Written by Manny Rodriguez
I've grown accustomed to being the one no one talks to. As the first openly gay student at UCHS, I experienced a lot of hostility and bullying by my peers. I remember this one instance when I was a freshman, and this one student accused me of looking at his backside in class. I was so confused by how arbitrary his claim was, but my first instinct was to try and eliminate it since it wasn't true. He had messaged me on Facebook, stating that his friends had told him I was looking at his rear as if I was infatuated with it. He came off very malicious, and I had no idea how to convince someone who had no desire to listen to me. I can't help but admit that I was extremely terrified. I felt threatened. But deep down I knew that I could not let my fears show in moments like these. I could not let the aggressor know that he had control of my emotions, and I tried my best to put on a brave face.
It helped that we were behind computer screens, because he couldn't see how frightened I was. Our dispute continued after about a half hour, when he suddenly made a threat. He said that if I did not stop responding to him, he'd say something I wouldn't want to hear. Again, as scared as I was, I was not going to give in to a stranger's demands. I was not going to let him have control over me, and so I simply responded saying that no matter what he said, his words could not hurt me. As resilient as I was, nothing could prepare me for what he had said. His next message read,"stop f------ inboxing me f-- shut the f--- up and kill yourself...". For a few moments after I read that message, that's exactly what I wanted to do. I couldn't see myself living in a world where people would rather see me dead, than alive.
When James Clementi spoke out at my high school about his brother Tyler, who unfortunately ended his own life, I was truly touched and inspired. I had suddenly gained the confidence to be proud of who I was and stay strong in times of hardship. Even some of my peers who I had never spoken to before texted me later that day just to tell me that Tyler's story had changed their views of the gay community, and that they would be here in case I ever needed them. I couldn't help but cry that night. The Tyler Clementi Foundation had completely altered the atmosphere in my school, and that atmosphere still remains today. I'm so grateful that James helped make my school a welcoming place for all, and I can't wait to see the impact The Tyler Clementi Foundation will have on other struggling LGBTQ youth.
Rightfully, federal law currently protects against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability, but there are no federal protections for discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. This means that LGBT youth in K - 12 schools have no protection from harassment, humiliation or bullying. The good news is that the proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2015 (S.439) prohibits public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, the SNDA prohibits discrimination against any student because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of a person with whom a student associates or has associated. Further, retaliation for lodging a complaint of discrimination is prohibited.
SNDA has been introduced in the Senate and will be placed as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) next week! A passing vote here will be a crucial step towards further equality for the LGBT community. This would be a victory for youth who are unable to vote for their own rights. The responsibility to advocate for and protect our young people falls on each of us. Make your voice heard and sign our petition in support of passing SNDA (S.439). The bill has momentum and is moving forward. Let's show the world how important this is!71 signatures
by Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation
What a happy and successful Pride Month the last 30 days have been! The U.S. Supreme Court issued a resounding victory for love on Friday, which was celebrated this weekend with record turnouts to New York's and San Francisco’s LGBT Pride parades. And more than 26 million Facebook users around the world celebrated by applying rainbow flags over their Facebook profile photos. These actions will undoubtedly lead to greater tolerance, respect, and ultimately, full equality.
But while our LGBT brothers and sisters took a step forward to full equality, it is important to note that this is just that – a step. The fight for equal protection under the law is far from over. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that state employees can refuse to issue marriage licenses if same-sex marriage is contrary to their religious beliefs. And in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he will support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one women, citing concerns over religious liberty.
Let’s be clear: There is nothing Christlike about this type of rhetoric. God loved my son Tyler just as He created Tyler: a beautiful, caring, thoughtful, smart, gay child of God. God does not make mistakes. We should try to live as close as humanly possible to God's perfect example of love and goodness. We must stop using God as an excuse to inspire bullying, cruelty and hate, which is a far cry from the Golden Rule: to do to others as you would have them do to you.
As LGBT Pride Month draws to a close, the Tyler Clementi Foundation promises to you that we will spend not only the month of June but every month working towards an end to state-sanctioned bullying, bigotry, and violence toward our LGBT friends. Click here to pitch in what you can to help us propel this month’s victory at the Supreme Court forward to full equality. Let’s heal old wounds, love our neighbors, and build an America that values everyone.
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