During a panel discussion at the National Council of Jewish Women’s (NCJW) Los Angeles office in April, education experts highlighted the pervasiveness of bullying in schools, saying a disproportionate number of gay and lesbian students are victims.
As a result, gay and lesbian youth are “four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers,” said Sarah Train, education manager of the Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. “And it’s because of the reaction they receive when they do start questioning their sexuality or gender.”
Along with Train, the panel discussion, which took place on May 11, featured Gail Rolf, education director of Friends of Project 10, a nonprofit that supports programs for
LGBTQ youth; Daniel Solis, Southern California program director of the Gay Straight Alliance Network; Bev Meyer, a facilitator for the Fairfax High School Safe School Ambassadors program; and a student from Fairfax High. CBS/KCAL news anchor Pat Harvey moderated.
NCJW held the discussion in light of several student suicides that occurred in 2010 all over the United States.
A high school-aged panelist, who went simply by the name Haku to protect her identity, discussed her own struggle as a lesbian who isn’t accepted by her heterosexual peers, an artist who is thought of as strange by other students and a Korean outcast among other Korean teens, because she is half-Japanese.
“It’s really hard to be so weird,” Haku, a sophomore, said, before breaking into tears.
Haku, a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, explained that students at her school call her names such as “pickle suit” and “avocado” because of the military uniform she wears at school.
“These things may seem funny, but it’s bullying,” she said.
While acknowledging the hardships teens face, the speakers stressed that there is support they can seek out, such as the Trevor Project’s 24/7 hotline for LGBTQ youth.
“People are prepared to take your call,” Train said, adding, “There are people in this room who want to connect with you.”