Meet Upstander Trey Darnell

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How do you define bullying?
Bullying takes on many different shapes in our world. It is unfortunate that most people think of bullying as occurring in a school setting where one kid takes lunch money from another. We do not live in a society where bullying and tormenting are present just in kids. Bullying is present in the workplace, the supermarket, applying for a loan, social media, the political system, and any other complex situation. Bullying is discrimination, demonstrations of hatred, taunting, and violence. Bullying is any action where one individual or group attempts to maintain a majority of over a minority group by using any method available. Bullying is invading someone’s privacy or distributing private information about an individual. Bullying surrounds us every day.

What does respect mean to you?
It sounds cliché to say respect is treating someone the way you want to be treated in return. Respect is accepting how beautiful it is that each and every one of us is different. By encouraging uniqueness in the world and expressing yourself in a confident, polite, and respectful manner, you lay the groundwork for a brighter society. When we stop worrying about how people are different from us and we welcome those diversities, we are acting selflessly. Being respectful is enjoying the differences. If everyone were the same, that would be beyond boring.

As a parent, how do you teach empathy and respect to your daughter?
Our daughter Harper is almost four and one of the most compassionate young ladies I have ever met. She is affectionate towards the two of us as her dads, her birth family, our parents, her classmates, and teachers. She knows no stranger. She is jubilant and blurts out random statements filled with cheerfulness to the people that she encounters.

I wish I were able to say that we followed a book or had massive experience with children. In reality, we lead by example. We immediately correct her if she acts in a way that is disrespectful to someone or something. It is our responsibility to nurture her as she grows into a teenager and a young woman. Those qualities are there for every child, it is our responsibility as parents to help those characteristics emerge and remain pure. If we choose to be respectful and non-discriminatory, the hope is she will retain those traits throughout her life. Bullying, discrimination, and hatred are acquired qualities in a person and are not acceptable in our family unit.

tcf-social-darnell-tileHow do you teach your daughter to advocate for herself in a given situation?
We show Harper by being examples to her and by having true age relevant conversations. It is funny though, she never stops talking and telling you what she needs or wants. Harper has spoken out about a classmate that is aggressive with her and other students. We encouraged Harper to always be polite and provided her with positive phrases that she could use in a situation when she felt upset, scared, or sad.

It is funny to my husband Matthew and me that Harper knows several of RuPaul’s catchphrases. We jokingly taught her to say the child’s name and follow it up with, “You are an amazing queen, now sashay away.” We aren’t sure if she would remember the phrase in a particular situation, but we wanted to focus on complimenting her classmate and asking her to step away from the current situation.

What do you do to help your daughter speak up if there’s something she needs to tell you?
My husband Matthew and I have honest conversations with Harper. Being frank with her has led to building a level of trust between the three of us. We are consistent in having in-depth conversations as a family or one-on-one chats with her. While most of them are silly or childish in nature, there is definitely a level of trust that Harper has in opening up about her day at pre-school as well as when she spends time with our friends and parents.

Harper is also very aware of her being part of an open adoption. She has a relationship with her biological family as we take part in yearly visits. I feel that we do not keep secrets from her unless it is a happy surprise and at almost four, she does not keep secrets from us.

While we are at a stage where kids pretend and play using different identifying terms like mommy and daddy. Matthew and I are known as Dada and Daddy unless Harper just wants one of us to pay attention to her and just repeats Dad until one of us responds. There have been a few instances where there are discussions about why she has two dads. I usually drop Harper off at school, but on a day I was unavailable, Matthew took over the responsibility. There was confusion among the class when Harper said that was her Dada and some of her classmates disagreed with her. The teachers were quick to sit everyone down and use that particular scenario as a teaching moment.

It is important to both of us that we are present in Harper’s school environment. We have chosen, to this point, to not use the carpool line. It is important for us to be role models for other parents and the school itself as gay parents. While we live in a society that is split on the validity of our relationship and our ability to be parents, we are present and advocate by example and visibility for our community.

How would you say you stand up to bullying?
My coping methods towards bullying have evolved over time. Living in the South, it is easy to lash out or respond negatively when on the receiving end of bullying. In a way, that is the motive of the individual. As I have matured the world around me has evolved. Tormentors need to be educated that their statements and actions are harmful and contrary to society as a whole. While we are swarmed in a world where the phrases “Freedom of Speech” and “First Amendment Rights” are thrown around as a warning that we are in a place where anything goes. Well, the truth is, you have the ability to say whatever you desire, but you need to understand those statements have consequences whether positive or negative.

It probably sounds callous, but I meet bullying with the feeling of that individual or group lacks the knowledge or understanding of their actions. I take responsibility, as we all should, in educating and deterring that type of behavior. I have found that some individuals are unwilling to grow as a person and it is easier to leave the situation alone and prevent escalation. The opportunity to again attempt to cultivate relationships and respect will show itself repeatedly.

Can you tell us about a time when a friend helped support you when others were being unkind?
This should be an easy question to answer. Being gay there have to be tens of hundreds of times when I experienced a tormentor or harmful actions of another. The many instances are just flooding my memory. In college, I pledged and became a brother of a national fraternity. There were a couple of members that I would describe as verbally homophobic. While I was not out at the time, I am sure some members knew or were suspicious. One of my fraternity brothers was quick to stop homophobic comments and educate that we were a group of men that were supportive and welcoming of all men.

How do you deal with someone who you might not get along with?
By being gay, I have acquired the attitude that people are different and that is outstanding. With the political environment of 2017, it is okay that we have different opinions and we need to accept that we are not going to change all viewpoints. If an interaction is required for someone that is disrespectful to me or there is obvious tension, I must be respectful and speak up in situations that are discriminatory based. I might be snooty by saying I have one chance at the life I was given, and if we are not compatible when it comes to communication or any other attribute, I will limit contact to what is appropriate and comfortable.

What would you say to someone who has experienced bullying?
Keep moving forward. Surround yourself with people that are supportive and loving. Speak up to bullying and walk away if a situation might turn into violence. Never stop being a role model for those around you.

How do you think families can play a role in stopping bullying?
Bullying is a trait that is learned. Families are the frontline defense in preventing and educating about bullying. Families and communities cannot rely on the school systems to eliminate or prevent bullying. Each individual and family should be tasked with a responsibility to speak out against bullying and its effects. This is the same for families with children and families without children.


Trey Darnell is a father to four-year-old Harper and husband to Matthew.


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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Meet Our 2017 Upstander Legacy Celebration Host Maulik Pancholy

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MAULIK HOSTS OUR 2017 UPSTANDER LEGACY CELEBRATION Get tickets now for the event on November 13 in New York City!

Thank you so much for hosting our 2017 Upstander Legacy Celebration on November 13th! Amidst your busy schedule, why was it important to you to make time to be our host?

The work Tyler Clementi Foundation is doing has become extremely important in the current climate. As a person of color and as a gay man, I’m well aware of the uptick we’re experiencing in bullying and hate crimes in seemingly all minority communities. The statistics are shocking and unacceptable. So, I’m grateful for the chance to lend a voice to supporting TCF.

Why is bullying prevention important to you? 

Growing up, I often felt like I didn’t “fit in”. I was a scrawny, nerdy, brown kid with braces and glasses, and I was dealing with coming out. Literally no one at my school openly identified as LGBT, so that struggle felt very isolating. I know that young people (and adults, too) need to feel like they matter and that they belong.

I’ve been alarmed by hearing stories of the kinds of emotional and physical violence people who are bullied experience, as well as the long term damage bullying can cause. Supporters of TCF already know about the increased risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, addiction and low self-esteem that can last into adulthood. People are often bullied for perceived differences. I hope we can offer young people the chance to celebrate their diversity and support one another so that everyone can achieve their full potential.

Tyler’s story was so impactful for many LGBTQ+ people of all ages. How did his story impact you?

I was horrified and deeply saddened. It’s hard to imagine the kind of pain a person must be experiencing to end their life. But for anyone who thinks bullying is just part of growing up, or just kids messing around, I’d ask them to take a moment to imagine Tyler on that bridge and what it must have felt like for him. All the things he could have been are now lost forever. I’m so moved by the courage of the Clementi family for taking action to create dialogue between parents, teachers, and students about what we all need to be doing better.

Why do you feel it’s important for people to stand up and stand out when they see bullying?

I believe we’re all in this together. We need each other. A kind word, a physical intervention, someone to help with the process of reporting and offering support—these are invaluable. Victims of bullying often experience shame, fear, and confusion around how to get help. So, we all have a responsibility to do the right thing. We all flourish when the environments we’re in are safe for everyone.  

tcf-social-maulik-tileDuring the Obama Administration, you were appointed by President Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Please share about the importance of AAPI representation and how you are continuing that great work now.

As a Commissioner, I focused a great deal on young AAPIs and ways we could better meet their needs. We were hearing reports of AAPI youth being bullied, in some instances, at rates that were double the national average. They also had unique circumstances – being bullied not only for appearance, or identity or sexuality, but also for things like religion, the foods they brought to school, for immigration status, and language proficiency. Often their parents did not fully grasp the bullying they were experiencing, and in many cases they did not know how to get help or report incidences. So, we created an AAPI Anti-Bullying Task Force at the White House. We did 29 listening sessions around the country, and out of that we launched an anti-bullying campaign designed to address the needs of young AAPIs called #ActToChange. 

We’ve moved #ActToChange outside of the White House now, and we are continuing to grow it. The campaign website, ActToChange.org, includes video and music empowerment playlists, and encourages you to “Take a Pledge” to join the #ActToChange movement and stand up against bullying. As one out of three AAPIs does not speak English fluently, resources are available in Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Urdu, and Vietnamese. The campaign encourages AAPI youth and adults to share their stories, engage in community dialogues, and take action against bullying. The work of #ActToChange seems more important now than ever, much like TCF’s work. In fact the Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported that there has been a 91% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during the first half of 2017 alone.

How can we better include AAPI students and adults in bullying prevention?

It’s a good question. I think a big part of this is just making sure we’re included in the conversation, so I appreciate you asking! Asian Americans are often victims of the “Model Minority Myth”: this idea that we all do well in school, have good jobs, succeed financially, and so forth. And that’s just not the case. AAPIs are an extremely diverse group. We trace our heritage to more than 30 different countries, and our challenges are as diverse as the communities we come from. While the effects of bullying might manifest in similar ways, helping a turban wearing student who is being called a terrorist vs. a helping a student being bulled for identifying as LGBT require different tools. We have to be specific about the cultural dialogue we engage in around both of those.

You’ve been a large part of a number of shows for young people like Disney’s Phineas and Ferb and Nickelodeon’s Sanjay & Craig. How do these shows influence youth to embrace diversity?

I love voicing cartoons! It’s so fun and so imaginative. And knowing that kids are getting to see shows with diverse casts is hugely important. I remember being a kid and watching Saturday morning cartoons and never seeing characters that looked like me. That can make you feel like your experience isn’t valid, or that you have to be more like someone else to fit in. So to be able to send a different message to young people is really important to me. Sanjay is the first lead Indian-American character on a network cartoon. He has a Caucasian mom and an Indian dad, and he’s just a 12-year old kid who likes to do what a lot of 12-year old kids like to do: hang out with his pet snake Craig and go on ridiculous adventures. It means a lot to me that I get to create a character that all kids, including Indian-American kids, can relate to.

JOIN MAULIK AT OUR 2017 UPSTANDER LEGACY CELEBRATION ON NOVEMBER 13 Get your tickets now!


Maulik Pancholy is an American actor. He is best known for his roles as Jonathan on 30 Rock, the voice of Baljeet Tjinder in Phineas and Ferb, Sanjay Patel in Weeds, and Nickelodeon animated series Sanjay and Craig.


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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Meet Upstander Regent Empress XXXI Madison Ciccione Mansfield

Upstander Madison Mansfield
Many people may not familiar with the many things that the Imperial Court of New York does. Can you share a bit about it? 
The Imperial Court of New York is an organization that works alongside other charity organizations to bring attention to their causes and to raise much needed funds. Our membership is solely comprised of volunteers and everything we can and will do if for the betterment of our community.

The Imperial Court of New York recognizes the important work that the Tyler Clementi Foundation does in bullying prevention for students across all identities and abilities. How is the foundation’s work resonant to you?
At this time in America, it is vital to have an organization such as the Tyler Clementi Foundation. It appears that hate and bullying have become acceptable again. We as a nation need to do everything we can to teach people it is not okay to hate or to bully. We need to accept one another and teach compassion not hate.

