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Making Connections in Community

By Diane Long, for Out in the Backyard CHAT

On Tuesday, June 16, 2011, a little over 30 people gathered at the Cultural Wellness Center to share dinner and watch the film “Bullied.” It told the story of a young man named Jamie Nabozny, who was bullied in middle school and high school for being gay. The event was sponsored by Out in the Backyard, the LGBT Queer and Allied (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) CHAT.

People are bullied for all kinds of reasons ”“ because of sexuality, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, physical ability, size, etc. This film addressed bullying based on sexual orientation and showed how prejudice and stereotypes are used to justify discrimination.

Young LGBT people are especially at-risk for bullying, harassment, physical assault, and suicide. In 2009, the National School Climate Survey found that:

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80% of LGBT students had been verbally harassed at school

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40% had been physically harassed at school

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60% felt unsafe at school

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1 in 5 had been the victim of a physical assault at school (www.stopbullying.gov)

Feeling uncomfortable at school leads 25% of gay and lesbian youth to drop out. They may also feel rejected by family members. Gay and lesbian youth comprise 25% of all youth who are homeless and 30% of suicides (Health Concerns of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community, 2nd Ed).

Bullying affects everyone ”“ whether it”'s the people who are bullied, the people who bully, or those who are witnesses. As part of the Backyard Initiative, we are particularly interested in how bullying affects health and wellness and what we can do as a community to respond. We all have a role to play in helping to prevent, interrupt, and heal from violence in our communities.

Several members of the community, including members of other BYI CHATs, attended and showed their support for this issue to be addressed.  Paul Amla, of Amla International Translations, said, “The film touched me. Life was so difficult for this young man that he tried to commit suicide. It showed the challenges people face due to the ignorance of others. This young man didn”'t give up and fought for his rights. I hope people will watch this film. Unless you see things first-hand, you don”'t understand.” Dona Evans, from the Cooking Up Community CHAT said, “As an African American, I am sensitized to when other people are being mistreated because of who they are. I looked at the film through this lens. After the recent rash of suicides among gay youth, this film and the blog and website you are working on is an important message of hope.” Sheldon Noel, of the Dakota Language Revitalization CHAT said, “I think we have all experienced the oppressive nature of ”˜bullying”' one time or another throughout our lives and this documentary film has bought healing into my life.”

The Out in the Backyard group was glad for neighbors to come together to share resources and strategies. The model of Community Health Action Teams, in and of itself, helps to counter many of the negative, isolating effects of oppression ”“ through trust-building, learning about different cultures, finding shared interests and working together toward common goals.

All Backyard residents are welcome to come to the community meetings on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 5 PM at the Cultural Wellness Center. The Center is located at 1527 East Lake Street in the Franklin Bank Building.  Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

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