Gay bullying is an extremely troubling issue that every LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) teenager or adult has likely endured at some point. From being pelted with hateful words to actual physical violence, the gay community is often exposed to tactics of fear and intimidation, forced to bear the brunt of society’s hate and ignorance.
The effects of this bullying cannot be overstated, and the wounds are so very difficult to heal. LGBT teens are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and they are 140 percent more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. Despite these high rates of bullying, suicide, and substance abuse, relatively few schools have stepped forward to address this issue with support programs for their LGBT students. In fact, a recent survey found that only 18 percent of schools have support programs and anti-gay violence programs in place to protect their students.
In the past year or so, there have been a number of suicides that stemmed from the constant, unrelenting bullying that students were forced to face at school. (You likely heard of the Rutgers student who killed himself by jumping off a bridge when his roommate secretly filmed him having sex with another male and then sent the video around to friends.) Part of the problem, besides the lack of support on campus, is also the lack of support at home. Some teachers and administrators don’t want to get involved because they fear such a position would enrage conservative parents and school-board members, and a recent survey found that 85 percent of teachers do not support bringing gay rights or LGBT themes into their curricula.
No wonder teens feel so lost, frightened, and alone. Luckily, there are things we can all do to stem the tide of bullying and restore peace to schools and students everywhere. Consider the following:
If you see something, say something. It is everyone’s right and everyone’s responsibility to promote safety and security within their own schools and communities. If you see someone being bullied, even if it is by one of your friends, you should speak up and say something to stop things from going any further. If you are scared to get involved, find a friend, teacher, or parent you can trust and speak up about what is going on. As the saying goes, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.
Be proactive. If your school doesn’t have a LGBT program or a gay-straight alliance group, consider starting one of your own. Go to DoSomething.Org to learn how, and don’t be afraid to be vocal about your beliefs on campus. Many kids will want to get involved when they hear what your group is about, especially as more and more beloved popular figures, such as Lady Gaga, go public with support for gay youth.
Take care of yourself. If you are being bullied, please do not suffer in silence. You are not alone, and if your life or well-being is being threatened, your parents and teachers need to know about it. Furthermore, don’t turn to alcohol or drugs for support and solace. Doing so will only further complicate your life and hurt you even more deeply. You are too important to stay silent or to self-medicate with drugs. Find your voice, and use it! You will be so glad you did.
For more information and help, contact the Human Rights Campaign.