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BULLIED

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By Justin Dawes
Opinion Editor

Dusty Noel got on the bus at GRCC, and his life was threatened for being gay.

“I was getting on the bus from the Fieldhouse,” Noel said. “I had pride pins from StandOut on my bag. There was a guy who noticed me, and he started ranting and raving about how gays are inferior and they shouldn’t be allowed on the bus.”

The man then directed his speech toward Noel. “By what you’re wearing, you must be one of them, right?” Someone across from him then turned and said, “What? Is he gay?”

 

The man, continuing to speak at Noel said, “All fags should be taken out back and shot. It is my duty to take that guy out and shoot him.”


Noel was in disbelief, unable to speak because of the shock.“Everyone, including the driver, looked up at me, but no one did anything,” Noel said.

“I was scared for my life. It was the first time I’ve been threatened like that.”Noel is one of many who have a story of being bullied. Unfortunately, this topic is very real to so many people, even at the college level. And it’s especially hard for people of the LGBT community.Sara Dorer, Direct of Student Conduct, says the college has codes against harassment, and she is there to help.“On campus, if students feel bullied, they can come in and talk to me about it,” Dorer said.Another student, Terill Charleston, recalls his own experiences as a victim of bullying. He was very uncomfortable recalling the memory, hesitating in even repeating the word.“There were some football players, and they called me a—f-faggot,” Charleston said.He heard the remarks while participating in a promotion for StandOut, GRCC’s gay/straight alliance club, of which he and Noel are both members. Such a derogatory term can be hurtful to most people, but Charleston says he’s become desensitized to those names from hearing them so often.“The word doesn’t offend me as much as it did in high school,” he said. Like most people who have been bullied, Charleston experienced a lot of it in high school. He still remembers what people said.“They’d say ‘Why are you gay? You’re going to hell. You’re not right. Faggot,’” Charleston said. Many LGBT students besides Charleston have faced the same struggles, and though it happens often in high school, many older people can still be purposely offensive.

Since coming to GRCC, Noel and Charleston have joined StandOut. There, they were able to find a support group, people in similar situations they could talk to.

But as we’ve heard recently in the news, not everyone feels like they have someone to lean on. One example is Jayme Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy who recently committed suicide because of relentless gay bullying. And he is not the only one.

“Gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths, and 30 percent of all completed youth suicides are related to the issue of sexual identity,” according to youroutsource.com

It is estimated that “more than 91 percent of LGBT students say they hear homophobic slurs or expressions frequently or often,” according to youroutsource.com. That statistic coupled with the fact that many people do not have a support system, and it can be very difficult living as a queer individual.

With knowledge of these recent bullying issues, students at GRCC decided to promote the anti-bullying campaign. GRCC Cares, with help from StandOut and College Democrats, worked to create an event involving the “It Gets Better Project,” which took place last week.

The “It Gets Better Project” is a website of user-made videos made “to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better,” according to itgetsbetter.org.

GRCC Cares, a philanthropy club, wanted to have an event revolving around this organization. So they set up a camera and a microphone in a conference room and invited students to share their stories.

“They could just share their story or any inspirational message,” said GRCC Cares Secretary Emily Smitter, who was also the main organizer of the event. “Our event was for bullying, but they could give any inspirational message on their hearts, not just a story about bullying. And it’s not just for the LGBT community. It’s for everyone.” There are plans to send the videos made to the “It Gets Better Project” as a contribution.

The “It Gets Better Project” and the anti-bullying campaign is something important to Smitter, so she was inspired to take part when she learned of the project.

“It’s something really close to my heart because of the bullying I’ve dealt with,” Smitter said. “Learning of the project really inspired me to do something and make change because I also…needed healing from everything I was going through.”

There were about 20 people who made videos, but there was one in particular with a unique story.

Pablo Garcia, who identifies himself as a high school bully, has since reformed and decided to choose another path. Garcia had a realization that he was causing the “sorrowful, tearful, frightened faces” of the people he picked on, and he didn’t like that feeling.

“I noticed those kids we picked on became boxed in because of being harassed so much,” Garcia said. “It really started to affect me. I have a good conscious. It made me really depressed and caused me to have depression later on.”

But he moved away from his hometown during high school, which gave him a clean slate. “I made the conscious decision to start better,” Garcia said. “Now I’m open and happy, and that’s how I want to be portrayed, not as a jerk.”

Garcia’s video was a sincere outcry to bully victims, telling them it will get better.

There are many who believe that “homophobia” is nothing more than ignorance, Charleston being one who holds that belief.

“Become more knowledgeable, “Charleston said, speaking to those who are uncomfortable with members of the LGBT community. “Talk to someone who’s different than you. Learn something instead of throwing out insults.”

There are a lot of people in the world who don’t understand, but they’re learning. And until that time comes when people do understand, it will be hard. But it is a battle that must be fought. Like the famous anti-bullying campaign says, it will get so much better.

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