A lot has been written lately about and cyberbullying and bullying in general. And, like every writer who covers this subject, my colleagues at ConnectSafely.org and I have given our share of advice about how to avoid cyberbullying and what to do if you experience it.
But recent suicides, including those of Tyler Clementi and other young people, gay and straight, have brought the issue to the forefront.
While suicide is a rare consequence of bullying, it is a horrific reminder that people react in different ways. The overwhelming majority of victims, of course, don't take their own lives but that doesn't mean that they might not be affected in profound ways. By citing experts in youth risk, I could go on for pages on the subject of bullying and its impact with plenty of advice on why it's important to teach our kids not to bully and how to deal with the bullies that are out there but instead of doing that, I'd like people to watch this short video by our Role Model in Chief.
As the President said, it can get better. I grew up during a time when it was "acceptable" to make blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic comments but, today, derogatory comments made in public are usually met with disdain. That's not to say we've overcome racism and sexism, but we have made progress in making such remarks socially unacceptable. We've also cut way down on smoking, driving without seatbelts and many other things that were common place during my youth. If you don't believe me, watch back episodes of Mad Men to see what was "normal" in the early sixties.
It's my hope that we can do the same with bullying not just against LGBT youth but everyone. It's not going to easy but it can be done and messages like the one delivered by President Obama are a step in the right direction.
Like the President, I don't know what it's like to bullied because of my sexual orientation but, like him, I do know what bullying feels like because, like almost everyone, there are things that make me different from other people and some people have trouble handling that.
The President's Message
Regardless of what you think about President Obama's performance in office or his social and economic policies, the message he just delivered to LGBT youth needs to be heard by all of us, regardless of our age, gender or sexual orientation. "It Gets Better" applies not just to LGTB youth but to every victim of bullying.