Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– At least six teens have taken their own lives in recent weeks to escape the torment of persistent bullying at the hands of their classmates. In each case, these teens were targeted because they were or were perceived to be gay. Their friends recounted many instances when they were taunted with anti-gay slurs, harmed physically and told to “kill [themselves].” In the Bronx, teenagers were subjected to violence for the perception of being gay.
This is never OK. We—as a community and as a nation—cannot allow this to happen. We cannot accept a society that forces anyone to think of themselves as less of a person simply because of who they are.
We must insist that our young people, regardless of how they identify, feel affirmed and accepted everywhere. Though schools are not the only places where youth can become victims of bullying, our efforts there are especially important. Our schools—of every size, grade level and location—are the primary backdrop for bullying of LGBT teens.
These tragic incidents are a direct consequence of failures in our education system to address school bullying. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly nine out of ten LGBT youth report being bullied in school. LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
Whether the educators at these teens’ schools were ill-equipped to recognize the signs of bullying or unwilling to intervene when they suspected their students were being bullied, the deaths of these six young people speak to the dangers of our inaction. Even when teachers want to intervene, many states lack clearly-defined anti-bullying policies that empower teachers to stop bullying in their classrooms.
But the causes of these incidents run still deeper. Bullying of LGBT youth occurs because LGBT people continue to be demonized and scapegoated in much of our culture. Hatred is not created in a vacuum, and bullies act on what they are taught. If we truly hope to end bullying of LGBT youth, we need to end the odious pattern of teaching intolerance in our schools, homes, churches and everywhere else.
Center on Halsted offers community programs that both bring comfort to victims of bullying and also work to address the systemic issues that make anti-LGBT bullying permissible. Through direct services, the Center offers support and guidance for LGBT youth and their families.
The Center’s Youth Program provides a safe space, guidance and programming for LGBT youth from all walks of life. The Anti-Violence Project links offers both a 24-hour crisis line and counseling for victims of bias-motivated abuse.* Mental Health services at Center on Halsted afford clients the opportunity to work with a counselor sensitive to the needs of LGBT clients.
The Center’s education, training and advocacy initiatives engage educators, public officials, youth and parents in an effort to make everyone understand the dire consequences of endorsing hate. Through the Anti-Violence Project, the Center conducts trainings with educators and other groups and advocates for the victims of bullying in schools and in the court system. The Legal Program at Center on Halsted links victims and their families with legal resources, and the Center’s Public Advocacy efforts have demanded that our public officials pay serious attention to the nation’s bullying epidemic.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow our youth to feel that their only recourse to escape bullying is suicide. That requires not only our action in response to what happens in classrooms, but also our attention to what young people are taught.
*Anyone in need of assistance after a bias-motivated attack is encouraged to call the Anti-Violence Project Crisis Line at (773) 871-CARE (2273). If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the Trevor Project at (866) 4-U-TREVOR (448-7386).
Other resources against LGBT bullying include: