Words That Hurt — and Heal

Good work, Tully!

Play Gives Voice to Teens’ Experiences With Bullying, Friends, Fitting In

Washington Post
January 25, 2007
By Arianne Aryanpur

Tully Satre, 17, says he knows what it’s like to be bullied. He knows how it feels to be called names and ostracized.

“I’m gay and I go to a Catholic school. You get the picture there,” said the senior at Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg.

Lest any of our elected officials begin to hyperventilate at the thought that this is a “gay play”: No. This is a play about what everyone has in common – the capacity to bully and to be bullied.

The play, which will be performed next month at several sites in Loudoun, is being directed by the Creative Youth Theater Foundation, a nonprofit theater group in Middleburg. The show is underwritten by the Loudoun Youth Initiative, a county agency created in 2004 with support from the Board of Supervisors to address teenagers’ needs.

The idea for the show came about in 2004 after the agency surveyed more than 500 students and found that a majority had experienced bullying. The Loudoun Youth Initiative approached the theater foundation about creating a play for teenagers on the topic, said Tom Sweitzer, founder of the theater group and one of the play’s directors

“Everyone,” naturally, includes youth who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender. There is a peculiar idea in some quarters that efforts to combat bullying should exclude these particular individuals, and we are pleased to see that the Loudoun Youth Initiative has not been intimidated into taking this stance.

Another student involved with the project says:

There are people who are always going to judge you by how you dress or where you come from, but there are always people out there who can accept you for who you are. Find those people and hang on to them, because it’s not worth changing yourself to fit in.

Indeed, that is the very message that some people would like very much to withhold from our youth. Finding those people who accept you for who you are – that sounds an awful lot like what Gay/Straight Alliances are for. That same explicit advice – surround yourself with a group of friends who will support and stand up for each other – also comes from the Next Level 4 Teens anti-bullying workshop presented in Loudoun schools.

Any effort to discourage participation in GSAs is equivalent to saying “Sorry. That advice doesn’t apply to everyone. Some of you should be bullied.” That’s unaccaptable.

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