Jenna Helfant and Sara Tabibzadeh
Occurring at a distressing rate in the past few months, teen suicides by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community have been largely influenced by bullying. Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase, and Tyler Clementi are several teens whose unfortunate stories have sparked awareness of this issue nationwide.
According to a statistic given by the Give a Damn campaign, LGBT youth are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. Additionally, one in three members of the LGBT community have attempted suicide. This harrowing information can be significantly attributed to the persecution the community faces from classmates and coworkers. In another study conducted by the director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, almost nine out of ten LGBT teens were subjected to both verbal and physical harassment.
Currently, the It Gets Better Project, which was founded in September 2010, is the leading campaign against LGBT bullying, with supporters such as President Obama, Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj, Councilman Joel Burns, and Perez Hilton, pledging their support of the initiative through their video submissions.
Milken has a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) that promotes a positive environment for students of all sexual orientations.
“I think the fact that our administration is supportive of the GSA and that it is a club that has the ability to be in existence without having to worry about teachers giving us grief over it is something we take for granted, because that is not true for some other schools in the country,” said Ms. Stephanie Monteleone, faculty adviser of the GSA.
On the Milken campus there is no blatant homophobia or bullying targeted at students of the LGBT community. Unlike other schools across the globe, Milken’s community is known by its students to be an incredibly supportive and accepting community.
“The GSA is not about being gay. It’s about helping your friend, your neighbor and even possibly members of your family and telling them that their sexual preference is minuscule in comparison to all that they are,” said Andrew Farkash ’11, GSA officer.
Although the Milken community is considerably accepting towards all students, including those in the LGBT community, there is still room for improvement. A significant issue among students at Milken and students nationwide is the derogatory use of the word “gay.” It is common for students to misuse the word “gay” to describe something negative, and referring to something as gay occurs so often that it has become socially acceptable.
Despite the negative connotation that students have given to the word, it is typically not meant as a homophobic slur. However, the negative use of the word “gay” could have detrimental effects on the closeted and open students of the LGBT community.
“I think the teen suicides have been a wake-up call about inequality in general. Milken doesn’t specifically need to change; they just need [to] think about things differently. Luckily, I have personally not witnessed any active homophobia on campus,” said Celia Megdal ’11, Co-President of the GSA.
If you are interested in joining the GSA, please contact Ms. Monteleone, Celia Megdal, Andrew Farkash, Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein ’11, or Shaun Schapiro ’11, Co-Presidents of the GSA.
Joel Burns tells gay teens it gets better.