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Student Writes Heartfelt Letter To Gay Teacher After Lesson On Bullying

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 4.08.56 PMA 9-year-old student wrote a heartwarming letter to her teacher after he told his students he was gay during a lesson on bullying reports Pink NewsThe letter comes after the teacher, listed as Mr. R., was teaching a lesson during the school's anti-bullying week and asked the Head of the school if he could tell the class that he was gay after learning that nearly the entire class heard the word "gay" used as an insult. The Head of the school supported R. and allowed him to share his life with his students; he was thrilled with the results after confiding his sexuality.

Said R.:

"The reaction was fantastic – there were a lot of gasps and shocked looks and some basic questions – do you have a boyfriend, etc., but after a couple of minutes they were over it and we moved on to the rest of the lesson."

A few days after sharing his sexuality with his students, one of them slipped him a letter. Names in the letter have been blocked out for privacy.

The letter in its entirety:

"Dear Mr. R.

"Even though you’re gay, I will always treat you the same way as I do now. I still think about you the same way as I used to. You’re a great teacher and these are just some of the word’s (sic) that I would describe you as: great, amazing, fantastic, brilliant, awesome and brave.

"The reason why I say brave is because you shared a personal secret which was very brave.

"You don’t have to feel scared because I know that everyone in the class feels the same way as I do.

“From A x x

PS. Mr. R., We are proud of you”

The letter brought R. to tears, and upon thanking her for the touching letter she simply replied, "It's just your life." For R. it's a relief to finally unveil a part of his life that he kept hidden, and use it as a compassionate educational experience for his students.

Said R.:

"For my class it was a surprise sure but, to them, it was just something simple and easy to file away as another piece of information. There was no judgement, no follow up, just acceptance.

"Now, I can mention my fiance as easily as any other teacher and my class know me a little better. I’ve had a lot of letters and cards over the years, but this one I know I’ll keep forever." 


12-Year-Old California Boy Takes His Own Life After Facing Anti-gay Bullying for Being School Cheerleader: VIDEO

Ronin

Tragic news out of Folsom, California as a young boy committed suicide Wednesday after facing ongoing bullying for being his school's only male cheerleader. 

Ronin Shimizu, 12, was Folsom Middle School's only boy on the Eagles cheer squad last year. He was being homeschooled this year because the bullying got so bad. 

Sacramento station KXTV reports:

He was bullied very badly," Riley Coleman said as she teared up. The Folsom Middle School sixth grader was on the squad with Ronin last year. "It's not ok to bully people," she said through tears.

"So sad to know that people can hurt you that way," student Allie Flahive said.

"I was devastated when I found out. I started crying," Ronin's friend Grace Velander said. "I've known him since 6th grade. Me and him had classes all last year together."

A school official confirmed the Shimizu family reported multiple times that Ronin was being bullied in school. Said one fellow student: “I heard that people called him gay because he was a cheerleader”.

The school district released a statement saying:

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by this unspeakable tragedy, and our hearts go out to Ronin's family during this difficult time. Many students, teachers and staff who knew Ronin remember him as a positive and outgoing child, and our school communities are truly grieving this loss today. We are moved by the outpouring of support from families and community members asking how they can help."

Friends of Ronin said the young boy was passionate about his cheerleading and loved it. A vigil for Ronin was held last night at his home. 

Watch a news report AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "12-Year-Old California Boy Takes His Own Life After Facing Anti-gay Bullying for Being School Cheerleader: VIDEO" »


Animated Web Series 'McTucky Fried High' To Deal With LGBT Teen Issues - VIDEO

McTucky Fried High

Premiering in January, McTucky Fried High is a new animated web series that deals with issues faced by LGBT teens such as coming out, gender identity and bullying.

The series is made by Chicago-based film student, activist, graphic designer, feminist, vegan and animator Robert Carnilius.

Watch a preview clip of the series, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Animated Web Series 'McTucky Fried High' To Deal With LGBT Teen Issues - VIDEO" »


Lambda Legal Targets Anti-Gay 'No Promo Homo' Laws In 8 States, Calls Them Unconstitutional

NoPromoHomo

Amid the controversy over Russia's anti-gay law earlier this year, it was widely reported that at least eight US states have laws on the books that are similar, though perhaps less far-reaching. 

Donteraseus_v6Now, Lambda Legal has launched a campaign targeting those laws, which the LGBT civil rights group says violate the guarantee of equal protection in the US Constitution. 

The laws, often referred to as "no promo homo" laws, restrict or prohibit the discussion of LGBT issues in the classroom, according to Lambda Legal's #DontEraseUs campaign:  

These laws are harmful and stigmatizing to LGBT students. For example, Alabama and Texas specifically mandate that, in curriculum related to sexual health education, students must be taught that being gay “is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” Meanwhile, Arizona prohibits instruction that “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style” in certain curriculum. Other states with anti-LGBT curriculum laws include Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah.

Lambda Legal says many of the "no promo homo" laws were passed in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of legislation related to sexual health education and HIV/AIDS. However, while they may apply only to health education, they are often misinterpreted by teachers and administrators — and could even be used to prohibit instruction about Harvey Milk in a history class or Walt Whitman in a poetry class. 

What's more, the laws actually are likely to increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by promoting stigma that leads to risk-taking. For example, Arizona's law prohibits instruction that “some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

And by creating a climate of discrimination, the laws contribute to the bullying of LGBT youth, who are already at a greater risk for suicide:  

LGBT students in states with these laws report hearing more homophobic remarks from school staff and are less likely to report incidents of harassment to school staff, according to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey.

The obvious difference between a group like GLSEN taking on the "no promo homo" laws and Lambda Legal doing so is that the latter has a team of attorneys to back it up. The #DontEraseUs campaign doesn't explicitly threaten litigation, but Lambda Legal clearly states that it believes the laws constitute unlawful discrimination by the government:  

By comparison, imagine if there were laws that barred classroom discussion of people of a particular ethnic descent in a positive light, or required schools to teach students that having a particular religious background is “not acceptable to the general public.” These laws would treat students in those groups differently and violate their constitutional rights to equal protection.

Unfortunately, litigation may be the only way to halt implementation of the laws in many of the states, where there is little or no hope for legislative repeal in the near future.  

Lambda Legal is asking people, especially students, to join the #DontEraseMe campaign by speaking out against the laws and helping the group better understand how they're being applied. To join, go here. For frequently asked questions about the laws, go here. And for the full text of each of the eight laws, go here.   


NOH8 Photo Of 11-year-old Texan Targeted By Anti-Gay Bullies Goes Viral

Franco.Jesse

Vanessa Tijerina-Arguelles posted the above photo of her 11-year-old son, Jesus "Jesse" Franco, on Facebook on Friday morning and marked it with the hashtag #NOH8.

Since being reposted by the NOH8 Campaign a few hours later, the photo has been shared more than 83,000 times on Facebook.

As you can see, Jesse is holding two signs saying although he's not gay, he's been the victim of anti-gay bullying at his school in Raymondville, Texas, near McAllen. School officials have refused to do anything to stop the bullying, and have in fact punished him for defending himself, according to Jesse's signs.

The signs read:

"HELLO! I'M JESUS (JESSE) FRANCO. I'M NOT GAY. STILL, I GET CALLED GAY AND FAGGOT AT MY SCHOOL EVERY DAY. RAYMONDVILLE (TX) INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT DOES NOTHING. MY PARENTS & I HAVE TRIED 2 GET THEM 2 DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. THE LAST TIME I WAS ATTACKED, I GOT 2 DAYS OUT OF SCHOOL SUSPENSION FOR OVERCOMING THE BULLY, DEFENDING MYSELF. PARENTS OF THESE KIDS ARE BULLIES 2. MAYBE THAT'S WHY THE SCHOOL DOESN'T ACT & THE KIDS(S) DON'T STOP? PLEASE SHARE SO OTHER KIDS, LIKE ME, CAN SEE THEY ARE NOT ALONE. THE SCHOOL MAY VIOLATE MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND MY RIGHT TO (SILENT) PROTEST; THEY HAVE GIVEN ME NO CHOICE, NO HELP. THANK YOU. NO H8."