Have you ever been bullied or felt like you were in a hostile space directed at you? If so, could you share what happened?
Yes, most definitely.  During my high school years, I became very shy and quiet. I understood that I was different and was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay.  On the bus ride home every day from school, I was called names, ridiculed and things were thrown at me on the bus and on my way home once I left the bus. No one stopped it or said anything to prevent this from happening to me. In my junior year, I finally had enough, and while I was walking home with items flying past my head, I stopped and turned around and said to the bully who has been doing this for years, “Would it help you if I stood still? Because you haven’t been able to hit my in all these years. So, maybe if I stood still, you could actually hit me.” Once I did this and stood up to the bully, he never again did anything to bother me. 
 
What do you think is the scariest thing about being bullied?
The scariest thing about being bullied is that you never know what someone is going through in their own head. Many people fight with overcoming their own personal demons, and sometimes, all is takes is one outside act of bullying or shaming to send someone over the edge. The results of this can be catastrophic.

tcf-social-upstander-madison-mansfield-tileHow should the community respond when we hear stories about someone being bullied?
The community as a whole should never allow bullying of any kind.  No one should be made to feel inferior, and none of us are any better that anyone else. We need to learn to accept one another and live in a peaceful manner, not one of hate and bullying.

Our #StandUpStandOut initiative is encouraging people to take the popular, free #Day1 toolkit to their communities, schools and workplaces in order to ensure commitment to bullying prevention through the declaration and pledge. How important is it to you that the community organizations you support and your workplace make a commitment to stand up against bullying, harassment and humiliation?
It is very important to me. I do not stand for bullying of any kind. I have been known for many years to be the person who will stand up for the underdog. Whether I like or believe in a person’s own personal beliefs or way of life, I truly believe in their right to be who they are. We must not judge one another. We must accept and understand each other.

Why is it important that people Stand Out to support bullying prevention?
It’s very important because we cannot be silent. Silence only breeds contempt and hate.  Standing up and letting your voice be heard is the only way progress can be made.

In your performances, your talents certainly stand out. What would you say to a young person who feels like they stand out because of who they are and might feel isolated because of it?
I actually have a friend who felt they were not being accepted because they like to dress & act provocative. I told them that they need to be true to themselves and to be authentic. If they felt they were not being accepted by those around them and that the were unable to change the minds of those around them, they should find a group that will accept them for who and what they are.

What can people expect to see at the Nobles’ Show this year? What are you excited about?
 What people should expect it a lot of fun, glamour, acceptance and love! The Nobles Show is when our “newer” members get to strut their stuff and show what they have to give. It is a way for the community to get to know them, and also, it’s a way for ICNY to get to know them better. Out of all the shows the ICNY puts on throughout the year, it’s The Nobles Show that highlights what were all about: Charity, Acceptance and Love for our community.


Regent Empress XXXI (31) Madison Ciccione Mansfield is the East Coast First Lady to the Americas, Grand Daughter to Queen Mother Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas, 2017 International Double Eagle Award Recipient – The Curvy Long Island Temptress of Serenity, Sincerity and Seduction, Her Imperial Majesty and so much more. Follow Madison on Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the Imperial Court of New York through 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.

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Meet Upstander Paul Zemaitis

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Remember, just because summer ends, bullying doesn’t end. You can #KeepItCool with Enjoyer’s special strawBERRY treat – buy one and get one to share with a friend! Proceeds support our work to end bullying prevention. Find out where you can get an icy treat today!

What is the story of Enjoyer?
Enjoyer was established by two vegan friends. We knew how hard is to get tasty and healthy vegan ice cream so we decided to produce and deliver it ourselves. Our mission is to deliver healthy joy for everyone!

How do you see being kind to others fitting into Enjoyer’s mission to deliver healthy joy for everyone?
We’re always sharing free popsicles in public places like camps, schools, and youth centers. We want to show that being nice is cool.

What prompted Enjoyer to support the Tyler Clementi Foundation for this special strawBERRY support promotion?
It’s important to us that we are out in the communities fostering real conversations, encouraging people to share kindness each day. The Tyler Clementi Foundation is the best partner who shares the point of view that sharing kindness is a great way to change the world and end bullying.

Showing kindness is much more powerful than being a bully.Why is bullying prevention important to you?
We think that there is too much aggression in our world. We just can’t continue to watch people behave poorly to people different from themselves. Some people are even cruel to animals! Enjoyer’s treats are vegan, environment friendly, and healthy. We want to share this positive attitude and show that being nice, especially to people around you that are different from you in many different ways, is cool. It’s crucial to have all people understand that starting from when we are children, showing kindness is much more powerful than being a bully.

