"Fag." "Homo." "Queer." Every day. That's what I heard as I walked through the halls. Sometimes that's all I felt I ever heard. I didn't even know what those words meant. They were just horrid little gnats that gnawed at my skin, pecking away my flesh, stripping me to the bone.
This is not an easy fix. But we can start by deploying what we know works in the youth development arena.
In a town far away, in a town anywhere, out on a rural road. This story is true, and stories like it occur every day.
The media's recent focus on bullying has given untold numbers of victims -- past and present -- a voice to share their experiences, now that they finally realize that they are not alone.
I was an 11-year-old Florida "Cubanito," and for almost five years I was bullied repeatedly. I was followed home from school. I was jeered and taunted. I was called a sissy and worse. I was pulled and pushed by bands of teens. Then one day I got the courage to stand my ground.
We have seen the national conversation evolve from a growing awareness of the bullying crisis, to collectively mourning the many lives this crisis has taken, to looking toward the future in hope in knowing we must find a way to prevent these tragedies in the future.
How many kids in tiny backwater towns where it's just not OK to be LGBTQ are going to kill themselves? How are they going to know if the LGBTQ community as a whole doesn't rise up and say, "I exist, perhaps even in your town! I survived, and so can you"?
How does a child reach the point that they become a bully? Could the things our caregivers say and do, while well-intentioned, set the stage for bullying behavior to later surface?
I'm setting out to provide today's youth with the strategies, tools and practices that helped me change my life, so that they don't have to experience the pain and suffering that I did.
With kids feeling this insecure about their bodies at such a young age, it is more important than ever to provide them with a support system where they can learn to accept who they are and not build on their insecurities, but rather, face them.
Tears welled up in my eyes, not only because of the sheer tragedy of Jacob's story, but because it is, sadly, all too common. LGBT teenagers take their lives on a regular basis, but the reasons are often misunderstood -- and I know, because I've been there.
In school reform, we dramatically overvalue the importance of academic learning, and assume that merely focusing on better curricula and clearer standards will carry the day. Yet the research suggests otherwise.
One afternoon at a a women's empowerment lecture I was asked up on stage to share my story. My stomach dropped, but then she said, "At any given moment, we have the power to change our story and make it what we want."
The pimply boy came toward me with his homemade blowtorch. Left to my own resources, I defended myself. I started singing exactly what came to my mind at that very moment: "Don't tell me just to live and sit and putter; life's candy, and the sun's a ball of butter..."
By focusing on action at the expense of introspection, The Hunger Games misses an opportunity to teach a real lesson about cyclical violence, the role we all play in perpetuating it, and our responsibility to make the right decisions.
In this interview, Oprah muses in her own words, with immediate reactions from the afternoon. She talks Gaga, bullying, education, inspiration, Harvard, and even ends up with a surprise gift underneath her chair.