Letter to LGBT News: On LGBT youth, bullying, runaways, activism, vision and change
My name is Caleb Laieski. I am a 15 year old gay teenager living and attending high school in Surprise, Arizona.
As a gay youth in a public school system, I have endured relentless harassment, threats, and bullying simply because I am a gay teenager. During my 8th grade year of school, I finally acknowledged to the public and myself that I am, in fact, gay. As the news of my gay "outing" made the rounds at school, "anti-gay" slurs and innuendos began. Words like "fag and homo" became a way of life for me.
When I started high school, it became worse. The harassment, slurs, and threats became more bold, frequent and the vast majority of teachers failed to intervene. In fact, one teacher had said, in front of other students, that all gays are "going to hell." As those issues worsened, I contacted the school district countless times for help. Help never came.
Not only these issues occurring to myself, a very close friend of mine who is openly gay himself, had told me about how he is experiencing the same concerns and had once attempted suicide by drinking a majority of a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He had also trimmed his teeth down with a nail filer, with confidence issues in result of the comments being made by other students.
On March 24, 2010, at about 1:45 p.m., while walking home from the bus stop, I was approached by multiple male individuals in a vehicle yelling "Fuck you Caleb, you fucking faggot" followed by "fuck gay people" with finger gestures.
At this point, I finally contacted the Arizona ACLU for help. The ACLU followed with a letter to the school district that included a response deadline of "April 23, 2010." That deadline went unanswered. The district finally responded in mid-May by stating that "their attorney will be in touch shortly."
On May 13, 2010, at lunchtime, I was again confronted by a male student stating "I'm gonna sock you in the face, you fuckin homo" followed by the word "Faggot" simply because I asked his girlfriend why she was cutting in front of the lunch line instead of waiting like the other students. I reported the incident to the school administration and my ACLU attorney. While the school administration acknowledged the incident, the vice principal made light of the situation stating that she knows the student involved because "He's in my office often," and she would address it with him. Concerns for my safety, well-being and emotional stress caused by these repeated incidents were shooed out the door, leaving me to wonder whether or not I would make it through the day without being attacked. I was so scared that I walked out of school that day because I was afraid for my life.
Since that time, I have spoken with the vice principal, the school district and my ACLU attorney. Nothing transpired. Fortunately, I made it through school "this time" without incident. But, what does my future hold? Will I have to submit to ongoing harassment, threats, and bullying for the rest of my educational career? Will I end up being one of the teens that attempts suicide, develops a drug or alcohol problem; or end up homeless on the streets?
In 2008, I became an activist one month before elections on Proposition 102 (Arizona) and Proposition 8 (California) - both defining marriage as a right only available between one man and one woman.
After the passage of both propositions, my frustrations led me to begin researching and investigating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights and offering my assistance to local as well as national organizations. Thanks to the positive support of these organizations, I gained some very essential experience, but I felt that those organizations were not working fast enough. Change needed to happen sooner!
So, I had the vision of founding my own organization -- Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination (GLUAD) to help support the LGBT local and national communities. I worked day and night to make sure this vision became a reality.
In January, 2009, GLUAD began writing to legislatures in all 50 states with literature containing insight on LGBT issues. After a year of unexpected challenges, it became apparent to me how critical legislation is in providing essential changes towards LGBT equality. As a gay youth, having survived my own issues, I felt that GLUAD could make the most crucial impact by focusing on LGBT youth communities both locally and nationally. I reached out to other LGBT youth. I heard stories from other students whose lives echoed with mine. Whose stories all contained common threads of serious harassment, threats, and bullying. Stories of unheard victims of violence and abuse. It made me angry! Angry to the point that I began an intensive search for answers. Answers that both shocked, saddened and horrified me. Statistics that showed me the alarming amount of homeless teenagers and even worse -the preventable teen suicide rate.
Currently, GLUAD is in the process of opening a homeless shelter focusing primarily on LGBT runaways or displaced people. We will provide housing for LGBT youth, adults, elderly and other members of the homeless community that have nowhere to go and no one to help them. GLUAD is continuing to work with all 50 state legislatures to address LGBT statistics, background and work for protective legislation.
My hope is to prevent people from experiencing and surviving the same type of harassment, threats, and bullying that I had to endure during my teen years. For LGBT people to have the same rights, goals and dreams of every other person in this country. To have somewhere to go, and someone to turn to when the world turns its back on them!
With hope and determination,
Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination