Find a Different Word

February 24th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Thankfully the expression “That’s so gay” is not one that I personally hear often.  As I’ve grown older, people in my social circle don’t tend to use it because it sounds bad and it’s disrespectful. However, I am aware that it’s a phrase many of you probably hear a lot.  I definitely heard it a lot more in high school and college, along with “No homo” and “Don’t be a fag”.  Each three of these expressions make me wince – they’re just so incredibly offensive.  What’s interesting is that “That’s so gay” is probably used with the least negative intentions, right?  Young people use it all the time and if you call them on it, their response is usually something like, “But I didn’t say anything bad about gay people.”  Ehh, well let’s see – what were you implying? Something is dumb or stupid?  Something was less than adequate to your liking?

Choate Rosemary Hall is a private high school in Connecticut, right near where I grew up.  The students and faculty put together this video with the purpose of saying a. It’s ok to be gay at Choate and b. Don’t say, “That’s so gay”.  If you want to dislike something, fine – just use a better word to describe your feelings.  Using the term, “That’s so gay” not only doesn’t make sense, it’s also offending people in your community.  Find a different word.

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Meet Bria and Chrissy, two young women who not only are immensely talented, but also a powerful social-rights promoting couple. Cool, right?  I was introduced to their music via a Facebook anti-bullying group and they were kind enough to do a post for us!  I just love their confidence and what they stand for.  They recently recorded an anti-bullying song and I’m so glad they were willing to have me promote it on MKC.

Here is what they’d like to say to MyKindnessCounts.com:

BriaAndChrissy are a lesbian duo who are dating each other, we make videos to inspire change,  so we address multiple issues. Bria is 26, from Atlanta, Georgia and Chrissy is 22 from Clinton, Mississippi, we both currently live in Atlanta. We are fighting many fights, but we have a large part of our hearts in the LGBT struggle. We began our videos responding to the Chick-Fil-A issue and started gaining a small following; from there we were inspired to help make a difference in the world, and the video ideas started flowing.

Bullying is never ok, whether it is toward the gay youth or the straight, and we specifically generalized our anti-bully video to reiterate that bullying is never ok.  We hope we can inspire people through music, we have so much passion in what we are doing and we hope people see that and feel the desire to spread the same passion. 

Check out BriaAndChrissy on Twitter and YouTube :)

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If you can, please consider donating to the Ali Forney Center. The Ali Forney Center, which serves as a shelter and resource for homeless LGBT youth, was destroyed by hurricane Sandy leaving many LGBT youth on the streets.  This is especially dangerous as temperatures continue to drop.  It would also be great if you could share this on your Facebook walls, emails, and Twitter feeds.  Thanks so much!

Ali Forney Drop-In Center Destroyed by Hurricane Sandy

Dear Friends,

On Friday we were finally able to inspect our drop-in center in Chelsea, half a block from the Hudson River. Our worst fears were realized; everything was destroyed and the space is uninhabitable. The water level went four feet high, destroying our phones, computers, refrigerator, food and supplies.

This is a terrible tragedy for the homeless LGBT youth we serve there. This space was dedicated to our most vulnerable kids, the thousands stranded on the streets without shelter, and was a place where they received food, showers, clothing, medical care, HIV testing and treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services. Basically a lifeline for LGBT kids whose lives are in danger.

We are currently scrambling for a plan to provide care to these desperate kids while we prepare to ultimately move into a larger space that will better meet our needs. The NYC LGBT Center has very kindly and generously offered to let us temporarily use some of their space, and we hope to determine the viability of that on Monday. Also,  I am especially thankful that none of our housing sites were affected by the hurricane and that none of our clients or staff were injured by the storm.

We have been deluged with kind offers from people who wish to volunteer and donate goods. Unfortunately, we will have to provide our services in the time being in much smaller spaces that won’t accommodate volunteers or allow for much storage space. The best way people can reach out to help in this very challenging time is by making monetary donations. Please go to our website at www.aliforneycenter.org/hurricanesandy

It is heartbreaking to see this space come to such a sad end. For the past seven years it has been a place of refuge to thousands of kids reeling from being thrown away by their parents for being LGBT. For many of these kids coming to our drop-in center provided  their first encounter with a loving and affirming LGBT community.

