It’s no secret that 2020 has been a year full of unprecedented challenges and crises. However, what is often under-discussed is how these challenges continue to uniquely impact LGBTQ youth. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQ youth have become vulnerable to increased levels of stress, isolation, and other mental health issues, in addition to the ones they already face. Even before the pandemic, the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ identity. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, calls to The Trevor Project’s hotline for LGBTQ youth have at times more than doubled.
Additionally, the long overdue social uprising against racial injustice and police brutality continues to have a profound impact on LGBTQ youth, specifically LGBTQ youth of color who experience the lived realities of discrimination, racial inequality, and the threat of violence on a daily basis. The Trevor Project’s new study, “All Black Lives Matter: Mental Health of Black LGBTQ Youth,” found that 44% of Black LGBTQ youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months.
Now, more than ever, GLAAD’s Spirit Day is a critical moment for people around the world to come together to shine a light on the resilience and power of LGBTQ youth at a time when they need it most. On a day when people around the world wear purple in support of LGBTQ youth, Spirit Day aims to raise awareness about the prevalence of bullying in today’s society and its disproportionate impact on LGBTQ youth. GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey shows that 70.1% of LGBTQ students have reported being verbally harassed at school. Additionally, nearly half of LGBTQ students have reported experiences of cyberbullying.
Earlier this year, GLAAD, in partnership with Teen Vogue, released its 20 Under 20 list, a diverse collection of young LGBTQ people who are shaping the future of media and activism. The young people on this list represent the leaders and changemakers within the LGBTQ community who are working through various forms of media to solve the challenges and problems that many LGBTQ youth face, and to fight for a future where every person, regardless of who they are, is protected and free.
This Spirit Day, we’ve worked with members of GLAAD’s 20 Under 20 list to have them share advice to LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing bullying during these difficult times. Here’s what they had to say:
Alex Escaja, he/they
All LGBTQ youth are bright, shining stars. We have a spark and a power like no other, and a community like no other. LGBTQ youth are magic, and I’m so grateful and so proud of all my peers. Living in a world that suppresses this brightness can be incredibly difficult, and many of us fight every day to keep going. However, we are vibrant together. We are fighting together. We have each other. The hatred of others only makes our love for one another stronger. You are never alone, and we are glowing with you. You can find us at GSA clubs, you can find us at cafes, restaurants, on television, and online. We are bright, shining stars, and we are everywhere! My advice is to connect with each other, give a big (figurative, socially distant!) hug, and we will get through it together.
Ezra Greyson Wheeler, they/them
It gets better. I know it might not feel like it now, it didn’t always feel that way for me. Prioritize self care and try to carve out a space in your life with people who love and care about you. And always, always remember that you are enough, you are worthy, and you are valuable. Reach out for help, it’s out there and there are people who will fight for you, including me.
Jamie Margolin, she/her
Please remember that you are not alone. I know right now it might seem like there is no one in the world who is on your side or who understands what you’re going through, but the truth is, you have a whole community all around the world who has your back. It does get better. I am so sorry for what you are going through — please know that what is happening to you is NOT okay, and that you should NOT be ashamed of who you are, despite what the bullies say. It is the bullies who are in the wrong, not you. My advice is to find other members of the LGBTQ community, whether that be in your school or online, and find a support system who can help you with what you’re going through.
Leo Rocha, he/him
Not everyone is in the position to stand up to their bully. Not everyone has an adult they trust enough to confide in when things get bad. So, sometimes, all you can do is just cope. And for me, growing up, that meant finding community and acceptance on the internet since I couldn’t get it IRL. Websites like Tumblr helped me realize I wasn’t as alone as I thought. It gave me a space to fully embrace who I was, and connected me to hundreds of other people who were going through similar experiences. So my biggest piece of advice is: don’t go through it alone. If there’s no one you can talk to IRL, you can explore loads of communities online. TikTok is quickly emerging as a space for queer youth, so maybe start there.
