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Spreading bullying and harassment awareness

10/18/2010 – 11:12
By:

McKenzie Morrell

Staff Writer

Flabbergasted-a word that seems to sum up my initial reaction to the alarming rise in teen suicides this year due to sexual orientation. To my knowledge, there have been six cases featured in the news, but I’m sure many more go unnoticed in the media and quite frankly this is unacceptable. I’m appalled that our society chose to wait for a tragedy like this to happen before it addressed bullying and recognized it as a growing issue.

In hopes of spreading awareness in the community I have reached out to celebrities as well as public figures in the LGBT community and compiled some of their responses during our interviews in relation to the topic.

Sarah Colonna, a comedian seen frequently on E!’s “Chelsea Lately,” spoke on behalf of the growing epidemic.

“Being bullied for being who you are is unacceptable. Sadly, those who do the bullying are much more insecure and lost than you are. They are seeking others’ approval by acting out against someone’s lifestyle that they don’t understand,” said Colonna. “As long as you are being true to who you are, nobody can tell you it is wrong.”

Natalie Garcia, a blogger on Sho.com, an extension of the new series “The Real L Word,” spread her message to gay or gay questioning youth.

“I think that with all the recent suicides, it shows me how important coming out is. So teens know that they aren’t ‘freaks’ or alone. The more of us that live in our everyday truth, the more we can change intolerance and stop violence,” said Garcia. “Being ‘you’ and loving yourself is sometimes the only thing a person has. So do it with all your love.”

Out comedian Bridget McManus told me that as a teen she was bullied because she was gay. In addition she lost friends, and for a short period of time her mother refused to speak to her because of her sexuality.

When she was a freshman in college she called a suicide hotline because she felt so alone.

“If you are ever feeling lost and want to harm yourself, tell someone. There are tremendous organizations that want to help you. There are LGBT centers throughout the country, there are suicide hotlines, there are online communities such as the lesbian website AfterEllen.com and the gay brother site AfterElton.com,” said McManus. “Thirteen years ago I felt lost and today I am married to a terrific woman. I am a success story and proof that being gay is a great gift.”

Promoting the fact that there are people and places that you can go to talk to so you don’t feel alone seems to reach a wide audience. But if for some reason you don’t feel comfortable with some of the support systems in your area, there are other ways to decrease the feeling of being alone.

Jen Foster, a singer/songwriter, shared the gift of her experience by making available a free download of her new song on her website.

“My new song, ‘THIS IS ME,’ was inspired by the ‘coming out’ conversation I had at age 17 with my parents. It was a tough conversation in 1986, and it saddens me that it still has to be such a tough subject in general for kids to approach their parents with. It’s 2010,” said Foster, “and it’s time for us to have compassion for each others’ struggles to find our true selves. Bullying and hatred never accomplishes anything.”

I believe that there are some crucial steps in order to prevent bullying in our society. Haviland Stillwell, an actress recently seen in the Lifetime movie “The Client List” with Jennifer Love Hewitt spoke of this next step.

“Awareness is paramount,” said Stillwell. “Kids have to know that there are adult allies who are listening and paying attention to what’s going on around them. There has to be a zero tolerance policy for harassment. Administrators, teachers and parents must promote honesty, self-love, and acceptance of others. If you love who you are and who you are evolving into, you have no reason to bully someone else.”

The fight for equality for all has become a tremendous struggle throughout the past several years. It has enraged and saddened many LGBT people whose voices just aren’t being heard.

Rachael Hip-Flores, star of the web series “Anyone But Me” expressed her feelings towards the issue.

“I’m genuinely embarrassed that this level of bullying exists,” said Hip-Flores. “The thought that LGBTQ people are somehow less than, somehow worthy of hatred and malice is positively terrifying. We need to conquer this homophobia, and we need to do it now.”

I think we all should realize bullying isn’t going away. It affects or has affected someone at some point in his or her lives, so let’s do something about it. Prevent it. Minimize the destruction.

Each voice expressed in this article makes a difference and could potentially change the lives of people reading it. I hope that with this coverage I’ve been able to reach out to someone struggling, or perhaps fueled the fire under the rest of you and you’ll reach out, help others and spread awareness on this very real and important issue. Take a stand because we can’t afford to be silent any longer.

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