What do you do to #KeepItCool when tempers flare up and you feel like a situation is getting hostile online or offline?
If it ever happens that there are any unhappy or angry faces, I find out what is happening, apologize if it is my fault or I accidentally caused any harm, and send a box of our best popsicles. Calm and kind communication helps every time.

Can you tell us about a time when a friend helped support you when others were being unkind?
I remember when I was in school, I needed some help with my math homework. The teacher told us that she explained enough. It was very difficult, because it looked like everyone really understood the lesson but me. Yet, no one wanted to help me. When the lesson ended, my friend came to me because I looked upset and took the time to explain everything I didn’t understand in the lesson. That was a kind thing to do. I was so glad and grateful for such a good friend.

strawBERRY popsiclesWho do you turn to for support when you are having a rough day?
I have few options to recover after having a rough day. The first one is go to exercise outside. Fresh air and increased power every time gives me a flash of energy and cleans my mind. Second good option is to go to play with my dog. Running, wrestling or playing with a ball brings happiness for both of us. Lastly, communication with friends, where we are talking and listening, cooking food together, going for a walk or playing basketball.

If you could say one thing to anyone who is the victim of bullying, what would it be?
Try to stay away from that guy who might not understand that he or she is doing something wrong. Try to find some friends for support and talk with an Upstander (in your school or at your office) who will listen, believe and support you.

Today, what will you do to show someone kindness?
I try to be kind all the time everywhere! We need to be kind to the people around us. Just today, I helped my parents with some yard work so they could relax more. You can also find me feeding a homeless dog if it comes to my yard or watering my neighbor’s flowers when they are on holiday.


Paulius Zemaitis (Paul Zemaitis) is the founder and CEO of Enjoyer born and raised in Lithuania. 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.

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Meet Upstander Francesca Murdoch

Francesca Murdoch with her parents at awards ceremony

The deadline for youth to enter the 2017 Community Access New York Mental Health Film Festival’s Young Filmmaker’s Competition is August 31! Get more information and enter now.

What are you most excited about doing in this next school year?
At the moment, I’m most excited about rehearsals for our school’s fall play, which is Is He Dead by Mark Twain, and for my language classes to start again. I’m studying Latin and French at school, but I’ve also grown up bilingually – English and German.
  
Where do you go for cinematic inspiration?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the courses I take, in school and outside of it. A major influence on me was a film camp with the instructor J.P. Morgan at SUNY Purchase, as well as Jonathan Bucari’s film club at the Lighthouse Theater in Armonk, and I also draw a lot from the acting classes I take at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute at the moment.
 
Still from Francesca Murdoch's short film

Still from “Intervention”

Share a little summary about your winning film short “Intervention” from last year and what inspired you to create it. See the trailer and follow the short film’s progress here.
The film is about the relationship between a teenage girl and a boy her age who struggles with domestic abuse, mental health issues, and social isolation. James, the male main character in “Intervention”, deals with an unbearable situation at home, is an outsider in school and has nobody to turn to until he meets Sarah, but even she doesn’t manage to save him. The idea actually came about as part of the film club I attended at The Lighthouse Theater, where I came up with the story with a group of kids my age. We were asked to write a screenplay to produce into a film, and although “Intervention” was ultimately passed over in favor of a more lighthearted screenplay, the club’s instructor, Jonathan Bucari, encouraged me to make the film after the club ended.
 
“Intervention” shares the importance of standing up and standing out when you see someone facing challenges to their mental health. How do you feel this is also important when you see bullying?
It’s important in both cases because people dealing with bullying and mental health issues can start to feel alone and as though they have nowhere to turn to. Knowing that there is someone out there who cares about what you’re going through, being able to talk about it and not having to be ashamed of it can make the situation feel so much more livable and so much more hopeful.

tcf-social-francesca-murdoch-tileHave you ever experienced or witnessed people being bullied? Can you share a little about that?
A close friend of mine has struggled pretty badly with bullying in the past, and it has been incredibly hard on him.  It is unbelievable how horrible people can be, and I hate the idea that anyone has to go through what he did.  

What resources do you think a person should have available to respond to bullying?
As a teenager myself, I think it is important to have someone you can trust and count on for support in your life, whether it’s someone your age, a parent, a teacher, or a guidance counselor.  If you feel like your struggle is being ignored or if you have to stand up against bullies on your own, it’s easy to feel helpless, overwhelmed, and desperate.  
 
