Children First: Growing up gay, coping with bullying - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Growing up gay, coping with bullying

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"From the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated from high school, I was bullied on a daily basis," Joe Geyer said.
 
"The actual hallways used to split whenever I was walking down them," Dathan Rappana added.
 
Every day, GLBT middle and high school students nationwide deal with relentless bullying.
One study by Mental Health America found they hear anti-gay slurs such as "homo" and "sissy" about 26 times a day or once every 14 minutes.  Even more troubling, a study found that 31 percent of gay youth were threatened or injured at school just last year.
 
"I was to the point where I was ready to commit suicide," Geyer said.  Fortunately Geyer, now 23, made it through. But, there are many gay youth who don't.


Geyer and Rappana are part of the Black Hills State University Campus Pride Club.  They say trying to understand your sexuality at that age is tough enough without the bullying.  "It was really hard for me to accept because I was raised that you weren't supposed to be that way," group member Dustie Clements said.  "You're told you're supposed to be one way, but your brain is telling you, you are a different way," Geyer added.


For those who don't have support at home, and face bullying at school, it can be almost too much to bear.  Rappana grew up in a small South Dakota town and says he was the only gay person he knew. I didn't feel like I had a support system at all," He said.


Dustie Clements, who grew up in Sturgis, was fortunate to have a supportive mom. "My mom told me she knew and I told her I wish she would have told me- it would've been easier," She said.


While growing up was anything but easy for these three, they say it gets better. "It gets better, you have to hold on, you have to stay strong," Rappana said.  "Things seem horrible and terrible right now but they will get better," He continued.
 

Mental Health Counselor Tracey Lehman, says parents, whether they are happy their child is gay or not, should encourage their child or teen to share their feelings, report bullying and reassure them that they're loved.


If you're a parent who is having a difficult time dealing with news that your child is gay, Lehman says to find someone to talk to and realize that acceptance doesn't always happen over night.

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