Words and deeds directed at someone because of their sexuality or gender identity has devastating effects on those who are bullied, mocked, harassed or shown physical harm. (Photo Credit: BrandNewLover via Pintrest)

Bullying is a phenomenon that continues to have an earth-shattering impact on the lives of millions around the globe. Especially those who are in the LGBTQ community, according to research.

Stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says, “bullying puts youth at an increased risk for depression, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior and can affect academics as well. For LGBTQ youth, that risk is even higher.”

As we know, there are many factors that increase the risk of being bullied. However, being openly gay or even being perceived as gay, has been a leading risk factor for decades.

Recently, a great deal of attention and controversy has been circulating over a trial involving an individual who claims he stabbed his classmate as a result of anti-gay bullying.

According to a New York Times article published in July of this year, Abel Cedeno, on trial for stabbing a classmate in 2017, testified that “after years of bullying, he feared for his life when he fatally stabbed a classmate who had punched him.”

“Mr. Cedeno was found guilty of manslaughter, assault and criminal possession of an illegal knife, and faces up to 50 years in prison,” The New York Times reports. “Members of the LGBTQ community argued the school should have taken action against those who had bullied a gay student.”

This situation is a tragedy in so many ways, and for so many people. It just shows how quickly bullying can escalate. And, despite efforts and innovative approaches introduced to combat this type of malicious behavior, it continues to be a prevalent issue.

A 2009 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) consisting of 7,261 students (ages 13 to 21), reports that, “84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1 percent reported being physically harassed, and 18.8 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year as a result of their sexual orientation.”

Unfortunately, over the years these numbers have remained fairly consistent.

The 2017 Youth Risk Survey, a more recent study, reports that — in comparison to heterosexual students — more LGBTQ high school students in the U.S. report being bullied.

“Nationwide, more U.S. high school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) report having been bullied on school property (33 percent) and cyberbullied (27.1 percent) in the past year, than their heterosexual peers (17.1 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively),” the study reported.

Additionally, “the study also showed that more LGB students (10 percent) than heterosexual students (6.1 percent) reported not going to school because of safety concerns. Among students who identified as “not sure” of their sexual orientation, they also reported being bullied on school property (24.3 percent), being cyberbullied (22 percent), and not going to school because of safety concerns (10.7 percent),” reported the study.

Sadly, the world has seen the gruesome and catastrophic effects that bullying can lead to. Far too common are those who’ve suffered in silence, often leading to the individual taking their own life. And, as we’ve seen an increase in over the years, the lives of others have also been taken as a result of bullying.

In the article, “LGBT Teens, Bullying, and Suicide”, Harold S. Koplewics, MD. discusses how the rising number of gay teen suicides has been a result of anti-gay bullying.

“In recent years we’ve seen a tragic number of gay teens, ending their own lives after enduring anti-gay bullying,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, and gay teens are 4 times more likely than straight teens to attempt suicide.”

The Trevor Project, the national leading non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, says getting support and counseling, and utilizing the types of services the organization offers, can greatly reduce the likelihood of an individual committing suicide.

“Each year, more than 1.5 million LGBTQ youth experience suicidal ideation, and could benefit from our services,” The Trevor Project says. “One supportive person can decrease an LGBTQ youth’s risk of suicide by 30 percent.”

“Gay bullying typically involves vicious, hateful, and threatening actions toward LGBTQ people that are ongoing, intentional, and unprovoked,” says queercafe.net. “Gay bullying is repeated negative actions toward LGBTQ people in which there is an imbalance of physical or psychological power.”

There are a plethora of reasons why people remain in the closet. And, fear of bullying is definitely one of those reasons.

“We know how challenging coming out can be at any age, especially in environments that may include risk factors for increased rates of discrimination, rejection, and bullying,” says The Trevor Project.

According to queercafe.net, Jamel Myles, a nine-year-old boy in Colorado who had just come out, killed himself in August 2018 after his mother said he was bullied for coming out to his classmates as gay.

Myles was in the fourth grade at Shoemaker Elementary School, and his mother, Leia Pierce, said that her son had come out to her and some of his classmates over the summer.

“My son was nervous to tell me he was gay,” said Leia Pierce. “But when he told me he was gay, I told him I still love you, son,” she recalled. “He is my sunshine… he is my baby.”

Apparently, Pierce’s supportive reaction encouraged Jamel to come out to his classmates upon the start of the new school year in August.

“He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce said. “But Jamel’s positive feelings changed after some other kids at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School bullied him and allegedly told him to kill himself.”

Unfortunately, this is merely one of the thousands of cases resulting in suicide from anti-gay bullying.

While bullying is a major issue among our youth, it also occurs in today’s offices and other places of employment.

Psychology Today defines bullying as “a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression; it is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power.”

We’d like to think that bullying wouldn’t be an issue, or as much of an issue, after high school. But sadly, that just isn’t the case.

According to a 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), “27 percent of Americans expressed being subjected to abusive conduct at work. This percentage accounts for approximately 37 million U.S. workers who were either currently being bullied or had experienced being bullied.”

In a 2015 Carolinas Diversity Council Newsletter, Deitra C. Payne, Ph.D. says employees who are “different” experience this type of bullying more often.

“For those who are different, the impact can be more profound,” Payne added.

Payne discusses a 2009 lawsuit involving the EEOC and Boh Brothers Construction Company, which involved a supervisor harassing an employee because he thought he was feminine.

“In the sexual harassment lawsuit of the EEOC v. Boh Brothers Construction Company, the EEOC presented evidence that Chuck Wolfe subjected Kerry Woods, an iron worker on Wolfe’s crew, to almost-daily verbal and physical harassment because Woods did not conform to Wolfe’s view of how a man should act,” says Payne.

Following his initial EEOC questionnaire filed in November 2006 (after being laid off due to an apparent lack of work), Woods filed an EEOC charge of discrimination, claiming sexual harassment and on the basis of his wrongful removal.

September 2009, three-years-later, “the EEOC brought this enforcement action on Wood’s behalf, claiming sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII,” reports the EEOC website.

“Following a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Woods on the harassment claim and in favor of Boh Brothers on the retaliation claim,” the EEOC reports. “The jury awarded Woods $201,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

The district court reduced the compensatory damages award to $50,000 to comply with the $300,000 statutory damages cap. 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(3)(D). Boh Brothers filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law following entry of judgment and a motion for new trial, both of which the court denied.”