Schools and politicians must stop bullying
by Bruce Hartley
April 15 normally makes people think about Tax Day. This year, I challenge readers to support another activity that also occurs on April 15, the GSLEN Day of Silence. This important event is sponsored by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and occurs on middle school, high school and college campuses around the world on April 15.
According to www.dayofsilence.org, “GLSEN Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.”
The GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly nine out of ten LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30 percent report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.
Moreover, two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. Thus, the Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in U.S. schools.
As a gay man who came out late in life, I know what it was like growing up dealing with name calling. In kindergarten, I didn’t want to play the “normal boy sports” at recess. I had more fun playing with girls on the jungle gym, swings, teeter-totter, etc. I was called all kinds of names and one that sticks out in my mind was “Sissy.” That nickname made me feel like something was wrong with me at a young age.
Of course, I didn’t have a sexual preference as a kindergartener, and it put me on a path to try and act more masculine. I did my best to act like the other boys and it wasn’t easy. I thought boys smelled bad and I thought they were mean. I told myself that they were wrong and should like being around girls, if they really liked girls.
I did my best to gain an interest in sports and traditional guy things, which made me live frustrated and lonely. Thank goodness for games like tetherball and foursquare. I became really good at those two activities and that made me feel better. I am thankful that we did not have the Internet as I grew up. I am not sure I could have handled cyber bulling as a kid. It’s hard enough for me as an adult.
When I was in high school, I recall my brother telling me he was asked by someone why I was so “fruity.” Luckily, by the time I was in high school, my confidence level was better and I was able to ignore peers who called me names. I was trying my best to act straight, but I was lucky to have my first boyfriend (on the down low) from another high school.
We both felt like we are doing something wrong, but we had each other and that helped me face the negativity at my high school. I even ran for senior class president and won. Yes, my campaign signs had graffiti on them accusing me of being gay, but I was still able to win. That win helped give me confidence that I had lacked from years of being told gay people were bad and going to hell when they died.
In a world where politicians are glorified for name-calling and bulling, we are daily reminded that we must stand up for what is right at the polls. Look at the current presidential campaign. Television and social media have allowed citizens to see and hear bullying and harassment and this demonstrates that this problem needs more attention.
Candidates have used all kinds of negative slurs against each other and in reference to citizens based on nationality, religion, gender, sexual preference, financial standing and more. We must remember to support candidates that support positive messages and communication.
If we don’t vote for the positive candidates, we could end up with a president that is bad example for our children. We don’t want our kids to talk like some candidates. Our president must be a good example for children and teenagers.
Please spread the word that bullying and violence must stop. Support schools that have zero-tolerance against bullying and support political candidate who are good examples and don’t use bullying tactics. We must live united and our world will be a better and stronger place when we all get along.
The Gayly- 4/15/2016 @ 9:55 AM CDT