Bullying has proven to have negative effects on victims, some that range from the physical to the psychological. Kids and teenagers who have experienced bullying in their lives often develop depression and anxiety that sometimes is carried into adulthood.
In a number of reported cases, violence breeds violence, where victims of bullying go on to become bullies themselves, or sometimes worse.
According to a GLSEN survey, more than 55% of LGBTQ students have reported feeling unsafe at their schools because of their sexual orientation. Note that sources of violence and discriminatory remarks don’t solely come from other students, but staff and faculty as well. Over 60% of LGBTQ students reported hearing homophobic remarks from teachers and/or school staff because of their gender expression.
Information gathered by the National Center for Educational Statistics show that Black students have reported the highest cases of bullying at 25%, followed by white students at 22%, Hispanic students at 17% and Asian students at 9%.
Creating safe spaces for all LGBTQ students is especially important. Fostering a community void of prejudice and discrimination, and full of love and acceptance, is the difference between life and death for queer youth in most cases.
Below are three affirmative letters to LGBTQ youth for #SpiritDay, from Black queer men who have experienced bullying firsthand and wanted to share words of wisdom. Please read:
“Growing up, my sexual identity took precedence over anything else in my life. As early as I can recall, I remember being curious and questioning my attraction to the same sex. I was smart. I watched and learned, absorbing so much information from the people around me that I believed that my sexuality was wrong. Because I thought that my sexuality was wrong at such an early age, nothing else really mattered or has consumed so much of my life and my identity as much as my sexuality has. Imagine growing up an innately rebellious spirit but still feeling restricted and confined due to the thoughts of others around your sexuality. Nobody could tell me anything about myself or my life but as soon as my sexuality was brought into play, it was like I retreated into a shell of protection.
Because of my sexuality, I did experience bullying. Although I experienced bullying from my school peers, the type of bullying that I felt like took its toll on me was when my family members felt like I wasn’t “man” enough growing up. I don’t think people would consider it bullying but telling people to beat/toughen up a young boy because he doesn’t exude masculinity the way society says he should felt like bullying to me. It felt just as worse as being taunted, teased and bullied by people at school. I guess they just felt or knew that I was gay and figured the best way to handle it was to try to toughen me up.
One thing I learned is that it’s okay to be apart of the LGBT+ family as a man and exude feminine traits. It’s especially okay if you’re also black. People often think bullying is done just on a peer to peer level or done physically but family will bully you mentally and physically and it’s okay to just love yourself and be who you are whether they like it or not. Don’t let anyone try to stop you or bully you into changing who you are to fit their image of what you should be or the image that society tries to place on us all. Be as care free and free spirited as you want to be in this life! It’s yours.”
– Dominic Boyd
“Dear Charmed One,
If you’re reading this, then you’re already braver, more in-tune, and more aware of yourself than I was at your age. This Spirit Day, I wanted to write this letter because I look at the man I’ve become in my twenties and I see someone who is just now finding the courage to live my life unapologetically without any concern for the negativity, the hate, and the trauma people like us find ourselves subjected to just for wanting to be free.
I want you to start building and expressing that confidence sooner than I did. I want to encourage you not to allow people to project their own pain and insecurities on you. Bullies do these things in attempts to dim your light and keep you from being happy with who you are because they don’t know how to be happy with themselves. This Spirit Day I want you to be reminded that the things that make you different are the things that make you powerful and unique.
The moment you decide to embrace your magic, not only are the possibilities endless, but no bully, weapon, or obstacle will be able to stand in your way. I’m inspired by you, I’m proud of you, and I love you. The world needs more of your light in it!”
“Dear Impeccable You,
I am writing this a reminder that though society will tell you that what you are going through right now will in fact one day get better, I am here to tell you that while it will, you will also become stronger. You will find your voice and learn the power of it. You will be able to stand tall and remind people that you are in fact a force.
How do I know this? Because I too have become that force. It is not an easy task and you will encounter some hardships in the process. But one day, you will wake up see that you are not the pain you endure and that you can and will be strong enough to one day stop it.
In this, I give you the agency to see yourself as free, happy and whole. Even more, you are not the pain that others put onto you, but a reflection of something others wish they could be.
I send love to you on this day. Keep your spirit bright and know that you are loved and supported both near and far.
– Doctor Jon Paul, Ed.D.