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Welcome to the Tyler Clementi Foundation

  • Featured Post

    As LGBTQ Students, Schools Grapple with “Trump Effect,” Murray, Baldwin, Pocan Redouble Efforts to Pass Anti-Harassment Legislation

    LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to be harassed than their peers

    Yet there is no federal requirement that schools have policies in place to protect these students

    Legislation is named after Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, who took his own life after experiencing harassment, bullying

    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), reintroduced legislation aimed at reducing bullying and harassment that affects one in five students at colleges and universities across the country. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2017 would require institutions of higher education to establish policies to prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The bill also establishes a grant program to support campus anti-harassment activities and programs. The legislation is named after Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who took his own life after his roommate and another student invaded his privacy and harassed him over the Internet.

    Lawmakers are deeply concerned with the rise of hateful and intimidating incidents spreading throughout college campuses nationwide, including actions undertaken by President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to withdraw guidance pertaining to discrimination against transgender students under Title IX of the education amendments of 1972, and the appointment of people to lead the Office for Civil Rights at the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services who apparently disagree or outright oppose the mission or role of the office and have advocated against the policy they now must enforce.

    I support the TCHEA“Especially now, with a bully-in-chief in the White House, we need to make it clearer than ever that this kind of behavior simply should not be accepted,” said Senator Murray. “No student should ever have to fear discrimination and harassment in their pursuit of education, no matter who they are, what they believe, or who they love. President Trump may have won the election, but I am going to keep fighting to make it clear that bullies will not win and bullying will not be tolerated. I made a promise to families like Tyler’s, to keep fighting to protect our students, and I’m going to keep fighting for policies like this no matter how hard President Trump pushes us the other way.”

    “No student should have to live in fear of being who they are. Our schools should not be, and cannot be, places of discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation or violence,” said Senator Baldwin. “This legislation, named in honor of Tyler Clementi, is an important step forward in not only preventing harassment on campus, but also making sure our students have the freedom to succeed in safe and healthy communities of learning and achievement. Everyone at colleges and universities across America should be able to pursue their dreams free of harassment and bullying.”

    “No student should be harassed for who they are, or who they love,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “Bullying is a real and persistent danger for many LGBTQ students at our colleges and universities, but there is no federal legislation that specifically protects students from being targeted based on sexual orientation or gender identity. President Trump has not yet shown that his Administration will defend the rights of LGBTQ students. That’s why this bill is so important, as it ensures that institutions of higher learning are a place of open expression, which celebrate diversity and embrace students from all different backgrounds.”

    “We are grateful for the continual support from Senators Murray, Baldwin, and Representative Pocan as they reintroduce the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act to protect students from the harmful effects of bullying in institutions of higher education. Their commitment to join with us to make all institutions of higher education safe places to learn and thrive is commendable,” said Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. “I believe this bill will allow institutions of higher education to take a fresh look and reexamine their policies and procedures that are and are not in place. We must continue to provide safe and supportive learning environments for all students in all learning environments including higher education.”

    “No student should be bullied or made to feel unsafe in the place they should feel the most secure — their college or university,” said Chad Griffin, HRC President. “Senator Murray, Senator Baldwin, and Representative Pocan are committed to helping our young people thrive in an inclusive and supportive education environment, and we thank them for their unwavering leadership in championing this bill which will undoubtedly save lives and make our colleges and universities better and safer places.”

    “LGBTQ college students, like all students, deserve safe, affirming, and inclusive campuses in which to learn and excel,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director. “GLSEN is incredibly thankful to Sens. Patty Murray and Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan for again reintroducing the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act to help ensure all college students have access to safe and inclusive campuses. We look forward to working with members of Congress to pass this critically important bill.”

    “This bill is an important step forward in combatting harassment on college campuses. A federal requirement that institutions of higher education have comprehensive anti-harassment policies is long overdue, and a grant program to support prevention and training programs and support for victims of harassment is sorely needed,” said Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Vice President for Program and President-Elect, National Women’s Law Center.

    Read more about the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2017.

    Support the important work done by the Tyler Clementi Foundation through a gift making it possible for us to continue delivering programs that prevent bullying in addition to research and legislative initiatives to address the health crisis of bullying.

    TCF is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse or oppose any political party or candidate.

  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander Barry Miller

    Portrait of Barry Miller
    You’ve lived in Orlando for several years. What did you think of the response to the Pulse tragedy from the Orlando community?
    After the tragedy, I was so inspired by the Orlando community’s response. I’ve lived in Orlando since 1983 and for the first time I saw community members rallying together to support the LGBT community. From blood banks overflowing to marches and speeches by local politicians, the community’s response was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. People came together from all different backgrounds to support each other. What stood out was the religious community, which has not traditionally been our supports, were there in support.

    How do you define bullying?

    Bullying is anytime someone feels inadequate, uncomfortable or less than equal. Everyone should feel safe and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance is key. When others create a sense of inadequacy because they are different, people begin to suffer and feel bullied. Bullying only breeds more bullying as it becomes a norm in a community.

    The Pulse tragedy can be seen as fueled by transphobia and homophobia, which continues to affect LGBTQIA youth in schools throughout the country. How do you see impact of this tragedy affecting the conversations communities must have about all prejudice and what do you feel each person in a community should be doing to challenge bigotry?
    The impact is awareness, the more people that become aware that prejudice is affecting our community every day in real ways, the better we can educate them to be cognizant, then people can see how to stop prejudice and embrace our differences. In almost all cases, bystanders are just as guilty as the bully. People need to prove that they are an ally to others, ready to fight and advocate for others when they witness bigotry. Education is key to awareness.

    Can you explain The 49 Fund? What inspired you to launch the fund?
    The 49 Fund is a scholarship fund that I created after seeing firsthand the impact of the Pulse tragedy in our community. I want to be sure that our community has leaders for the future. This unique scholarship will be offered specifically to LGBT students in Central Florida.  The scholarships will be awarded to students who will be the leaders of tomorrow and want to make a positive impact on our community. I was so inspired by my community’s response to the Pulse tragedy that I wanted to create this fund in honor of the 49 victims to ensure that we have great leaders for the future. The goal is to raise one million dollars so the fund will be endowed and continue in perpetuity.

    How can people donate to The 49 Fund? What if someone can’t afford it?
    We established The 49 Fund to be for everyone to be part of it. If you are a student, donate $4.90; if you are a young professional, $49; a small business, $490; a thriving entrepreneur, $4,900; or a successful business or leader, $49,000. Donations can be made online. One great part of the fund is that we welcome donations from everyone in the community and strive to make it affordable to make an impact. In doing so, we have various levels of contributions. Others in the community are committing to pledge $4900 over five years. There’s a contribution level for everyone that wants to make a difference.

    How can students apply for The 49 Fund?
    Students can apply online. The scholarships will be awarded to students who strive to by leaders and want to make a positive impact on our community. A 3.0 GPA, an essay, a letter of recommendation, and demonstration of a financial need are required. Preference will be given to any survivors and families of the victims of the Pulse tragedy.

    You’ve been very successful in business, what lessons have you borrowed from business when launching The 49 Fund?
    I’ve borrowed the lesson of rallying peers around this mission that I am passionate about. When I founded my companies, The Closing Agent and Barry Miller Law– it was only me. Since then, we’ve grown to 5 offices and over 30 employees. I’ve rallied employees around my company’s mission of providing outstanding closing, title and legal services just like I’ve tried to encourage my community to get involved in The 49 Fund. A core of my business is to give back to the community. In the past I have served as President of The Orlando LGBT Center, President of The Orlando International Fringe Festival (the oldest and largest in the US) and have sponsored many endeavors for arts and education. I currently serve as President of the Central Florida Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association (CFGALLA).

    As a business owner, how do you see bullying prevention in the workplace being a part of the solution to end bullying?
    Sadly, bullying doesn’t stop in schools. From my years in business, I’ve seen that there’s no place for bullying in the workplace. Employers must educate their employees that this is a real problem, everywhere. If businesses educate their employees, they can bring this information home and teach their children that bullying is just wrong and that tolerance, differences and uniqueness of people is what makes our nation and our communities great.

    Have you ever experienced (or witnessed) bullying? Can you share about that experience?
    Growing up, unfortunately I did experience bullying and it was very traumatic. When I was growing up there were no outlets for help, that is why it is so important today to get the word out…to educate on this important issue.

    What piece of advice would you give to someone who has been bullied?
    Borrowing from a line that I love, I’d tell someone that ‘it gets better.’ Every individual, no matter who they are, has felt like they were bullied before. What matters is how someone reacts to the situation of being bullied. I encourage children and adults to not stand idly by when they are being bullied or witness someone else getting bullied. Speak out against the indifference you see in the world. It is so important. Awareness, education and action will someday stop bullying.

    Barry Miller is a business professional in Orlando, Florida. Follow The 49 Fund on Facebookor visit The Fund 49 site.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    One County Took a Strong Stand Against Cyberbullying, Isn’t It Time for Your Community?


    “I am pleased to support Ulster County and County Executive Mike Hein for their forward thinking, understanding and recognition of the need to protect the children of Ulster County from the potential harms of cyber-bullying.”—Jane Clementi, Co-Founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation

    Ulster County is just the beginning. It’s time representatives in communities across the country start important conversations to make cyberbullying prevention a priority.

    Start in your community with the #Day1 program. Learn more.


    April 19, 2017

    KINGSTON, N.Y. —Today, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein signed into law legislation that he had proposed, and the Legislature refined, to prohibit cyber-bullying in Ulster County and help protect victims. County Executive Hein was joined by Kenneth Ronk, Jr., Chair of the Ulster County Legislature; Legislator Carl Belfiglio; Legislator Chris Allen; Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright; Jeff Rindler, the Executive Director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center; and Jane Clementi, Co-Founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation and mother of Tyler Clementi – an 18 year old victim of bullying who tragically ended his life in 2010 and focused national attention on the need for new tools to help prevent cyber-bulling.

    “All of our children are precious and need to know there is help and protection available,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “I am proud of all of the work achieved in collaboration with schools, parents and our stakeholders who assisted in developing this valuable tool to hold those who engage in cyber-bullying accountable. As technology continues to advance at an ever increasing pace, our youth are more and more susceptible to cyber-bullying with access to the internet and social media at their fingertips. Cyber-bullying is a serious issue and can be devastating to the victim and their family, and can lead to anxiety, depression and in severe cases suicide.”—Michael P. Hein, Ulster County Executive

    The new law prohibits cyber-bullying of persons under the age of eighteen who are in Ulster County and includes the following prohibitions:

    A person is guilty of Cyber-Bullying of a Minor when: with the intent to harass, abuse, intimidate, torment, or otherwise inflict emotional harm on a minor, the actor electronically transmits, anonymously or otherwise:

    • information about such minor which has no legitimate communicative purpose and the actor knows or reasonably should know that the electronic transmission of the information will cause harm to the minor’s reputation or the minor’s relationships with the minor’s parents, family members, friends, peers, employers,
    • private sexual information about the minor; or
    • a photograph or a video, whether real or altered, that depicts any uncovered portion of the breasts, buttocks, or genitals of the minor and said photograph or video has no legitimate communicative purpose; or
    • false sexual information about the minor; or
    • information that has no legitimate communicative purpose by appropriating the minor’s name, likeness, e-mail accounts, websites, blogs for the purpose of harassing such minor or other minors.

    Photo (from left): Michael Berg, Executive Director, Family of Woodstock; Sharon Lyons, Sr. Counselor, Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program; Kristin Gumaer, Esq., Assistant County Attorney; Carl Belfiglio, Ulster County Legislator; Kenneth Ronk, Jr., Chair and Ulster County Legislator; Jeff Rindler, Executive Director of Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center; Jane Clementi, Co-Founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation; Chris Allen, Ulster County Legislator; D. Holley Carnright, Ulster County District Attorney, Ellen Pendegar, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Association.

    TCF is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse or oppose any political party or candidate.

  • Featured Post

    Eve’s Story

    Portrait of Eve

    Being bullied started very early on for me. At first, it was silly things like being left out and someone saying, “We don’t want to play with you today” and “Nobody is your friend.”

    As I got older, it changed to not feeling accepted by any group—being told I would never fall in love as I’m too ugly. There was constant name calling and being mocked to being constantly hit by boys and girls.

    People took advantage of my kindness and quietness. I was set upon after school and narrowly missed being sexually assaulted. Lucky for me there were only two of them, and I was a lot taller. I managed to force them away and ran home.

    I never spoke about it to an adult as the two boys were popular. I wasn’t popular, and I didn’t need anymore grief from anyone.

    Being bullied from a young age affected my life in lots of different ways.

    The main question I have always asked is, “Why me?”

    Even now, at 31 years old, I still don’t know the answer. The difference now is that I have a lot of good people in my life who tell me I’m a wonderful person and love me. In a lot of way, I’m lucky, but the only reason I want everyone to know is so I can say to others not to be afraid to talk to others about what you’re going through.

    Don’t ever feel like you deserve whats happening to you, because you don’t.

    There is someone who loves you and thinks your amazing. Be strong and be true to yourself because you deserve a fabulous life filled with love and happiness.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander and Photographer Syd London

    Portrait of Syd London
    Your photography has such power, color and humanity. What are the things you look for in composing your work?

    My process begins with getting at the soul and guts of a story and the people who are directly impacted. Wherever I am, no matter the day, I see the incredible beauty of light and how it shapes everything. However, at this moment in our world I’m not comfortable with simply making pretty photos. Living in such a visually based society, photography and photojournalism have such a well of potential to impact people’s perceptions as well as public policy. Beauty ultimately becomes a tool to engage the viewer, often on subject matter resulting from the ugliest parts of our humanity.

    How did you come to making photography your creative voice?

    First let me clear, I never expected to become a professional photographer. Though I’m trained extensively in fine arts and design, I am a self-taught photographer. I believe it’s important to be transparent about this because the arts need to be accessible to everyone, not isolated in some ivory tower. The arts and creativity have nothing to do with elitism or wallet size. The arts are about making space for each person’s voice and creative spirit. The arts teach us all about our history, our world and ourselves. They must be accessible, the arts save so many lives… mine included.

    There are 3 primary contributing factors to photography becoming my work and creative voice, but it certainly wasn’t a direct route for me. The influence of my grandfather has been a huge factor in my life. Second, my gnawing need to use what I can do to contribute. Finally, receiving the diagnosis when I was 20 of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (E.D.S.), a rare, degenerative, genetic disorder without a cure, it prodded me in this direction while also taking some other options off the table.

    Thanks to my grandfather, I knew I had the photography bug when I was about 7, starting with that delicious sound of the closing shutter which actually made my hair stand on end (yeah, I know, I’m weird but I’m okay with that now). When I turned 16 my mom gave me my first 35mm, a little Olympus that I still love to shoot with. For years all I wanted was a35mm. Despite a lot of struggles, the one thing my mom has continually encouraged in my life are the arts, being an artist and designer herself.

    My grandfather served in the Royal Canadian Signals as part of the Number 1 Special Wireless Group during World War 2 (from 1939-1946). He was a code breaker. He also took photos for the military, several of which I have and am trying to learn more about. After the war he built a darkroom out of found objects from the dumpsters, including his homemade enlarger. I’ll never forget the first time I watched him place a negative into the enlarger, focus, and suddenly this tiny, inverted image came to life! It blew my young mind!

    Growing up in a traditionally Jewish home, in addition to my grandfather being a WW2 veteran and his father having escaped the Russian KGB (a result of his labor organizing work), there were three pieces of knowledge my grandpa embedded into very my DNA. Despite his death when I was 12 I’m so grateful he shaped my core values, what I do now and most certainly how I see. This is what he taught me which drives my work:

    One of the greatest weapons of suppression is the erasure of another person or group’s story.

    Remember the victors always write the history books.

    Question everything, always. The more you are told not to question something, the more it needs to be examined inside out.

    Students organized action and vigil responding to Tyler Clementi's suicide.  Washington Square Park, New York City. 10.03.2010 Photo by Syd London ©2010, all rights reserved.Students organized action and vigil responding to Tyler Clementi’s suicide. Washington Square Park, New York City. 10.03.2010 Photo by Syd London ©2010, all rights reserved.

    How have people responded to your work?
    It’s important to remember how much has happened in the last 10 years. The LGBTQITSGNC and POC communities were dramatically less visible in mainstream media; issues such as transgender rights were certainly not getting any meaningful coverage. As a result there was a strong response to finally seeing our lives being reflected in a more truthful, real and broader ranging way. Honestly, the response to my work really surprised me. I don’t believe any part of this journey would have evolved without the queer community making space for my work. It’s something I’m profoundly thankful for. Community gave me the first opportunities and encouraged me through my photographic growing pains. Community gave me the chance to build my portfolio and the confidence to do that really scary and vulnerable thing – put my work and voice out there.

    Shortly after my work began getting published I started receiving some powerful emails and messages through social media. I’ve never talked about it before. Prior to the reversal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, deployed military members would send me secret messages, along with people out in middle of America and even remote places in Europe. They all wrote about how it felt to see these published photos of people they could relate to. They told me they felt less alone or didn’t know they weren’t alone until they saw my photos of our community. It was really deep. I saved each message for my tough days, to ground me in why I do what I do.

    Syd London TileAs a young artist, do you feel like people expect different things from you creatively? If so, what types of things and how do you respond?
    Thank you dearly for calling me young, I’m turning 39 in a few months, though no one seems to believe it. My guess is that it’s a result of my being so excited to be alive, free and doing what I’m doing.

    Honestly, I’ve been more aware of expectations because of being female and a totally “out” queer than I have been about age… actually I find that people seem surprised that one of the projects I’m working on is “Aging While Queer”.

    While I may only be in my 30’s, I see many parallels between the disability rights movement, elder rights and how so many social justice movements overlap in the struggle. If anything, folks are caught off guard that I’m so passionate about what is happening to our generations of elders out there. While we must deal with and make space for our homeless queer youth, we can’t ignore how often our elders are fighting to stay off the streets or end up in the shelter system. Too many of our LGBTQITSGNC elders are unable to get proper health care and are living in isolation.

    Behind the scenes on the first shoot for "Aging While Queer" with Miss Major and Jay Toole. Oakland, CA. Photo by Wendi Kali ©2013, all rights reserved.Behind the scenes on the first shoot for “Aging While Queer” with Miss Major and Jay Toole. Oakland, CA. Photo by Wendi Kali ©2013, all rights reserved.

    My generation and younger often say, “we stand on the shoulders of our elders, they paved the way” yet our elders are facing terrible issues of ageism, even within the queer social justice work place. At the same time many of our elders are watching their own histories / herstories being white-washed before their very eyes. That’s why I started working on the multi media (video, audio and photo) project “Aging While Queer” and am currently pursuing funding to continue.

    When people walk away from viewing your artwork, what do you want them to carry with them?
    Photography is so subjective there’s a lot of room and potential. The potential takeaway is likely to be different depending on who you are. For some, I hope they learn a little something that perhaps builds a new kind of compassion. For others, I sure hope they feel less isolated and walk away feeling empowered. Education, empowerment and compassion are all powerful tools to move forth with.

    Young women and men are often challenged by hostility from their peers as they are growing up. Have you ever experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or humiliation? If so, could you share about those experiences?
    Yes, I’ve experienced a great deal of bullying and fear but I believe it’s also important to note my partner, who’s in her late 60’s, is still afraid to use a bathroom in New York City today. Yes, we are an intergenerational couple. Sadly, I’ve found that bullying, fear and suppression are not limited to a specific age group.

    My partner, Jay Toole, is very butch; she’s often mistaken for a man. In our community her butchness is celebrated, her nickname is even “Super Butch”. However, when she steps out into the rest of the world it’s entirely different, she can’t even go to the bathroom safely. Something seems terribly wrong in this society when someone who witnessed the Stonewall rebellion almost 50 years ago, as a homeless youth, still can’t go to the bathroom without worrying about arrest today.

    Despite all the precautions she takes, including using a female buddy system, the NYPD are often called on her if she dares use the woman’s bathroom. People rarely ask or communicate before calling the police. Way too many in our community are living with the fear of simply needing to pee. Jay is in a particularly precarious position thanks to the sumptuary laws that were enforced into the 1980’s in NYC. The sumptuary laws were yet another way to institutionalize gender policing, requiring a person to wear 3 articles of clothing associated with the gender they were assigned at birth. Like so many queer youth, Jay ended up on the streets because she was thrown out. She was beaten and arrested by the NYPD countless times while homeless. Now Jay lives with traumatic brain injury among other injuries because of these beatings, along with a lengthy arrest record. She knows her body can’t handle being rough handled or beaten again. Based on her experiences, Jay is really concerned she’ll be rough handled if the NYPD get to her, because of having a record.

    The bathroom issues that we are finally talking about in the media are far from new. Our gender non-conforming and transgender community has been impacted by gender policing for countless generations. People should not be afraid of arrest or worse because they need to use the bathroom. This is bathroom bullying!

    Can you explain why the issue of bullying is important to you?
    It’s hard for me not to associate bullying with suicide and suicidal ideations. School could have been my refuge; I’ve always loved learning. Instead school felt like one more battlefield. Mostly it was verbal but the bullying was relentless. The bullying came from both teachers and students at a time when I struggled to believe I had any right to exist. My mom began threatening to kill herself, then disappearing into the night when I was nine. I knew her mom had killed herself so it just me seemed like the one door out, if I couldn’t hack it anymore during my childhood. When I was 5 years old my father stuck his handgun in my mouth and told me if I ever told what was happening he would kill my mom and me. As a result of my dad’s violence and my mom’s mental health instability I thought it was my job to protect my mom. I understand the price of silence really well.

    By the time I was in middle school my mom left our faith, becoming a born again Evangelical Christian. When I tried to come out to her she threw me out “for doing the work of the devil”. There was no other living family and nowhere for me to go. Between home and school, nothing felt safe. I had no idea if or how I was going to survive.

    Honestly I’m still not entirely sure how either my partner or I managed to survive our childhoods but I’m really glad we did. We both feel strongly about using what we know to contribute to our communities. It’s impossible for either of us to spend so many years living that kind of fight for basic survival and then turn our backs on our community.

    Fear and shame are incredibly powerful weapons of suppression.

    You have dedicated a large body of work to documenting L.G.B.T.Q.I.T.S.G.N.C. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Two-spirit, Gender Non-conforming) communities. These identities along with so many others are being challenged with increasing hostility all over the country. Many people (teachers, community organizers, parents) have reached out and want to know how they can create safe space for young (and all) people of all identities. Do you have tips or thoughts on how people can work towards making their classroom, organization or workplace a safe space for all people?
    We’ve made huge strides in some areas of L.G.B.T.Q.I.T.S.G.N.C. rights but we’ve also left behind some of our most critical survival issues like homelessness, suicide, lack of physical and mental health care access, police violence and elder care. I believe strongly we need to come together as a larger community and focus on these survival issues or we will continue to leave a huge portion of our family behind in this movement. That’s why I veered away from doing a lot of marriage equality coverage and focused on issues effecting trans people of color, First Nation Two-Spirit communities, issues of LGBTQITSGNC homelessness and healthcare access.

    Opening night of "Ground Surge: Communities Rising" in the Human Rights Institute Gallery at Kean University in 2016. Syd London speaks welcomes everyone to her first solo exhibition. Photo by Katrina del Mar © 2016Opening night of "Ground Surge: Communities Rising" in the Human Rights Institute Gallery at Kean University in 2016. Syd London speaks welcomes everyone to her first solo exhibition. Photo by Katrina del Mar © 2016.

    Yes I do have some tips. We created a lesson plan that helps guide students and teachers towards making school a safe space. It was created as part of the programming tied to my first solo exhibition, “Ground Surge: Communities Rising” at the Human Rights Institute Gallery. It builds on a series of questions and exercises, supporting students to self determine individually and working in groups. They examine what they believe is needed and how they can become active participants in building safe space for learning. I had the opportunity to create this lesson plan with Collette Carter, a brilliant social justice organizer along with Janice Kroposky, she’s an education specialist who leads the Holocaust Resource Center at Kean University. The lesson plan meets common core standards to ensure it’s something teachers can really use in the classroom. I’m happy to make digital copies available to interested faculty, students, parents and grandparents. Please contact me if interested to know more.

    Your new studio space includes capacity to support local creative people as a community space. What motivated you to do this and how do you feel like this will impact where you live?
    The idea basic ideas of Thunder Hill Studio are something I began working towards when I was 19 years old, with the formation of my first business Feral Woman. My goal was to build a business that backed an organization. The plan for the organization was buy land, restore the indigenous flora and fauna while offering programming to support women in need of safe space. Back in the 90’s, before the green eco-business movement, there wasn’t a model out there. I was trying to figure it out on my own and people thought the ideas were nuts because they’d never heard of such a business model. Feral Woman was a small, one-woman business but it began growing rapidly, until September 11th.

    In this day in age, I believe it’s essential medicine to have safe creative spaces, where we can breathe and reground in our feral (untamable) spirits. While the capacity of Thunder Hill Studio will be on much more intimate scale compared to my grand teen dreams, it’s a whole lot better than nothing. The closest queer space we’ve located is the LGBT Community Center in Kingston NY, over in Ulster County. That’s over an hour’s drive, each way. We are merely 2 hours from midtown Manhattan, yet it might as well be a world away

    Love & Shelter. A couple that met in the NYC Women's Shelter system snuggle during Queers for Economic Justice annual picnic in Prospect Park.  Brooklyn NY, 2011 Photo by Syd London ©2011, all rights reserved.Love & Shelter.
    A couple that met in the NYC Women’s Shelter system snuggle during Queers for Economic Justice annual picnic in Prospect Park.
    Brooklyn NY, 2011
    Photo by Syd London ©2011, all rights reserved.

    I treasure most of the aspects of living rurally, except when it comes to resources for minority communities. Sullivan County, where we are located, comes in second to last in health & wellness out of all 63 counties in the state of New York, annually. Each time my partner or I chat with local teachers or guidance councilors they talk to us about how their student body is 50% homeless, it’s really hard to wrap my brain around! 4 to 6 out of 10 homeless youth self identify as LGBTQITSGNC nationally. That’s why my mind immediately started wondering what’s available to our community on a local Sullivan County level. I’m still looking but I’m not waiting. It’s great to know as soon as we can open the doors to Thunder Hill Studio we will be a resource and help to hold safe space in a variety of formats.

    There’s no way to predict the impact. Hopefully, Thunder Hill Studio will support cross-pollination between the urban and rural L.G.B.T.Q.I.T.S.G.N.C. communities by serving as a retreat space for city based groups and creative space for locals. It will be a space where we can gather in small groups. I understand first hand how it corrodes self worth when the primary message someone hears from family and/or loved ones, friends, school and work is how “bad or wrong ” they are. My chosen family and community keep me grounded in my right to be alive and to be treated with love. That’s why I hope Thunder Hill Studio can serve as a vehicle to support growing that sense of community in Sullivan county.

    What are three things you think a person could do today to express kindness in their community?
    Each and every person has a story and is experts in their own experiences. Respecting and honoring each person in this way goes far. We don’t have to agree with each other to treat each other humanely and respectfully, that’s part of what’s great about living in a democracy.

    Find ways to create and support accessible, safe space, which visibly indicates itself as such so people know they are in a safe space.

    Vote with your dollar and at the ballot. Boycott spaces, businesses and groups which refuse to become accessible to everyone and/or who support hate, bullying or suppression of any of our human rights.

    Syd London is a social justice storyteller & patriotic muckraker. Very queer, Jewish, New Yorker who also loves nature, creating, building and tinkering plus, you should know that music is her food. Follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Visit her site here.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Tyler’s Suite is a Powerful Musical Experience

    Dion Grace of Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus

    Hear selections from Tyler’s Suite live at the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ event Hand in Hand on April 7 and 8. Get Tickets Now

    Tyler’s Suite is an emotionally moving work. Listening to it helps the audience connect with the emotional responses from the many different perspectives represented—Tyler, his mom, his dad, his brother. Singing it, however, is a completely different experience; and using the word ‘powerful’ is quite the understatement.

    I was taught as a kid to watch what I say and think before I speak because what I say is, in fact, powerful. Tyler’s story embodies the impacts of hurtful language and actions.

    Saying “I hear you say ‘I love you’; I’d say ‘I love you more'” puts me directly in the shoes of Jane Clementi and the unconditional love she can no longer express to Tyler. It’s hard wrapping my mind around how much my mom loves me, but this piece helps understand that love. Joseph Clementi resonates with his emotional response of confusion: “How could this happen? How could someone be so cruel to another person?” It’s an uncomfortably familiar question.

    Tyler’s Suite shows that bullying has consequences far beyond words that are said and actions that are taken against intended targets as acts of intolerance. This work is important to me because it reminds us first and foremost that Tyler Clementi was human. He had emotions. He had people that loved him. But because he was bullied, there will be songs we’ll never hear him share and music that will always be unplayed.

    Dion Grace is a member of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Follow the chorus on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Brian’s Story


    When I heard that we were doing Tyler’s Suite, I knew it was going to be a difficult experience for me because I have a strong connection with the sentiment behind the story. Some people just do not understand the toll that bullying takes on people, no matter what form it’s in.

    I grew up in a small, rural town where there were no openly gay people. I got teased incessantly by my peers about being gay even before I knew I was. I grew up learning that it was easier to hide who I was than be myself. I’ve thought of taking my own life more times than I can count for something that is a part of me. Unfortunately, even with my friends and family, there are just some things that cannot be shut out.


    However, I can say that they are the one thing that have prevented me from going through with suicide. I could not bear to cause them that pain, even to relieve my own.

    Being able to share in this story helps reinforce that everyone should be able to embrace their true selves without having to hide them away.

    The messages in Tyler’s Suite are so powerful and resonate so much with me that it is sometimes hard to make it through them without breaking down in tears. That is a testament to how powerful this story is and how much more powerful it becomes when set to beautiful music.

    Brian Sixbury is a member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus of Kansas City. Follow the chorus on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Cheyenne’s Story


    When I was in 8th grade, I would have never predicted how intolerable my high school career would be.

    I was always the chubby girl who died her hair different colors and wore tons of black. I put myself out there as different in a school where being Caucasian was the minority.

    Looking back, I feel guilty for not just fitting in, but I experience depression, so my mind takes me to some dark places.

    My bully was after me for months. He was a friend of some of my friends so he was always around calling me fat, ugly, stupid. He was telling me that no one will ever want me, and any little thing I did around him was always followed by a rude comment.

    I didn’t want to lose my friends, but I also was so tired of being constantly knocked down.

    I’m already a shy, sensitive person, and he absolutely loved tearing me apart.

    In the middle of my eight grade year, I fractured my ankle and was put on crutches for two weeks.

    After school one day we were just standing by our lockers when my bully comes up and asks if I tripped over a box of Twinkies.

    That day, I went home and cried, not knowing the situation on the other side.

    After eighth grade, we went to different high schools. I hadn’t heard from him until I learned about his suicide.

    I later learned his mom left and his dad was a drunk who went to jail while he was a teenager. His dad ended up causing a car collision that involved a child on a bike, then he was charged with involuntary manslaughter. All he really had was his grandmother, but she was getting older. I’m sure he would have been heartbroken if anything were to happen to her.

    He took his life on Christmas in his grandmother’s house so he’ll never know the feeling of losing his grandmother.

    I came to the conclusion that my bully was so much more tortured than I was.

    Recently, I learned that bullying is a matter of self reflection. It’s not the fact that your overweight or worthless. It’s where that bully’s mind is at. If he had a problem at home, he probably teased me more. I may never know the real situation. But it absolutely turned my perspective around.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    Meet Upstander Danny Reyes

    Portrait of Danny Reyes
    You grew up Cuban in Miami. Can you share a little about what that experience was like and how you felt your community responded to diverse identities?

    As you can imagine, Miami is very Hispanic. And not just Hispanic, there are a whole lot of Cubans over there. So as a Cuban-American I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience being a minority and a majority, in that I was brought up a Cuban among mostly Cubans, and then living in Richmond for about a decade, I’ve experienced being a brown person among mostly whites. If I can sum up the difference, I would say that to be Cuban in Miami is to be a person and to be Cuban in Richmond is to be a Cuban. And while it’s never been explicitly expressed, in one scenario I’m standard issue, and in the other, I’m off-brand. This is not to say, however, that there was less racism back home. In fact, racism in Miami looked a lot like racism in Richmond. You still got a feeling that whiter is better, just that the white standard was a few shades darker in South Florida, and the cultural standard, more Hispanic. As for how my community responded to queer identities, I would say they were passively homophobic, but deadly nonetheless. It wasn’t the kind of homophobia where you’d get shot for saying you’re gay, but it was the kind where you’d get teased and learn to hate yourself to the point where you might just shoot yourself for being gay.

    My father is a Baptist minister and my whole family is pretty devout. To give you an idea, my grandmother was the kind of person who would try to proselytize a waitress when we were out to dinner. They weren’t exactly fire-and-brimstone Baptists, but they were still deeply religious. Anti-homosexual sentiments weren’t emphasized at home and gayness was seldom mentioned in my dad’s sermons. But despite an absence of overt hatred, it was still very clear to me early on that it wasn’t ok for me to be gay. And that led to a lot of uncertainty, shame, and self-hate.

    How do you define bullying?

    I would say it’s anytime someone in a position of power, uses that power against someone of lesser or no power—whether that’s social status, physical strength, class, or financial position.

    Your song “Schoolyard Warrior” tackles being bullied head on. Can you share more about your experience with bullies in school?

    In school I got teased for being effeminate. This was mostly in elementary and middle school. Kids would call me gay. Sometimes they’d use other words, but essentially that was the charge. They’d call me gay, I would deny it, and it would cause me a whole lot of grief. I even got into a couple of fights over it.

    I was so defensive about it, too. I protected my straight identity so much, that I even put up a firewall within myself. I remember school trips would terrify me because I was afraid that I might accidentally reveal the truth by saying something in my sleep. It was such a deeply ingrained homophobia, that well after coming out, I couldn’t even utter the phrase “I am gay”.

    I know we’re talking about bullies here, and I believe we need to educate kids to be kind and considerate.

    I say all of this because I now realize that I gave the bullies the power to harass me. All along, the attack was only that I was gay. They called me a “Sissy”, “Faggot”, a pajaro—and they were all right! I was and still am all of those things. And it’s only by embracing that about myself, by saying proudly, “I am gay!”, that I can take their power away. Had I been brought up in a home, in a church, and in a world that said queer identities are valid and moral, I would’ve been proud to be who I was, and there would be no weapon for bullies to use against me.

    Danny Reyes TileDo you still find yourself encountering bullies as an LGBT Latino adult living in Virginia?

    Not really, but I recognize that’s not the case for all LGBTQ people or other minorities in Richmond. I happen to live in an area that’s relatively inclusive, so standards of colorism and homonormativity have expanded far enough to bring people like me into the mainstream liberal fold. But I know that’s not the case for all queer people or POC, especially for trans women of color.

    What do you find the most effective way to approach a bullying situation?

    I guess it really depends on the risk of violence. As I mentioned earlier, I think the best way to deal with bullies is to disarm them. To counter their attacks with self-love and pride. But sometimes the hostility can be life-threatening, and that approach isn’t a realistic option. In those cases, I have no advice but to survive anyway you can until homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, colorism, xenophobia, transphobia, and all other systems of oppression can be effectively dismantled.

    Do you think bullies can change? If so, how?

    Yes, bullies can change, but it takes a lot of unwiring. It takes convincing them that using their power against the powerless is immoral, because it is unfair and it is unkind. But we’re primed to be bullies. We see bullying behavior as a virtue. We see our politicians and preachers do it, and we admire it. We need to teach bullies to be ashamed of their bullying behavior.

    Your released the moving tribute “50 Hearts” as a response to the Orlando Pulse tragedy. You are also the intersection of so many of those same identities. Can you explain how this song came about for you an what you want to achieve in sharing it?

    I wrote “50 Hearts” with my band, My Darling Fury, the day of the tragedy. As a gay Latin guy from Florida, it hit really close to home. I guess what struck me the most was the horror of it, how even our safe spaces aren’t safe. And it was a tragic reminder of how toxic homophobia is and how it’s still alive and kicking. I wanted to address that, the tragedy of it. But I also wanted it to be a call to action to the queer community and to our allies, to be bolder, louder, and prouder when we can. To challenge and dismantle homophobia.

    What do you think people should be doing to create safe space for people of different cultural, sexual or religious identities? What can we change the culture to do better?

    Speaking up and challenging harmful rhetoric—in person and online—and recognizing that being passive in situations where there are oppressed and oppressors is to be complicit with the oppressors. Keyboard warriors get a lot of flack, but all of us act according to what we believe. And what we believe is shaped by the rhetoric that surrounds us. It’s important that we take an active stance to add to the rhetoric that gives power to the powerless.

    Music has been a valuable outlet for you to share your stories. What do you think would encourage others to come forward in whatever medium they choose to share their experiences overcoming bullies or other hostilities?

    Visibility is a big one. There’s a lot to criticize about Caitlyn Jenner about and there’s a lot you could say about the new Ghost Busters movie, but seeing people of diverse identities telling their own stories and being successful, is the most empowering and encouraging way to motivate others to do the same.

    If you could say one thing to anyone who is the victim of bullying, what would it be?

    Challenge it if you can. Disarm them with your pride and self-love if you can. If you can’t, survive and challenge them later. Look for support anywhere you can find it—whether there are teachers or friends or family you can speak to. Find outlets for you to deal with your struggle, whether that’s art or sports or whatever.

    Danny Reyes is a queer, Cuban-American singer, from Miami who lives in Richmond, VA. With My Darling Fury, he writes songs about life, love, and adversity, while embracing his gayness and Latin identity. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

  • Featured Post

    I’m Out So Gay Youth Know They Have A Future

    Portrait of Brett Bingham

    There is a reason I am an out teacher, and it is simple and clear. Being out gives young LGBTQ people a vision of a possible future. The suicide statistics for this group of teenagers should send shivers down your spine. This is why I travel the country teaching teachers that they have to make their classrooms a safe place for LGBTQ students. This is the brutal fact: only 12% of our LGBTQ students in a high school (without a Gay Straight Alliance GSA club) say they have heard a staff member say something positive about gay people.

    To look at it another way, that means we are graduating our LGBTQ students without supporting them and making sure they understand their value. I made that mistake once. When I was a sophomore in high school my best friend told me he was done dating girls. I thought that was great because I was right there with him. I didn’t make much of a big deal about it. I just reassured him we were still best friends, and nothing was going to change that.

    Brett Bigham with Sen. Hilary Clinton. Photo courtesy the Clinton FoundationAnd he went home, didn’t answer his phone for a few days, and then, took his life.

    I look back all these years later, and it just plain hurts. It’s like a wound that’s been bandaged all these years but has never stopped causing pain. Then, I hear about a Tyler Clementi or a Jadin Bell and the bandage is ripped off. It is horrible.

    And you might think that there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.

    Yet, I was given an amazing opportunity. In 2014, I was named Oregon State Teacher of the Year. My then domestic partner (and now husband) discussed the honor and agreed that we would ride together in the Portland Gay Pride Parade. This is a big deal in our family because my husband happens to be incredibly shy. He agreed that the positive message we would send young LGBTQ people was something we could not pass up.

    Brett Bigham with President Barack Obama. Photo courtesy the White House Press OfficeFate decided to make a little bigger deal out of it. Marriage became legal in Oregon, and when Mike and I tied the knot, it meant the sitting Teacher of the Year (and his very shy husband) just got gay married in front of every news station in town. A few weeks later, instead of the Gay Pride Parade, we rode in the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade. Almost half a million people watched the parade wind itself through the city. The loudspeakers set up every few blocks announced over and over again the Teacher of the Year and “riding with him—his husband.” Our driver told us he’d been driving VIPs for over a decade, and he had never heard such a thunderous response from the crowd. We knew that with every block of that long parade, we had sent our message loud and clear.

    I’m a teacher, and just by being myself, we know every person who watched that parade left with a role model. That act of being out made sure that every one in attendance now has a picture of what being gay means. I wish Tyler Clementi could have been at that parade. I know there are a lot of families who have lost a child that wishes that child could have been at a parade like that.

    Brett Bigham with Dr. Stephen Hawking. Photo courtesy AltheaThat is why I am out. Because every time a young gay person hears about a successful LGBTQ adult, it’s like giving them a pat on the back. It gives them a little support. It shows them a possible future.

    I want all young LGBTQ youth to know they can be a proud person. I want them to know they can be celebrated. I want them to know they can be a teacher and even Teacher of the Year. I want them to know they can just be.

    Brett Bigham is the 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year and one of only a handful of LGBTQ teachers who have been recognized with this prestigious award. In 2015, he was given the National Education Association LGBTQ Teacher Role Model Award and was named an NEA Foundation Global Fellow. That same year he was the first Oregon special education teacher to receive the NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence. He is a staunch advocate for LGBTQ youth and speaks around the country to support our vulnerable young people. He is the creator of Ability Guidebooks that support people with autism in the community and now has books in ten countries and in four languages. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook or at his blog.

    Photo with President Barack Obama courtesy the White House Press Office; photo with Sen. Hillary Clinton courtesy the The Clinton Foundation; photo with Stephen Hawking courtesy Anthea Bain.

    The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

New Video

Jane Clementi speaks at the GCN Conference 2017 General Session