OGDEN -- Stories of being bullied, getting kicked out of homes, even suicide attempts were shared by individuals who have experienced them firsthand because they identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual.
The emotional testimonies were heard Tuesday evening at a forum at Weber State University.
The event was held by Weber State University's Office of Cultural Affairs and OUTreach Resource Center.
The event featured several panelists as well as members of the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus and state Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.
The forum was a way for people to discuss the problems and effects of bullying and ways to overcome them.
The panelists shared stories about coming out as gay to their families, who did not accept them and opted to throw them out of the house.
Others were badgered to "get help" and undergo anti-gay therapy.
Some talked about being bullied, not necessarily for being gay, but just for being different.
Each panelist was given a few minutes to tell his or her story and share how they were able to grow from their experiences.
Members of the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus were in town to talk about their project "It Gets Better" and to share their own experiences coming out and dealing with bullying.
Nicholas Maughan, a board member of OUTReach, was the moderator for the event.
"Kids that come out who don't have supportive parents are eight times more likely to resort to bad behaviors," Maughan said. These behaviors include homelessness, drug use, prostitution and suicide.
Maughan said, each year, his organization helps 350 youth, many of whom are homeless.
Most agreed that these problems begin at a young age during school.
Syracuse Police Sgt. Stan Penrod said that, as a community officer, he has seen firsthand the effects of bullying on students, including his own son, who would rather ditch school than face ridicule and abuse.
"It (dialogue) needs to begin at the junior highs and high schools," Penrod said.
Many of the panelists said they were able to overcome their internal struggles by surrounding themselves with positive people who supported them.
Froerer spoke about anti-bullying legislation he successfully passed this year.
He said teen suicide was an elephant in the room he thought state legislators should address.
The law passed requires schools and districts to inform the parents of any student who has been the victim of bullying. It also requires the schools to inform the parents of students who participate in the bullying.
Froerer said he understands that it opens up the risk of parents discovering their children are gay, but regardless, they should still be the first to know about abuse.
Maughan said there are concerns and that a safety net should be implemented, but that the legislation is a step in the right direction.
"There are too many kids who are dying for too many reasons," Maughan said. "We need to push aside the fear of talking about it and do something."
There is also companion legislation that requires school districts to make detailed reports on bullying in their jurisdiction, so the Legislature can further analyze and come up with solutions to the problem, Froerer said.
Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at
801-625-4227 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.