Students struggle with gay bullying

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More than enough times, both gay and straight students at Carlsbad High School have been victims of gay bullying. Not only do students fail to understand the  impact their words and actions can leave on other students, but also what their fellow gay-supporting students go through on a daily basis.

More than 64 percent of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) students say they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, revealed the GLSEN 2003 National School Climate Survey, and according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 28 percent of LGBT students drop out.

Unfortunately, gay bullying is evidently popular among high schools, even at Carlsbad. Some students constantly are bullied because of their sexual orientation or because they are associated with LGBT students. LGBT people are often judged and made fun of because of their sexual orientation, which makes it extremely hard for anybody to stand up for themselves

“I’ll be walking in the hall at school and hear the word ‘fag’ all the time or ‘that’s so gay,’ which makes being gay seem like its a bad thing,” Junior Trio Harris said. “Sometimes I take different routes to my classes to avoid offensive slurs.”

According to the Right to Live: LGBT community, nearly 40 percent of students between the ages of 16 and 18 said that they are prejudiced against homosexuals.  Because of this hatred against homosexuals, gay, lesbian and bisexual youth were more than four times as likely to report being threatened with a weapon on school property.

Even though California public schools are required by law to protect students from discrimination and harassment due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, homosexual students at CHS still feel threatened and unsafe. By standing up for fellow students, people can prevent the threats and dangers that LGBT people encounter.

“People make being gay seem like its bad and they act like they are going to catch the ‘gay flu,'” Senior Sage Jacobucci said. “But being bi just makes me more able to love.”

LGBT students are not only negatively scolded by their peers, but also by their own teachers. According to Generation Out, 53 percent of surveyed students report hearing homophobic comments made by school staff and 80 percent of surveyed teachers report negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian people.

Teachers need to also understand how much trouble gay students go through, even at CHS. By stopping discrimination in their classrooms and making a positive atmosphere, all students, LGBT and straight, are more likely to succeed.

“If teachers are standing in the dark not doing anything then they are helping the bullies,” Jacobucci said. “They need to stand up.”

Between LGBT students’ school life and home life, support is cherished and extremely limited. Twenty five percent of teenagers are thrown out of their homes when they “come out” to family members (Right to Live: LGBT Community), which is exactly what happened three times to Carlsbad High School’s student Matthew Hemp.

“My mom kicked me out the first time because she assumed I was gay. Then she kicked me out the second time because I told my aunt I was gay. Then she told my mom, but I denied it and she took me back. Then, I came out to her and she kicked me out again for the third time,” Senior Matthew Hemp said. “I live with her now, but it’s still touchy.”

Fortunately for Hemp, he isn’t part of the 40 percent of homeless youth who are identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (Generation Out). Whether he and his mother can openly talk about his sexual orientation or not, at least he has a roof over his head, unlike other gay students.

Phrases like, “That’s so gay,” which some people think cause no harm, and words like “dyke” and “fag” can hurt LGBT students and push them towards the edge. According to Generation Out, gay youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than any other person during their youth. Fortunately, there are many organizations that fight against LGBT suicide, like the Trevor Project, whose mission is to end suicide among LGBT youth.  The organization provides life-saving resources including a nationwide 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.(www.thetrevorproject.com).

There are also other organizations that help gay youth besides the Trevor Project. The It Gets Better Project also fights against LGBT youth suicide in response to the deaths of six gay teens: Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase and Tyler Clementi. The It Gets Better Project supports gay youth with help and submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities including President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ke$ha, Ellen DeGeneres, and many more. (www.itgetsbetter.com). Through videos on the It Gets Better website, young LGBT people can see the happiness that their lives will eventually reach if they live through the harsh bullying in their teen years. They can also see that they are not alone and that their life doesn’t have to end in suicide.

Besides these organizations, Carlsbad High School also offers support through a club here on campus called GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). GSA is a support group for kids who support and are allies of the LGBT community, but members don’t have to be gay. This club on campus has helped so many students and has created a safer environment at CHS.

“GSA has changed my life in a very drastic way,” Harris said. “Without it, I would be lost as a person.”

With the help of Mr. Dearie, Mrs. King, Ms. Jordan and the members of the club, CHS is more educated about the LGBT community and the slurs that hurt the students most.

“We aren’t here to change people’s beliefs at all. We are here to educate people because that’s all we can do,” Harris said.

GSA is a student run club founded by five girls in 2003 who wanted to bring tolerance to CHS. GSA helps to end isolation by having an accepting environment where people feel comfortable. The club has put on events such as Pride at the Beach, the Worlds AIDS Day assembly and teacher training about LGBT students. In the spring, GSA will celebrate the National Day of Silence. If interested in joining GSA, go to room 207 on Wednesdays at lunch.

“GSA is at least one place where the message will always be empowering, positive and quite a relief for some students,” History teacher and GSA adviser Mr. Dearie said. “I get a lot out of GSA just by spending time with a bunch of wonderful kids.”

At Carlsbad High School, the administration wants to keep every student safe. Bullying for anybody, gay or straight, is completely intolerable. Students who are being bullied and are not comfortable confronting the situation alone should immediately tell a teacher or a counselor. The administration will then investigate the situation and inform the bully about the harsh consequences of his/her actions. If the harassment does not stop, then a suspension will be given; however, consequences for bullying usually do not go as far as a suspension and just educating students helps the most.

“Sometimes we don’t think or fully comprehend that our actions have an impact and we do not know the impact hurts,” Principal Stanchi said. “We really try to match education and consequence so if we learn to be more respectful to each other then this can be a better place.”

Unfortunately, the administration doesn’t see or hear most of the bullying that occurs on campus because students are often worried about retaliation if they report the bullying. So, if students are comfortable, then they should approach the bully and stand up for other students who can’t protect themselves. Also, they should inform an administrator, a counselor or a teacher about the problem and all of their reports will remain anonymous.

“Kids tend to ignore bullying, so if kids see or hear it then they should approach the situation. They should be aware of other people’s feelings and if they are being hurt,” Vice Principal Giordani said. “Also, it is important to examine yourself and see how you treat people, even if you don’t think you’re a bully, because anybody could be a bully to some people.”

Gay bullying and bullying in general needs to stop immediately at CHS. For any LGBT students at Carlsbad who feel they are the victim of bullying, contact a teacher or a counselor if in need of help before the problem escalates. If suicidal thoughts occur call the Trevor Project immediately: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

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