Bullies come in many shapes, sizes and ages. Many of the politicians spewing bile and hatred towards minorities or the weak in society were probably pushing weaker kids around the schoolyards not too many years ago. The difference is that while adults can put their taunts into context and fight back against them – most kids can’t.
Bullying is a major problem in schools for kids who are perceived as different or weaker, and especially those seen as lacking a support system. Minority kids are often more likely to be the victim of both physical and verbal bullying. Relentless tainting and violence can make life a living hell for the victims and can lead to feelings of helplessness and even suicide. This problem is especially acute for LGBTQ kids who often don’t have the benefit of an understanding and accepting family to comfort them when they go home. Many bullied kids haven’t even fully understood their own sexuality yet. Like many of us, the isolation and fear can be the ideal recipe for self-doubt and internalized homophobia.
The statistics are startling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US cites a 2009 study of 7,000 LGBT youth that reveals eight out of eleven were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation ; and four out of ten had been physically harassed. The result of this bullying? The Suicide Prevention Resource Center compiled data from numerous studies and concluded that between 30 and 40% of LGBT youth attempted suicide – considerably higher than the heterosexual youth average which is closer to single digits.
Bullying, of course,doesn’t affect only LGBT kids, but the numbers show how devastating it is for them. Five years ago in Nova Scotia, Canada, two schoolboys saw another boy being taunted for wearing a pink shirt to class and sprang into action. As the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported in 2007 :
Two Nova Scotia students are being praised across North America for the way they turned the tide against the bullies who picked on a fellow student for wearing pink.
The victim — a Grade 9 boy at Central Kings Rural High School in the small community of Cambridge — wore a pink polo shirt on his first day of school.
Bullies harassed the boy, called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up, students said.
Two Grade 12 students — David Shepherd and Travis Price — heard the news and decided to take action.
“I just figured enough was enough,” said Shepherd.
They went to a nearby discount store and bought 50 pink shirts, including tank tops, to wear to school the next day.”
They realized that if large numbers of other kids wore pink shirts the overwhelming show of solidarity would stop the bullies in their tracks – it did. Pink Shirt Day is now celebrated on the last Wednesday in February across Canada.
This year marks the 5th year celebrating Pink Shirt Day and it seems to be bigger and better than ever. As is now traditional , today ( February 28th), on the eve of the day, kids in British Colombia hit the Provincial Legislature for another delightful flash mob. The Premier of B.C. also threw in her support for the observance.
Many LGBT adults around the globe still face bullying as part of our daily lives; from politicians; colleagues; the authorities. This positive example of the majority standing in solidarity with a minority is inspiring, encouraging and a lesson to adults.
Toronto Police officer Tim Burrows posted this on the TPS Facebook page a short while ago (Feb. 29, 2012 10:30 EST) :
Happy PinkShirtDay.ca What a simple way to bring attention to a serious problem. Say no to bullies and yes to supporting everyone who has the courage to stand up to the bullies. Cyber, in real life…it doesn’t matter. Bullying isn’t age based, race based or anything other than simple hate and ignorance.