One day at lunch, one of my friends asked me if I was gay. I replied, “No, I’m not.” However, someone else overheard and thought I said yes. That person told another person, then that person told another person, and before I knew it, there was a rumor going around that I had a crush on a certain boy. Between classes, people would ask me if I was gay, over and over again. I counted—11 people asked over the course of one day. I remember saying to one of my friends “No, I’m not... but why should it matter even if I was?” And they replied, “I don’t want you to be no (explicit).”
According to stopbullying.gov, 20 percent of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experience bullying. Many people don't understand why bullying happens. According to stopbullying.gov, young people who are “perceived as different from their peers” are at a high risk for being bullied—and one group of students who is perceived as different from their peers are LGBTQ students.
Sexual orientation discrimination is when a person is judged by their choice as to what gender they want to date. An article from The Edvocate states that more than 85 percent of LGBTQ students report harassment. In some situations, some victims might even harm themselves or take their own lives due to the constant pressure of bullying.
The Edvocate also highlights that this type of bullying happens a lot within our schools. For example, sometimes students make fun of boys with high voices, long hair, or visible emotions. It seems some teens can't even trust their own friends to support their sexual orientation.
The day that rumor went around the school was the day my depression started. I stopped talking to everybody. If it weren’t for the really good friend I had at the time, I don’t know what would have happened to me. She talked to the kid who started the rumor and told him it wasn’t okay. She told me she was here for me whenever I wanted to talk, and we talked a lot. However, there are plenty of other kids who get bullied who don’t have this kind of support from their friends or even their parents. It’s up to us to step up and be the shoulders to cry on for kids facing discrimination.
There are a number of ways you can support kids getting bullied. You could walk up to the victim and ignore the bully and just start talking to the victim until the bully goes away. You could also stand up to the bully. You could say something like, “Leave this person alone—what did they even do to you?” Once the bully is gone, ask the victim if they’re alright. If they don’t seem okay, contact an adult you trust, like a teacher.
Even if someone is different from you, you shouldn’t judge them for who they are. You never know who might need a friend.