I thank all of you for your care and support in a most difficult time. 

- Carl Siciliano

Click HERE to donate. To learn more about the Ali Forney Center, watch the video below:

 

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Inspiration, to me, is really important. I like that it drives you to accomplish your goals. It helps to get you out of bed in the morning and it’s what influences your passion. If you have it and if you live it, I think it makes you a really interesting person. It gives you depth.  Seeing young people take action against bullying in their communities is what inspires me.  You guys inspire me, but if you’re unhappy with who you are, it’s going to be harder for you to help others.  It’s kind of like that saying:

I have always resonated with the idea that being a teenager can be really hard, especially when it comes to appreciating who you are and what makes you unique. Not only are you trying to figure out who you are, but you want to fit in and you want to be liked. Then, on top of everything else, you may also be dealing with people telling you to be different than who you are in order for others to like you as a person. I often hear young people focusing on what’s wrong with them and how these insecurities make them feel like they’re not good enough. I want to share this next paragraph with anyone who feels like they can relate:

While you may not have witnessed this for yourself quite yet, insecurities and negative self-talk can affect so many aspects of your life outside of just how you feel momentarily. When I went to college, insecurities that I had built up in high school (this fear of never being good/thin/pretty/smart/competent enough) greatly affected my ability to become comfortable in a new environment, my confidence to perform as well as I always had, and my ability to meet new people and fit in to the college-culture. It truly was not until I stopped the negative self-talk that I was able to begin to reach my potential.  I had to learn to give myself a break.  When I think back to four or five years ago, I feel bad that I wasted all that time being so negative towards myself.  Truth be told, had I not had such incredible role models who shared this wisdom with me, I would be a completely different person from who I am today and this website would definitely not exist.

So, be proud of who you are.  Smile, laugh, be positive, be kind to yourself.  There is nothing wrong with who you are.  It doesn’t matter if you identify as gay, lesbian, straight, trans, unsure, trying to figure things out, black, white, hispanic, asian, bi-racial, artistic, skater, goth, “different” in any way.  It also doesn’t matter if you’re seeing a therapist, if you need extra help at school, or if you’re not as “perfect” as you think you should be.  There is nothing wrong with who you are as a person.  And once you know this and are proud and happy with who you are, you will be able to do the most incredible things for others and most importantly, for yourself.

I’d like to leave you with this video. The storyline is both heartwarming and powerful.  I’m currently obsessed, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

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A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to attended the Connecticut LGBT Expo in South Windsor, Connecticut hosted by Unity of Greater Hartford.  I went as both a board member and the Volunteer Coordinator of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Connecticut chapter. My jobs were to talk with people about GLSEN, who we are and what we do, and also to hand out GLSEN materials. It was so much fun for me because I got to mingle with visitors, hang out with Alberto, one of the other board members, and two of our chapter’s student leaders, AND I also learned a ton. Going to this expo was such a great experience because I had the opportunity to hear about a number of LGBTQ-focused national- and state-based organizations.  It was also totally inspiring to talk with other people immersed in human rights and equality. What a great way to spend a weekend!

If you’re like me at all and perhaps a little unfamiliar with the various LGBTQ organizations around, I thought it might be helpful to share a bit about the organizations I was introduced to.  I’ll link to their sites if you’d like to get involved or learn more about their missions. Not to mention, the following organizations are terrific resources.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG):  PFLAG is a nation-wide organization with over 200,000 members.  Families, friends, and other supporters of the LGBT community work together to promote diversity and equality. Their mission statement reads: PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Click here to learn more about PFLAG.

True Colors (Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services): True Colors is an amazing organization which works with social agencies, schools, within communities, and other organizations to ensure the needs of LGBT youth are recognized and met. True colors was founded in Connecticut by social worker, Robin McHaelen, after she graduated from UCONN’s social work department. Other than raising awareness and working directly with LGBT youth, True Colors trains over 2400 people a year, runs the state’s largest LGBT mentoring program, and annually hosts the largest LGBTQ conference in the country.  If you would like to get involved with this organization, go to their website here.

