, failure to attend class or missing work and at times, suicidal or self-harming behavior.

Whether we live in fear because we have seen the horrifying pictures, because our own safety is regularly threatened or even because we’re alert at all times to possible danger as a result of homophobia in our culture, terror against LGBTQ youth exacts an enormous price.  The price is our ability to be healthy and happy and worse, the lives of our young people.

If you’ve experienced or been exposed to violence or emotional trauma and experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nighmares, extreme jumpiness, emotional numbness, intrusive memories, loss of memory of the event, feeling that you will never live a normal life-span, irritability, weepiness, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek professional help.  There are many effective treatments for PTSD.  Read more about PTSD here. PTSD Support Services is also a helpful resource.

Chicago may get ‘gay-friendly’ high school – CNN.com

Chicago may get ‘gay-friendly’ high school – CNN.com.

One solution to harassment of LGBTQ students in schools is having “gay friendly” high schools.  The Harvey Milk High School, in New York City is one such example.  It might seem like a complicated solution to a harassment problem but when you consider that 39 states do not have laws against harassment for sexual orientation, it begins to seem essential to ensure safety for all of our students.