the voice and vision of a new generation
Matthew Choi Taitano

#SpiritDay Stories like mine: bullying as an intersectional issue

October 17, 2017

Growing up as a kid in Guam, I was often subjected to bullying because of my “flamboyant” personality. Without coming out myself, my classmates and even teachers assumed I was gay because of the way I expressed myself. I was frequently addressed with homophobic slurs and picked on the bus. Things remained verbal until one day in the ninth grade, a group of boys who would bully me on the bus ride from school followed me off my stop. I immediately knew something was off and felt terrible fear because they usually got off a few stops after me. When we got down, the boys forced me to go behind the bus stop, where they beat me to the ground until I could no longer defend myself. After they left me there, lying and bleeding in the dirt, I remember that all I kept thinking was, “Why me?”

Unfortunately, stories like mine are common among many LGBTQ students. Reportedly, 58 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43 percent because of their gender expression.

Additionally, it is important to realize that bullying against LGBTQ students is an intersectional issue that is informed by other identities. For example, 53.1 percent of LGBTQ students of color feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, on average, students of color experience more verbal harassment, physical harassment, and physical assault because of their gender expression than their white peers.

What is particularly upsetting is that 85 percent of LGBTQ students report being verbally harassed, but a staggering 64 percent who report an incident say that school staff did nothing in response or were told to ignore it.

This #SpiritDay, I wish to amplify the voices of students like me who have been bullied for being their true selves. Moreover, I want to urge teachers, family members, and non-LGBTQ students to practice active allyship by taking action when bullied students report instances of violence. Finally, I hope that we within the LGBTQ community are able to look at bullying through an intersectional lens so as to understand the ways in which other identities—such as class, race, ability, and religious background—shape experiences with bullying differently for individuals within the community.

Matthew Choi Taitano is a founding GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a senior at Princeton University. Throughout his time at Princeton, Matthew has been engaged in leadership and activist work around issues impacting LGBTQ students, students of color, and students from first-generation, low-income backgrounds.

Join Matthew and take the Spirit Day pledge now!

About Spirit Day

Each year, millions go purple for GLAAD’s Spirit Day to support LGBTQ youth in a united stand against bullying. Started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan in response to numerous young LGBTQ lives lost to suicide, Spirit Day now draws the participation of celebrities, schools, faith institutions, national landmarks, corporations, media outlets, sports leagues, and advocates around the world, all joining together to stand against bullying and support LGBTQ youth.

As anti-LGBTQ policies, hate crimes, and harassment are on the rise, it is now especially important to let all marginalized youth know they are supported. This year, Spirit Day is on October 19, 2017. Take the Spirit Day pledge to show LGBTQ youth you've got their backs at glaad.org/spiritday. Follow @GLAAD on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up to date with #SpiritDay news.

the voice and vision of a new generation