By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Nov. 18, 2010
About 300 braved the cold night air Nov. 16 on the steps of the Statehouse for a rally and candlelight vigil to draw attention to the increasing epidemic of youth suicide brought brought on by anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender bullying in schools in Idaho and across the nation.
Casey Dempsey said he witnesses bullying “almost every day” at Centennial High.
“One day I was in the hall minding my own business and someone spat on me. There is nothing worse in my mind than feeling worthless and being spat on,” said Dempsey. “One day you are straight and everyone thinks you’re the coolest person, the next you’re not straight and they stop talking to you and all of a sudden you’re getting bullied by people who you were friends with just days before.”
BSU student Justin Baxter described the years of bullying and taunting he endured in both middle and high school in Sandpoint, Idaho. Walking home one day after a bullying incident in his gym class locker-room, Baxter was struck in the head with a glass bottle. He fell unconscious to the grown breaking his nose as his attackers kicked him.
“People do no understand what it is like to be in that kind of darkness,” said Baxter.
But his message included some optimism. “I am happy that I am here today to tell you from the bottom of my heart to stick in there.”
Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, made an impassioned plea, “We have a duty to ask others to stand up with us because I’m afraid that just gay people talking to those in this building,” gesturing to the statehouse, “is not enough. We need straight people standing by our side. We need our co-workers we need out classmates our family members our neighbors to stand up with us come into this building and telling their legislators that this is issue matters to them.”
Talking to CityDesk on her plans for this legislative session, LeFavour says she will be submitting a personal bill within the first two weeks of the new legislative session to amend the Idaho Human Rights Act and plans are in the works for strong anti-bullying laws.
“I think the two things go hand in hand and that is part of the discussion,” said LeFavour.
One local resource for LGBT youth is the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition whose mission is to help Idaho schools become safe places where children are safe to learn regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. They also speak, on request to groups and educators about how to make Schools a safer place for kids.
Co-Chair, Chris Cutler said ISSC’s strongest and most rewarding work has been in the area of youth leadership development. “We hold Youth Leadership workshops, facilitate a student-led Youth Night event. This year we had 70 youths register and 115-120 actual attendees.”
When the rally was over hundreds marched quietly up Capital Blvd. to the BSU quad where students lead a community candlelight vigil in memory of the many LGBT youth who have taken their lives from the trauma of being bullied.
Vigil participant Laura Doty said, “The names of youth who had committed suicide were read aloud as we held our candles in the darkness. Several Courageous individuals stood among the supporters and shared, heart-wrenching accounts, of their own experiences of bullying and discrimination.” Doty says that nearly every of the 10-15 stories were about overcoming thoughts or attempts of suicide.
Another resource for LGBT youth who are in need of someone to talk can call the 24 hour Trevor Life Line: 866-4-U-TREVOR or or visit http://www.thetrevorproject.org