Jesse's mom, Tijerina-Arguelles, wrote the following when she originally posted the photo:

"My son is 11 years old. His school district is in a community that is a pro-bully, anti-victim community in EVERY aspect. Where victims should be of a concern (law enforcement, government, school district), and be protected. The latest insult was a gay slur, a shouted gay-bashing during lunch in the cafeteria, followed by ooohs. With faculty present. My son has a learning disability, he was caught off guard and unable to react. The bully who did this is a notorious bully, his mom is a nortorius bully. Both the mother and her son have cyber-bullied and gay bashed my boy. Enough is enough."

Tijerina-Arguelles told Towleroad on Saturday that she took the photo and posted it as a last resort before Jesse, who's in sixth grade, left for school on Friday morning.

"It was not because he did not want to go; it was because he was afraid if he fought back that he would be punished again, and they wouldn't care that he was defending himself," Tijerina-Arguelles said. "He has a learning disability. He is actually extremely bright. He just has trouble socially and with new concepts and surprising circumstances, such as being bully-ambushed."

Tijerina-Arguelles said Jesse had asked why his bullies were using gay slurs. She explained it was because he's different and they make assumptions. That's when Jesse said there should be a campaign to protect people against anti-gay bullying.

"I said, 'Oh honey, there are many, some have been around forever. The newest one is NOH8. Have you heard of it?' ... I logged online and showed him the campaign. He said, 'I bet no one in Raymondville knows about that.' I said: 'I bet you're right. You want people to know about that?' He nodded. And voila! We made it happen. He got there [to school] and only one girl knew what it was about. Teachers asked him, 'Is that gang related?' He said, 'No, I support gays and their rights.' So proud of my boy. Others took out markers and followed suit."

Many of those who've commented and shared the photo say they plan to contact the Raymondville school superintendent. Here's his info should you choose to join them:

Johnny I. Pineda
jipineda@raymondvilleisd.org
956-689-8176


'I'm Not Gay No More' Man Responds to Viral Video of His Megachurch Conversion

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The International Business Times reports that Andrew Caldwell, the "not gay no more" young man from the viral megachurch video, has written a response via Facebook.

Ha addresses his criticism — the widespread doubt that Caldwell had actually been "turned straight," but also the suggestion that Caldwell staged the moment for publicity.

Here's an excerpt of the statement:

As a child, I was raped by a member of my own family. At that time I did not think of it as abuse. I kind of enjoyed it. I kept it to myself, not realizing how it had changed me. Growing up wasn't a pleasant experience. I was harassed, heckled, and ridiculed by classmates...After joining my present church, it came to me that this lifestyle was not right. It seemed that the more I tried to quit on my own, the more intense was the temptation. All last week I fasted and prayed. On this past Saturday at the Convocation, there was an alter call. I came forward and offered my testimony. It was unscripted.

If you are quick to mock Caldwell, or if the story is leaving a bad taste in your mouth, be sure to check out BET Entertainment Editor Clay Cane's take, over at HuffPo. It's an empathetic and sensitive reminder that in discussing this issue, we should use care. Says Cane:

I hope this boy is on suicide watch. The way he is being shamed in the public [and] in that church is heartbreaking to see...The bishop said he chose to do this. No he didn't. When you're brainwashed you're not choosing anything...He's doing what he thinks will make him feel loved and accepted in his community. The funny thing is, people are mocking it... but if he were 'more masculine,' people would take it seriously.

Caldwell's "conversion" took place at the Church of God in Christ’s 107th's Holy Convocation in St. Louis, Missouri. In a statement posted online, COGIC responded to the viral video:

We believe that we should reflect the love and compassion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all that we do. We do not in any way compromise our biblical position against same sex unions or in favor of biblical teaching on matters of sexual conduct. At the same time we expect that our clergy and laity will be civil and considerate as they speak to men and women regarding issues related to our Christian faith. We love all people, regardless of their faith or moral standards. When we fail to express ourselves with love and humility we contradict our witness
to the world.

Furthermore, the Church of God in Christ wholly condemns acts of violence against and the subjugation of any person to verbal or physical harassment on the basis of their sexual stance. Such actions violate entirely the Christian’s obligation to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

The Church of God in Christ will have no further comment on this matter.

Video from HuffPo, including Cane's take is AFTER THE JUMP...

Caldwell also briefly spoke to Atlanta's CBS 46 News about the video and his "conversion," which you can check out after the jump as well. 

Continue reading "'I'm Not Gay No More' Man Responds to Viral Video of His Megachurch Conversion" »


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