Over the past few years we have seen a dramatic turn around in the way that people view the LGBT community. We now have LGBT icons such as NBA player Jason Collins and news anchor Anderson Cooper who are openly out and showing that success is not dependent on sexual orientation. Recent polls even show that the majority of Americans believe in gay marriage.
However, despite the nations growing tolerance, LGBT children and teens still find themselves the target of bullying both in school and on the web.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found in their 2011 study that 81.9% of LGBT students experienced verbal or physical harassment due to their sexual orientation. 63.5% of LGBT Students felt unsafe at school and 29.8% even missed school because they felt unsafe. For many students bullying doesn’t stop outside of the classroom, but continues from the “safety” of their own home through the use of social media.
However, in a recent wave of support websites are beginning to faze out hurtful forms of communication on the web. The It Gets Better project is a comprehensive campaign via Youtube that aims to show gay teens that life gets easier after high school. This campaign now features 50,000 plus user-created videos. These videos feature prominent icons and politicians such as Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton, famous actors and staff of high-profile companies such as Facebook and Google. Campaigns such as these are necessary and effective in showing students that acceptance is out there.
For African-American teens this is particularly important. African-Americans are more likely than other racial group to view homosexuality as wrong as indicated by recent polls. This puts a dual pressure on Black members of the LGBT community because they are not only a minority in this country, but also a minority in their own community.
It is important that icons within the black community such as Jason Collins continue to come forward and show a light at the other end of teenage bullying and discrimination. Bullying will always exist as a part of youth culture, but we should do everything we can to prevent tragedies such as the suicide of teens such as Jardin Bell, a gay African-American teen from Oregon, or Josh Pacheco, a gay teen from Michigan, which both resulted from bullying. Tolerance cannot start and end at legalizing gay marriage, although that is a wonderful step. Tolerance has to begin at home, in schools and online.
For more information on the statistics: