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Saint Mary’s panel confronts LGBTQ youth bullying

| Thursday, October 29, 2015

As part of its Campus Conversations initiative, which aims to raise awareness about underrepresented societal issues, Student Diversity Board (SDB) held a discussion panel about LGBTQ youth bullying at Saint Mary’s on Wednesday.

Senior Angela Bukur, SDB vice president, said having open discussions about this topic can help the Saint Mary’s community take a stand against bullying.

“I hope this event brings to light the harming effects bullying has on LGBTQ youth,” Bukur said. “I hope students take away more of an awareness about LGBTQ bullying. I want students and faculty to be in support of LGBTQ students and actively make changes to show their support.”

Bukur said SDB and the Sociology Club decided to coordinate this session of Campus Conversations to inform students and create a safe environment for them to express their thoughts.

“LGBTQ youth bullying is especially an important topic because of the lack of knowledge and awareness some people have about this issue,” she said. “The statistics are staggering, showing that 56.7 percent of LGBTQ students did not report experiences of bullying because they doubted an investigation [would be held]. This shows that there is a lack of support for the LGBTQ community in school systems where bullying is taking place.”

Bettina Spencer, chair of the psychology department, said students should make efforts to end youth bullying because its effects can harm victims for the rest of their lives.

“These early experiences can really shape how people approach the world and how they respond to people around them,” Spencer said. “It becomes a really additive cycle.”

According to Spencer, past encounters with bullies may cause stigma consciousness, the expectation that prejudice will continue to occur, as well as other social constraints and perceived barriers that prevent people from confiding in others. The lasting outcomes of bullying can make it difficult for victims to process traumatic experiences, she said.

Spencer said events such as Campus Conversations help encourage students to support one another.

“It starts to build a community where we can have more open dialogues,” Spencer said. “Having events like this is kind of the first step and also one of the best steps we can do in supporting LGBTQ people, peers, allies and people who have been bullied in general. I think this a great way to start really talking and having good, thorough discussions with each other and generate ideas and hear people’s stories.”

Junior Maranda Pennington said she works to make Saint Mary’s a welcoming and inclusive environment through her involvement with the Straight and Gay Alliance and with justice education.

“A lot of times I feel like people are uncomfortable talking about anything LGBTQ related,” Pennington said. “It is hard to feel validated when your identity isn’t even recognized.”

Pennington said even making simple changes, such as using more inclusive language, can unite the Saint Mary’s community.

“I want Saint Mary’s to truly be a place where we embrace and empower women, regardless of any aspect of our identity,” Pennington said. “I think this can only be done through education, empathy and honest dialogue.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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