Logan Rozos, he/him
There is no pretending that what you are going through isn’t painful, but there is nothing more radical than being yourself, especially in the face of those who want to minimize who you are to fit into their narrow mindset. Do what you have to do to protect your heart, and you will get through this! One day this will be behind you and you can hold your head high knowing you are loved and there is a huge community full of people who will honor all of you and never ask you to shrink yourself.
Map Pesqueira, he/they
Although bullies may want you to believe this, never view yourself as the problem. Bullying stems from ignorance and lack of understanding of something that may be difficult to grasp for folks. It’s important to have role models that know what it’s like to be bullied and can prove that if they can overcome it, so can you. Try a new hobby, binge the queerest show on Netflix, or make some internet friends, but don’t isolate yourself; there is a worldwide community of people who love and accept you. When the world feels like it’s caving in, reach out. There are resources like the Trevor Project dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth who know the pain of being bullied and are on your side. Remember that you are unique and authentic; being who you are is one of the bravest things you can do. It will get better.
Ose Arheghan, they/them
The onus to stop bullying is never on those facing harassment. However, if I had to give advice to a young person experiencing bullying, I would encourage them to stand proud in who they are, and find a community who celebrate them for it. Trying to fit in never did anyone much good. All the most inspirational activists, creatives, leaders, and visionaries stood out from the pack because they decided to be different.
To confidently stand up and say “this is who I am, and I am not ashamed” is something many are not ready to hear because internally, they are unsure of themselves. Their anger and ignorance should never dull your shine. Words hurt, and they leave a longer-last impact than bullies anticipate, but personally — I wouldn’t trade the freedom I found by being confidently and unapologetically out for safety from those bullies because my authenticity is precious to me.
Sage Dolan-Sandrino, she/her
You are worth it, you matter, I love you! Last week, I turned 20 years old. Just two years before, I was still struggling to love myself, find community, and feel safe. High school and middle school are now distant memories—many of them sad, many of them hurt. Surrounded by people who barely know who they are, it was easy to stand out for standing in my truth. You deserve happiness, safety, love, friendship, protection—and it is all out there waiting for you! You are incredible and beautiful—you hear it far too often, but you are strong! Ask your friends, teachers, and organizations like GLAAD for help and resources to take action against bullies. Create your own safe spaces. I created my own zine and studio, @theteammag, to create art with fellow Black, Brown, and queer artists—people who look like, see, and value me. I’m here for you, all your fellow queers are. Don’t hesitate to call on us.
Sarah Huckman, she/her
Through my years of coming out as transgender, I have come across many close-minded people. Dealing with them was something that took a while to master. At first, I was ashamed and scared to confront the people who had rude things to say, but over the time, I realized that I am myself and no one can take that away from me. To you, someone who is struggling with bullying, take root in yourself and others who support and love you. But most importantly, remember that you are your own person and no one can take that away from you. Keep being awesome and live life to the fullest!
Shannon Li, she/her or they/them
For any LGBTQ+ youth experiencing bullying, know that there are so many people and communities here for you. We, unfortunately, do not live in a world that is built for queer folks like us. Yet, so many milestones made, beauty brought in, and successes created in our world have been built by and paved forward by queer pioneers, activists, and every queer person in between who had to utilize the resources they were given. There’s a saying that “it’s not the cards you’re dealt, but how you play your hand.” Create that inclusive and safe space for yourself and other LGBTQ youth. Advocate for visibility and representation for LGBTQ folks in the classroom and beyond. Never be afraid to reach out for help. Take action, and know that it is never your fault. Be unapologetically yourself. You, and only you can choose how to define yourself (with or without labels). No one else can take charge of your story other than yourself, so never lose sight of that. There are so many folks out there from allies close to you and strangers who are willing to accept you with open arms and help you navigate through any experience with bullying. One thing is for sure — I am standing here with you.
Published at Thu, 15 Oct 2020 05:00:00 +0000