The Rainbow Youth Generation Queer (GQ) group meets every second Friday at Rainbow Youth HQ.
Young people between the ages of 13–18 who identify as queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, fa’afafine, questioning or curious, come along to hang out, share their stories and support each other.
We called the group together to find out their thoughts on bullying, what to do to help people, and what schools can do to help students who are affected by bullying. Most of the people in the room had experienced bullying – either as a target, an instigator of bullying behaviour, or a witness.
Bullying is hard for everyone
“If you’re being bullied for any reason, not just because you might be gay or something, it’s really hard,” says Rob. “I really struggled with finding out who I was, and having other kids at school harassing me all the time made it a lot harder.”
But there is always support out there.
“Coming to Rainbow Youth has really helped me, knowing there are other people like me is awesome,” Rob says. “Tumblr is also really good – I can have a rant about a bad day or a kid in my class, and I get so much love and support from my friends online.”
Renee suggests finding a teacher who is sympathetic, and letting them know that you’re unhappy.
“Not all teachers are supportive, and you have to know that. But there should be at least one teacher who you can talk to about this stuff, and who can help you when you’re being bullied.”
The group had a few tips for other young people who were being bullied:
- Have a group of friends who can pull you away and intervene.
- Ignore them, just walk away.
- Find a safe space.
- Talk to someone who will really listen and acknowledge you’re hurt, and say it’s okay.
- Know you were in the right.
- Ask your friends to stand up for you.
- If you need to, you can change schools.
Stand up for others who are being bullied
“I didn’t do anything when I knew a girl who was being bullied,” says Sarah, “and I really regret it now. Ignoring the situation was just as bad as joining the bullies. Now I know I should have stood up for her; it just takes one person to stand up for someone to make a difference.”
However, the group agrees that this isn’t always easy.
“People don’t stick up for you if you’re being bullied for being gay, because they’re worried they might get bullied themselves; that people will assume they’re gay because they’ve got gay friends, or something,” says Cooper.
If you do want to help someone who is being bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity, the first thing to do is talk to them.
“Just ask: ‘do you want to talk about it?’ and be prepared to drop it if the answer’s no. Especially if the bullying is about someone’s sexuality or gender identity – they might not be ready to talk about it. Let them know you’re there when they need you, but don’t push it,” says Taylor.
“Let your friend know you understand that they’re hurt and angry,” says Lizzie, “because they need to know that how they’re feeling is okay.”
“Take them to a safe place – it might be the counsellor’s office or the library.”
Parents should be supportive and listen
If your child is being bullied, the group recommends you don’t charge into the school with guns blazing – take the time to listen to your child and find out what they need from you.
“Some parents are so worried about their kid’s safety that they try to prevent them from expressing themselves,” says Izzy. “That’s not a great way to handle it. If your kid wants to form a support group, or be part of a Queer-Straight Alliance, you need to let them.”
“Teenagers are in a weird space anyway, just be open to understanding them. Give advice about what to do, but let them make their own choices,” says Witi. “Snatching away a cell phone or banning a computer might prevent bullies from getting to them, but many of us have really strong online communities that are a huge support to us – don’t take that away.”
However, it’s important to take them seriously, and if needed, take action.
“Sometimes, the only thing you can do is change schools,” says Pippa, “It’s not a nice thing to think about, but it might be the best thing for your child. Research schools in your area and find one that has a supportive environment, maybe with support groups and peer support networks.”
Find out about support that is available for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi, or who may be questioning their gender. Contact Rainbow Youth, or check out their website for more resources.