Celebrities such as comedian Chelsea Handler, singer and actress Better Midler and MMA star Daniel Puder are working to both call attention to the bullying of young gay people; an issue that is in the forefront of the news in recent weeks after a number of young homosexuals have tragically committed suicide.
While bullying of young gay people has always existed to varying degrees, there seems to be a rise in it recently, even as the country largely has become much more accepting and tolerant of alternative lifestyles.
Last week, Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after he learned that his roommate had allegedly secretly streamed Clementi having sex with aman in their room.
Clementi’s was probably the highest profile suicide given the direct and immediate reaction he had to his roommate’s alleged betrayal, but there are many other equally tragic stories coming to light of gay youths committing suicide after prolonged bullying by their peers.
The adolescent and college years can be difficult enough for anybody, gay or straight, but dealing with growing pains, peer pressure and school can be particularly brutal for those who are gay. And as the issue gains more focus, celebrities are increasingly trying to do their part to help support young gay people as well as discourage those that bully them.
Daniel Puder is well known by MMA fans as one of the top fighters in the sport. While one might not necessarily see a strong supporter of gays coming from the macho and violent MMA, Puder this week made clear where he stands on the issue. First he blogged, “There is an issue with our society when gay young kids are getting bullied to the point they are killing themselves.” Puder later said to a reporter, “anybody that’s getting bullied in the whole U.S. can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You email me, I’ll go fly to your school… and we’ll go talk to the bullies for you.”
For her part, Chelsea Handler actually turned serious for a moment and released a video in which she reminded gay youth that while there is always bad things in life, there are many more great things and to stay strong and don’t let anybody effect them. At the end, she said she lives with a lesbian roommate. Her roommate appeared on camera for a few seconds and the two playfully joked with one another.
Finally, Bette Midler, long an icon to the gay community, wrote an open letter about the issue. Midler’s letter read, in part, “Four children are dead by their own hand because they just couldn’t take any more. How many more are we going to sacrifice to the hyenas? Isn’t it time to stop??
For the families and friends of those young gay suicide victims, there likely will never be true consolation. But the silver lining, perhaps, is that their deaths will not ultimately be in vain as the issue of the bullying of young gay people is getting increasing focus. As celebrities as diverse as Chelsea Handler, Daniel Puder and Bette Midler work to bring increased attention and awareness to the issue, hopefully gay bullying will be dramatically reduced.