Stonewall Speakers: Stonewall Speakers is a speaking group out of the Connecticut Stonewall Foundation, Inc.  The speakers are a group of volunteers who donate their time to talk to schools, businesses, and trainings about issues concerning LGBT rights. These amazing volunteers, comprised of gays, lesbians, transgendered, and allies work together to reduce violence and bias against the LGBT community. This foundation was created in 1988 as a result of the brutal murder of an openly gay Wethersfield, CT man. In the words of the Stonewall Speakers: The Connecticut Stonewall Foundation, Inc. increases understanding, acceptance and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through educational outreach. To learn more about this organization or if you are a Connecticut resident and would like to become a speaker, please click here to go their website.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Connecticut Chapter: GLSEN is a national organization, but also runs through individual state chapters. Much like the other organizations present that day, GLSEN represents the LGBT community. What distinguishes GLSEN, however, is their focus to ensure schools are safe places for ALL students, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. GLSEN not only works directly with LGBT youth and their allies through both the Student Organizing Team and Gay-Straight Alliances, they also conduct trainings and research, and strongly influence public policy. The mission of GLSEN reads: The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. To learn more about the GLSEN and how you can get involved, please click here. If you are located in Connecticut and would like to go directly to the GLSEN Connecticut page, click here.

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to the incredibly talented, Andrea Paquin, who provided us with music and entertainment throughout the expo. She’s awesome and you should check out her music. :)

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Today’s post is written by Megan, a 13 year old girl from Oklahoma. She helps run a Twitter account, @Help4Teenagers. Megan was kind enough to share a story with us about a time she decided to speak up for one of the best friends who was being bullied. Instead of being a bystander who witnessed the harassment and didn’t say anything, she decided to speak up and talk to a guidance counselor at school. While the decision to talk to an adult wasn’t necessarily an easy one (one of Megan’s other close friends’ boyfriend was the one doing the bullying), she decided to go with her gut and take a stand against something she knew was wrong. Read Megan’s story below! :)

Hi — My name is Megan. I’m 13 and from Oklahoma.

I’ve never personally been bullied very much and it doesn’t matter to me as much as my friend’s story does.  He’s a boy, and you know how they often are about ‘you have to be sporty’ and dress this way and act this way, but for my friend, it was completely different.  He talks different, not because he’s from another country or anything, but it’s just how he talks.  Some boys and yes, even girls say that he sounds “Like a girl on their period”.  It broke my heart to see that the awful way these people were treating him. My friend is on the heavier side and they make fun of him for that as well. His hair is naturually dirty-blonde, but he bleached it blonde in the front and it’s longer there.  A lot of boys will come up to him and say “Why don’t you just keep it one color you fag?” and all he does is walk away. A lot of people call him gay for the way he walks, talks, and dresses but what is the point? At one time he told me “Sometimes I don’t feel safe in my own home because I’m attacked. I want to die..” It broke my heart.

On day, our school counselor came to talk to us about how to help out a friend if they are suicidal. He showed us a video of survivors who have tried to harm themselves and showed families of children who have killed themselves. He warned us that if your friends are being bullied and are telling you, “I rather die than go to school today” or “I want to die at times” that we needed to tell someone right away. Well, I started to freak out because everything I saw in the video was what my friend was acting like. I mentally broke down in class and was asked to leave. The counselor took  me down to his office and told me to spill out.

Our counselor has now been talking to my friend for 3 months for me and because another friend reported to our principal that my friend was being bullied. Our counselor sat me down and told me that the way I feel about it is normal and that my friend  is in pain because of the way people bully him. He asked us both to come down to his office during our elective classes and I brought along our other friend, who is also bullied and very much involved in my friend’s situation as well, we talked it out and things got better.

