LGBT Utahns speak out against bullying in wake of suicide

A 14-year-old Bennion Junior High teen who took his life in front of classmates on Nov. 29 was bullied, according to students who attended a candlelight vigil. Police and school officials have identified the student as David Q. Phan.

The young student reported bullying two years ago, but had not indicated any recent problems to school officials, according to a Granite School District spokesperson.

No information about David’s sexual orientation is being released. However, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children are more than twice as likely to be bullied than their straight peers, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign. In Utah, more than 70 percent of LGBT teens reported being verbally or physically harassed for their sexual orientation. Approximately 30 percent of LGBT youth described themselves as happy and that indicator jumped to 70 percent for straight teens.

Bullying is a large concern for Utah’s LGBT community, said Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the Utah Pride Center. The Center recently launched an anti-bullying hotline, 801-580-7680, which is staffed by mental health professionals and ready to assist young Utahns who are being bullied.

“We have a crisis in Utah that is fueled by a lack of education and acceptance of difference. Through our work we know that Utah’s teens, whether gay, perceived gay or straight are having a tough time dealing with the variety of forces pulling at them to behave or think one way or another. Education is absolutely vital to addressing myriad factors that contribute to suicidal behavior in Utah’s youth population,” Larabee said. “Increased community pressure could and should push schools, faith based institutions, media and elected officials to do more recognize and address the issues that underlie our higher than national suicide rates. Each loss of life is a severe reflection on the erosion of a civil and inclusive society.”

For more information about the anti-bullying efforts being headed by the Center, go to utahpridecenter.org.

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  1. It's the same as women being taught not to get raped, instead of men being taught don't rape (which to me is common sense). Why are we bullying others because of the sexual orientation to begin with? I think ALL parents should have a talk with their children about accepting each person and loving each person no matter what. Bullying like most things start at home. I know my eyes are wide open, I hope all of yours are as well.

  2. People are bullied for a number a reasons. Anybody who is too smart, too dumb, too fat, too thin, achieved puberty too early or too late, not good in sports, handicapped, too ugly, too good-looking is subject to bullying. People just have an aversion to people who aren't like them. This is why many people, like some members of my family, come to Utah and don't want to leave. They can't handle anybody around them who looks, acts, thinks, or behaves differently from them.

    Why come out to an intolerant and unforgiving group of people when you know they will not accept it and will bully you? If you can't physically, mentally, or emotionally handle the reaction you will receive, then why push your sexuality in their faces? There is a time and a place for everything. Coming out to yourself, to your family and your true friends is very empowering. But, coming out just to make a political statement is foolhardy and invites trouble in a place like Utah. It's better to wait until you are older and on your own. Attend a college where you have a chance of being accepted and fitting in. In other words, don't go to BYU, and flaunt your lifestyle and wonder why you have been taunted and kicked out.

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