Thursday, October 14, 2010

Council Response to Recent National Youth Suicides - Protecting our LGBTQQ and Straight Youth

All youth should feel safe and be able to live openly with the support they need to reach their full potential.

At our Council meeting last night, I asked for consensus to work-up a response for our Trinidad City Council to the recent national stories of anti-gay bullying and tragic suicides of perceived and self-identified gay youth. I'm gathering information and would appreciate any suggestions you have.

Our LGBTQQ youth (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning) are specially protected in school by California Legislation which prohibits their denigration on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity - the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act (AB 537), the Safe Place to Learn Act (AB 394), and the Student Civil Rights Act (SB 777).

LGBTQQ foster youth are protected here by Foster Youth School Safety Education (AB 3015) and the California Foster Care Non-discrimination Act (AB 458). The California Juvenile Justice Safety and Protection Act (SB 518) protects all youth from discrimination in state Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.

Recently, our governor signed the The Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Act (SB 543). It permits California youth ages 12-17 to obtain services without parental permission. LGBTQQ youth no longer face coming out to their parents prematurely and without support to get help. Without such support, some would face emotionally damaging and sometimes physically threatening situations at home.

Young bullies often identify with a parent or other adults who are bullies. Adults expressing negative views of LGBTQQ people send a dangerous message that leads directly to harassment, bullying, and violence against LGBTQQ youth. We need to unequivocally condemn the expression of negative views of LGBTQQ people as biased, unacceptable, and wrong.

Supportive residents, please be the best example for our youth - watch what you say and don't say, get involved, and help protect youth nationwide by urging Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

As for me, I respectfully offer that if someone is being bullied or is a bully, I will help. I want the best for all our youth and I’m going to do what I need to do to give them the best possible future.

Please also see my previous post on this issue " Getting Better ... Bullies Are Sad and Weak " for more of my POV, additional information and resources.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting Better ... Bullies Are Sad and Weak

Being young is challenging. Being young and different can be overwhelming. Being young and gay can be deadly.

Nothing's Wrong!

Being different means being special. Discovering you are different may at first feel like a burden. Out of fear and inexperience, you may want to avoid or hide your difference. Out of fear and inexperience, others may want you to do the same. Some may even try to control you because they feel and fear similar feelings themselves.

Bullies are ashamed of their feelings. They immaturely "act out" their shame and pain by abusing others and themselves. There's hope! As we grow up, we learn the ability to express our fears, release our shame and solve our conflicts more constructively. There is nothing wrong with being different and being who you are. There is something very wrong with abusing others for being different.

What can you do?

If you're hurt and ashamed of being different, what can you do? Embrace your difference, reach out and find your support, and when it's safe, share yourself. You are all right and there is nothing wrong with you. When you discover that, any pain or fear you have will turn into joy.

If you're being bullied, what can you do? Bullies turn their fear and hurt into anger. Being bullied, you may impulsively get angry. Stop. If you turn your hurt feelings into anger, you'll be just like them. How can you stop getting angry? Have compassion. Remember bullies have been hurt by themselves or others. Remember they haven't learned the ability to express themselves appropriately. If compassion doesn't help, take another look at them. They are probably foolishly funny, so go ahead and laugh at them. Laugh to yourself if they are bigger though - haha. It's hard to get angry when you're laughing.

Like feeling strong? Have you ever stood up for someone who is different and being bullied? How did that feel? How did everyone react? Sometimes it takes just a few kind words to remind ourselves, and each other, that no one deserves to be hurt for who they are. A bully needs an audience or they have no power. Do not be that audience. Hold them accountable for their behavior and use compassion to help.

How can you help?

Whether you are bullying someone or bullying yourself, we all innately know that it is wrong. But why is bullying also stupid? Bullying only makes you feel worse. Help the bullies! By denying bullies an audience and some fast, false relief, you can help them. They will have to learn healthier behaviors to deal with their feelings. If people are in so much pain that they hurt others or themselves, they need your help!

To kids out there who sometimes feel alone and overwhelmed and desperate, you are not alone. As a young person, I experienced all sides of bullying. Bullying, whether it is physical or psychological, has to always be unacceptable. If you are being bullied, there are good people who care and want to help. I am one of them.

Show your support for those who fear it might get worse. For teens, check out the Make It Better site and start now! Watch some of my favorite It Gets Better Project video links and share your favorites. Visit and promote important resources for anyone who is afraid or would like to learn more and be supportive. Please send me links to sites and resources that you'd like to share or promote.

You Win!

Remember, if you turn your hurt feelings into anger, you'll be just like them. Transform your hurt, shame, and anger into joy and guess what? You win!

Some It Gets Better Project Videos

Tyler Oakley: Who am I to say your life is going to improve ... it gets better but only if we make it get better ...

Chris Colfer A world full of acceptance and love just waiting for you to find it ...

Michael Urie: Bullies aren't bullies forever ...
Jake Shears: No matter how hard your life feels ...
Zach: Humiliation in public and at home ...
Ty: Bullies aren't tuff they're ignorant ...
Jewel: Nobody should feel bad about themselves for how they are born

Resources- Sites:

The Trevor Project

Make It Better Project

It Gets Better

Give A Damn

Bullies to Buddies

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Resources- Pages:

Judy Shepard, We Must All Protect Youth from Suicide

PBS Kids, It's My Life, Bullies: What is Bullying? Page

PFLAG, Claim Your Rights Video

ABC News: Tyler Clementi's death brings attention to rise in suicides among gay youths

Towleroad Tragedy of Gay Teen Suicide: A Roundup Page

Fox59 Report, Indiana Teen Suicide After Antigay Bullying LA report: "Oklahoma gay teen takes his own life" and the Norman Transcript report, "North Grad Took Own Life After Week of 'Toxic' Comments".

Facebook (need to be logged in): R.I.P. ;; In memory of the recent suicides due to gay abuse, wear purple. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools. RIP Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas. You are loved.

My Inspiration:

Judy Shepard from We Must All Protect Youth from Suicide
... we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay.