Meet Charlotte Simpson

Students of Ridgewood High School Hang Pride Flag
What year of school are you in? What are you most excited about for the summer?
I just finished my junior year of Ridgewood High School. I like to keep busy over the summer, and right now I am really excited to be in the pit orchestra for our summer high school musical, The Pajama Game.

What got you to join the Ridgewood High School Gay-Straight Alliance? What do you feel like the impact of that program has been for you?
I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance my freshman year. At the time I had friends who were a part of the LGBTQ+ community and I thought joining the club would be a good way for me to provide them with support. From there, I became passionate about activism. At the time, gay marriage was not yet nationally legal, and this was the main injustice that made me want to work hard to create a safe place for LGBTQ+ students in the school as well as do something to make the school environment a better place for them.

I became a co-leader of the GSA my sophomore year and worked hard to give the club more of an activist atmosphere and make it a safer place for the LGBT youth in the school. The club has had a tremendous impact on me these past two years. Not only has it taught me about leadership and responsibility, but it has also taught me to work hard for what I am passionate about. I think the club has really thrived this past year, raising money for the New Jersey Pride Center, selling pride flags to the community, having over 270 participants for day of silence, and, finally, being the first school in Bergen county to raise the pride flag in celebration of Pride Month.

Making Change is Difficult, But It Is Far From ImpossibleWhat prompted you to bring the raising of the pride flag to the attention of the school? What was that process like? How did your friends and other GSA members support you?
Beginning in May, the GSA was running a pride flag sale at the school in support of Pride Month. Another teacher of mine asked me if we were planning on putting the flag up outside of the school, and I thought it was an amazing idea. I brought the idea to the club’s teacher advisor, Ms. Soucy, and together we brought it to the principal, Dr. Gorman. The idea was met with little resistance. At first there were concerns of backlash from the community and worry that the flag would be seen as a political statement. After discussing further, Dr. Gorman, Ms. Soucy and I decided the flag was not political, but instead a necessary declaration of support and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ youth in the school and community. The process included countless emails and planning, but with a lot of hours and work, the flag went up about 2 weeks, which I think is amazing!

Since the flag has gone up, the responses of the town and my classmates have been unbelievable. I worked with the hope that the flag would make just one person feel more supported by the school, and now seeing how many people the flag has touched inside and outside of RHS, is absolutely incredible. I really could not have done this alone. Everything we do as a club is tremendously supported by all the members, and getting the flag up was no exception. Many members stepped up to raise awareness and express the importance of the flag raising. Without Ms Soucy, Dr Gorman, and the entire club putting in so much effort, this would not have been possible. To them, I am very grateful.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you?
Pride is a word that carries a lot of weight in my life. To me, pride is how someone sees and holds themselves. For so long, member’s of the LGBTQ+ community have been deprived of this crucial human right to be proud of who they are. As the world becomes more and more accepting, people of all sexual and gender identities can now, some for the first time, have pride in themselves. This new age of love and self-acceptance deserves celebration, and demands attention. Even allies to the LGBTQ+ community should be proud to live in a place where people are not belittled for their sexual or gender identification. I believe everyone, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, and so on, should be ecstatic to be living in this changing time where love can just be love.

How do you define bullying?
Bullying is targeting someone to make them feel worthless, ostracized, and alone. Whether the victim is targeted because of race, sexual orientation, gender identification, or for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time is beside the point. The intention of a bully is to gain power by stripping it away from someone else, leaving them defenseless. By harassing someone physically, emotionally, socially, or online, a bully is destroying the self-worth of another human being in the cruelest way possible.

Pride Flag Hangs at Ridgewood High SchoolYou go to the school that Tyler went to many years ago. How does that impact you?
I was just beginning 5th grade at the time of Tyler’s death. At the time, though I couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened, I could see a definite shift in my home, in the school, and in the town. When my mom sat me and my sister down to talk about Tyler, I couldn’t understood more than that a boy got bullied for being himself, and he shouldn’t have. Tyler’s death stayed with me until I could fully comprehend what had happened, and I realized that the town had been faced with accepting the pain that LGBTQ+ youth go through. The shift in the town wasn’t just a somber one, but one that strengthened the community. Parents, students, and everyone that was touched by Tyler’s death knew changes had to be made to prevent more heartbreak in the town. Walking through the halls of Ridgewood High School, the thought of Tyler sticks with me, like I think it does with most of my fellow classmates. When deciding how to treat people and how to help people, or even if I should hold open the door for the kid running down the hall with their hands full, I think of the impact my actions can have on the people around me. Tyler’s death taught me, along with the rest of the town, to consider others even if I don’t know them. Because anyone can be going through the same struggles as Tyler, even if no one knows it.

If you could share with him some of your thoughts with Tyler, what would you share?
When the flag was raised, many LGBTQ+ alumni from Ridgewood High School told me how grateful they were that the flag is up and about how much the school and the community has changed since their teenage years. I wish I could just show Tyler that things really do get better. It could take months, it could take years. But change is constant, and right now things are changing for the better. If Tyler could see the flag in front of the school and the community-wide support for everything the GSA has done, I hope he would be proud of how far our community has come. Knowing what Tyler went through, I want nothing more than to do my best to prevent anyone else from going through the same thing.

How often do you feel like LGBTQ+ people you know (and this may or may not include yourself) experience bullying? Have you ever experienced bullying? Have you ever witnessed it? If so, please share as much as you feel comfortable with and what the impacts on your life have been?
I have not directly experienced or seen bullying at Ridgewood High School, but have witnessed more of a general misunderstanding or subtle lack of acceptance for LGBTQ+ students or LGBTQ+ pride. One of the things I would like to do is spread education of sexuality and gender, and show how simple it is to accept others even if you don’t understand them.

Students of Ridgewood High School Hang Pride FlagDo you feel like you have a place to go or people to talk to if you have been bullied? Do you know other students that might not have a support system around them?
I believe that Ridgewood High School has an exceptional support system for students seeking help from the school, whether it is about bullying or any other issue. We have two incredible crisis counselors that many students utilize who are readily available and easily accessible. I make sure to make it clear to our club members how easy it is to get help from the school. I believe that the GSA provides a safe place and support system for students who may feel ostracized. I really do think that the students at RHS have extraordinary resources to seek help, and I would love to ensure that students at all schools could be provided with the same level of support, from their administration and peers.

What’s the thing you want an LGBTQ+ person or an ally to think when they see the pride flag raised over the school?
My goal in getting the pride flag raised was for even just one person to know that someone out there is fighting for them. I hope that when passing the flag, LGBTQ+ students who may feel unaccepted or on the fringe can be reminded that there is a safe place for them in the GSA and that the administration truly does support the community, which I think is inspiring. I hope seeing such a prominent display of support for the LGBT community can also help to show students, LGBT or not, that it is okay to identify as whatever they want, and that it is necessary to accept and support each other in order to grow as a community. Aside from the GSA’s intentions, I really hope that the flag inspires other students to stand up and fight for what they are passionate about. Making change is difficult, but it is also far from impossible.

Charlotte Simpson is a passionate and dedicated student, friend, and leader. Besides being in the GSA, spends her time as a Piccolo and the Flute section leader in her school’s marching band and as the historian for the Band Council. On the weekends she enjoys working out, reading and spending time with her friends and family. Follow her on Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Ridgewood High School student Lia Collado

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.


Keep It Cool!

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With the heat of summer comes a rise in temperatures outside and in our interactions with others. Tempers are more likely to flare, and the warmth can prompt people to act out with more hostility than they normally would and create situations where bullying, harassment and hostility can occur. We encourage you to ‘Keep It Cool’ this summer season with some tips, some fun and a commitment to join us as an Upstander in your community.

What does it take to ‘Keep It Cool’? It takes recognizing when an interaction takes a turn towards the hostile, step back if possible, commitment to report bullying, harassment or humiliation when you see it (or experience it), demonstrate compassion and care for those who experience it, and to actively engage your community to nurture and embrace all identities, regardless of religious affiliation, race, gender identity, sexual identity, immigration status, or ability.

Here’s what you can do now:

Share on Social Media

Copy and paste these tiles to share on social media with your community and let them know that it’s time we all step up as #Upstanders to ‘Keep It Cool”.

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Look for more tips in the coming weeks by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Take the #Day1 Declaration With Your Team and Share It Online.

Schools, universities and employers across the nation are taking the #Day1 Declaration to create safe space and prevent bullying, harassment and humiliation online and offline. Share it with your community today because #Day1Works!

Take the Upstander Pledge

Take the Upstander Pledge and commit themselves to being an #Upstander in their community.

I pledge to be an Upstander:

  • I will stand up to bullying whether I’m at school, at home, at work, in my house of worship, or out with friends, family, colleagues, or teammates.
  • I will work to make others feel safe and included by treating them with respect and compassion.
  • I will not use insulting or demeaning language, slurs, gestures, facial expressions, or jokes about anyone’s sexuality, size, gender, race, any kind of disability, religion, class, politics, or other differences, in person or while using technology.

If I see or hear behavior that perpetuates prejudice:

  • I will speak up! I will let others know that bullying, cruelty, and prejudice are abusive and not acceptable.
  • I will reach out to someone I know who has been the target of abusive actions or words and let this person know that this is not okay with me and ask how I can help.
  • I will remain vigilant and not be a passive audience or “bystander” to abusive actions or words.

If I learn in person or online that someone is feeling seriously depressed or potentially suicidal:

  • I will reach out and tell this person, “Your life has value and is important, no matter how you feel at the moment and no matter what others say or think.”
  • I will strongly encourage this person to get professional help.


Tyler’s Suite from Lincoln Center Will Stream Live Online

Want to experience Tyler’s Suite at Lincoln Center – even if you are not in New York City? YOU CAN!

The entire concert will be streamed live online. This is a rare opportunity to experience the powerful and moving music that makes up Tyler’s Suite.

To See the Livestream Performance: Visit the Tyler Clementi Foundation Facebook Page at 2:00pm EST on JUNE 4, and we will be sharing the broadcast live!

REMEMBER, you can STILL get tickets to the live performance, and if you use code DCINY25, save 25%!

We hope you will take this moment to show your support for the importance of Tyler’s story and our work to prevent bullying. Please consider a monthly gift of $10 or more, starting today!


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Honors Jane and Joseph Clementi with its Making a Difference Award

The Anti-Defamation League—the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism—presents its 2017 Making A Difference Award to Jane and Joe Clementi, co-founders of the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

Jason Sirois, Director of ADL’s No Place For Hate says, “ADL sees the Tyler Clementi Foundation as an example of two people who saw a need and decided to do something about it. We hope this recognition ignites the innovation of young leaders and educators across the country to tackle issues of bias and bullying in ways that will have sustainable impact.”

tcf-social-adl-tile2“With the increase of bias motivated incidents, it is easy for individuals to feel as if there is nothing they can do to stop these incidents from happening,” says Sirois. “[As part of #Day1], asking leaders in schools, workplaces and faith communities to declare that cruelty, bullying, harassment and humiliation will not be tolerated is the first step to creating a culture that inspires others to move from being bystanders to upstanders,” says ADL’s New York Region’s Education Director Nicola Straker.


Bullying is Preventable; Prevention Starts With Standing Up Together.

As a public health practitioner, I have been working with state and local governments on a range of issues involving adolescent mental and reproductive health, such as depression, suicide ideation, sexual education, LGBT-specific health issues, and methods to increase self-efficacy and self-worth. I firmly believe that we cannot address each of these issues independently of one another, and in fact, we know that a comprehensive focus on these issues helps improve overall adolescent health and well-being.

Bullying, whether towards children, adolescents, or adults, adversely affects every one of these issues, not just one issue alone. The detrimental effects of bullying has tremendous costs to society, which is shameful given that bullying is completely preventable.

As with many public health concerns, a small amount of financial support for bullying prevention can reduce a considerably higher amount of medical and societal costs, which anyone would agree is a sound investment. For example, #Day1 is a free, easy-to-use bullying prevention program used in classrooms and workplaces nationwide to reduce bullying before it starts.

From a personal standpoint, I am eager to address these issues as a minority LGBT individual who has personally encountered this discrimination and believes such bigotry cannot and should not occur now and into the future. Although I believe the LGBT community has made considerable strides in recent years in combating such prejudices, I firmly think that we, LGBT or not, need to continue working even harder now to reduce discrimination for our community as well as others that face prejudice and hostility.

This is particularly true given the recent religious liberty executive order, which has anti-LGBT undertones, and its potential affect on increasing anxiety and stress among LGBT individuals and families. We have already seen such policies come forth from state governments and courthouses in Indiana to Kentucky to North Carolina and the detrimental effects it has had on our highly vulnerable community. Let your community know that faith doesn’t discriminate.

Beyond the LGBT community, it distresses me that the current political and social climate has overtly tolerated, and in many cases, accepted religion-based bullying. We have seen a double-digit increase in anti-Semitic incidents within the last year and a continuous deluge of hate crimes against Muslims. We also have had either no or reluctant acknowledgement by the current federal administration on hate crimes against visible minorities, as evidenced against my own as an Indian-American with respect to the shootings that occurred in Kansas City in February of this year.

This is an opportune time more now than ever to help reduce bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community and other minority communities and I am looking forward to working with The Tyler Clementi Foundation, its board, and Upstanders like you to help make this change happen.

Join with me now by taking the Upstander Pledge.

Vikrum Vishnubhakta is a member of the board for the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Learn more about him 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.


Tyler Clementi Foundation Executive Director Sean Kosofsky Announces Departure

Sean M. Kosofsky(NYC) Sean Kosofsky, the first full-time Executive Director for the Tyler Clementi Foundation has announced he will leave the organization later this summer. The organization will soon launch a national search for its next leader.

Kosofsky was hired as TCF’s first full-time Executive Director and came to New York to lead the organization in August of 2014. Since that time Kosofsky has worked with the Clementi family and their national board to build the startup nonprofit into a sophisticated and nationally respected thought leader and advocacy organization in the realm of bullying prevention.

“I am so proud of the work we have achieved together. We have raised awareness of millions of people that bullying is not a rite of passage; but a public health threat. We have impacted tens of thousands of people directly with our programs,” said Kosofsky. “Last summer I fell in love and have been managing a long-distance relationship. It’s time to join my partner in San Francisco when my current contract ends in August, and begin a new life with him. My time at TCF and our collective accomplishments have been some of the most meaningful of my life. I will continue to support TCF because I believe in its mission and the Clementi family.”

Some key accomplishments since 2014 include:

“On behalf of Jane and myself, I would like to thank Sean for his work with the Foundation and wish him well with his future endeavors”, said Joe Clementi, president of the board of trustees.
“Sean has been an incredible asset to the organization, helping us build and transform the organization. We have greater capacity and a more focused vision than ever before, and that will help through the next phase of our work. We are now focused on finding new leadership that will take us to the next level,” said Laura Birk, board member and leader of the national search for the new Executive Director.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation is one of the leading and most visible anti-bullying organizations in the world. Their mission is to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities. For details on the national search stay tuned to and subscribe for email alerts.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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