You see telling someone and talking to someone brings light into your life very quickly. My friend has been a fighter and has been dealing with this since he was in Kindergarten and yes, I’ve been with him every step of the way. If you see someone being bullied I advise you to tell someone even at the risk of them disliking you. When I had to report his bullying, I lost my best friend because her boyfriend was the main person bullying him. It hurt, I’ll admit, but at times I look back and say “I saved his life. He would have killed himself without this kind of help”, and I’ll be the first to tell you it didn’t just change his life, it changed mine. Whenever I see someone being picked on I walk right over to the bully and set them straight. I “kill them with kindness”. I take the victim in my group of friends and make them know I’m here and they have someone to rely on. Bullying is SERIOUS and it needs to stop. But we need everyone’s help. If anyone sees bullying happening you must report it not for your sake but for your teachers sake,your principals, and the victims. It makes their job and the victims life so much better. Believe me.

If one of your friends is being picked on, please do what Megan did and tell an adult. Sometimes it can be really hard for people to seek out help for themselves. They might be embarrassed or think that the problem will just go away if they ignore it. Be a friend and get help! School guidance counselors, teachers you trust, and your parents are all great people to talk to, and if they don’t do anything about it, go to the next adult! Thanks again for sharing this story, Megan!!

photo source

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From Casey’s YouTube profile:

“I founded The Kris Snary Project in May of 2011 after Kris passed away. We were both bullied but had different outcomes.
I want to help people avoid his result. The world needs more love.
Talk to me at facebook.com/thekrissnaryproject or on Twitter @CaseyInRealLife”

And Casey’s Testimony:

I met Kris while going to college in a small South-Eastern Ontario city. We had a few mutual friends and it didn’t take long before we were able to talk openly to each other about certain things. Just for the heck of it, I used to call him my gay best friend and I was one of his straight best friends. After Kris moved back to his hometown, we lost touch a lot of the time, something I kick myself for almost every day. Coming home to see his name in Facebook obituary-style statuses on October 17th of 2010 was one of the worst experiences many of us here will never forget. 

The Kris Snary Project was formed months later in an attempt to take on bullying and suicide issues while integrating Kris’ favourite thing in the entire world which was music. In May of 2011, four bands (The Dead Sparrows, Unbound, Fingers X’d and Stealing Patience) gathered at our local pub and we fundraised with a concert for a bursary created in Kris’ name (The Kristofur Edward Snary Memorial Bursary).

The video served as an attempt to reach out to friends, family and strangers alike to try and create a connection with them whether they knew Kris or they were bullied themselves or knew someone else going through something similar. There are two versions; the orignal featuring “Invincible” by Hedley and the newer version featuring “All I Know” by Toronto’s Faint Reflection.

Up next, we have a Toronto rock band, Riots and Revelry, going into the recording studio to create a single for the project in order to keep that musical connection while still remembering why the project was started in the first place; Kris.

I can’t tell anyone at this point how to fix the bullying issue nationwide. That being said, after the experiences of the past year, I will say this:

You can tell a child not to touch a stove in case it is too hot but they will likely continue to do it behind your back until they get burnt.
The same thing goes for bullying. You can tell someone not to bully another but they will likely continue when you’re not looking until they feel the burn.

The Kris Snary Project can be found online at http://www.facebook.com/thekrissnaryproject

After such a great post in which Casey talks about The Kris Snary Project, her last sentence really made me stop and think. I would gather that the majority of people in this world know it is not okay to bully others and that it’s not okay to be mean to others, but people still do and they still are. So really, why does it continue? Are there not enough consequences for people who bully others? While laws are getting tougher, should lawmakers start cracking down on individuals who bully/harass/torment others no matter where the bullying takes place, who it offends, or what the bullying entails? Does the fact that Casey’s friend was gay change the degree of punishment or change the way people feel punishment should be handled- does it make the ‘making fun’ of someone okay? I certainly hope not, but are there people out there who would disagree with me? I’m sure there are.  Let’s continue to stand up for what’s right and let’s continue to stand up against bullying no matter WHO the bully or victim is or what they themselves stand for.

What do you guys think? Please comment below!

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