What do you think are the impacts of a person standing out in a community that is often silent?  What about the effect or challenges it has on the person standing out?
Even if it is hard, and sometimes also scary, for the person standing out at first, their involvement can make it easier for others to step forward and to also stand up for others.  Having someone stand up for you can make a world of difference if you’re dealing with bullying and mental health issues alike.
 
Francesca Murdoch with cast of short film at award ceremonyHow do you think your film and this competition help to inspire others to speak out rather than be bystanders around issues of mental health or when they see bullying?
The Community Access New York Mental Health Film Festival’s Young Filmmaker’s Competition is so incredibly important because it gives kids and teenagers like me a platform and a place to be heard.  I think at this age it’s easy to feel like standing up or trying to share our point of view is impossible or pointless, but the competition, as well as my film, will hopefully show that teenagers have a voice that can be heard after all.
 
How do you think young people can be more involved in their own schools to encourage discussion of mental health?
There’s a group at my school called LETS (Let’s End The Stigma), which does outreach and raises awareness.  Involvement in clubs like that, as well as standing by people struggling with mental illness and making sure they know they’re not alone, are incredibly important ways of getting involved at school.  For many, there’s still a stigma attached to admitting that you are struggling with mental health issues, that’s something we need to change. If people feel they can talk about their struggles, they may be more likely to find help.
 
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve been focusing on theater and on acting a lot more recently, but I’ve still got a few short film scripts on the go, and I’d love to write a feature film, too.


Born in New York City, Francesca has always had a strong interest in the arts. Shortly before her 13th birthday, Francesca wrote and directed her short film, “Intervention,” which deals with a teenager suffering from anxiety and depression, and which has screened at a number of festivals across the U.S. Since then, Francesca won awards as the first freshman ever in Rye High School’s Zephyr Writing Competition for her poem and her short story, and she has learned to speak French and Hungarian. She continues to support causes that make the world a better place.


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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Meet Upstander Maureen Kelly

Tarte Cosmetics Founder and CEO Maureen Kelly

Join others across the nation for #kissandmakeup Day on August 25! Learn how you can join the movement to end cyber-bullying today!

tarte started out of your apartment in New York City! That is amazing. What inspired you to create the cosmetics brand?
I was pursuing a PhD in psychology when I realized that life is just too short to waste time, so I followed my dreams! I’d always wanted to create fun, easy beauty products that made whoever wore them feel beautiful inside & out.
 
Please share details about the #kissandmakeup campaign and why you think it’s had such a profound response.
tarte’s huge social media presence actually helped me see how much cyberbullying is out there. Bullying isn’t just on the playground or in classrooms anymore. It’s scary, but people can be bullied anywhere & anytime now thanks to the internet. That’s why we started our #kissandmakeup campaign (don’t be mean behind the screen), which is easy to participate in:

  • After applying a fresh coat of lipstick, kiss your hand and place over your mouth. Post your selfie on Instagram using #kissandmakeup.
  • Please tag a friend in your photo, sending them a compliment and tag @tartecosmetics and @tyler_clementi_foundation
  • tarte will repost some of the selfies, sharing with their IG community of over 6 million fans

I think it’s really resonated with people because sadly, everyone knows someone that has been bullied, myself included. I’m a mom of two boys and we discuss in our household regularly. I can’t tell you how many heartbreaking stories I’ve heard since we started #kissandmakeup. I hope that by inspiring others to share positive messages on Instagram, people realize it’s cool to be nice, & that it starts a domino effect of kindness.
 
How do you see showing kindness to others playing a role in the quality of people’s lives? How does it play a role in your own?
Giving people the keys to feeling confident & encouraging kindness is a principle I have always stood by. Respect others as you hope to be respected! It isn’t hard & goes such a long way toward making the world a better place. Start by smiling more. Studies show that simply by smiling, it makes you & those around you feel happier & more secure. Compassion is contagious!
 
tcf-social-maureen-kelly-tileWhat inspired you to include the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s bullying prevention and awareness messages as part of the #kissandmakeup campaign? Why is bullying prevention important to you?
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, myself included! Not only have I seen it happen to my own employees, but I’m a mom and have sadly seen my kids experience it as well. When I was younger, I came home from school & there was no social media, so I could just unplug & didn’t have to deal with Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. 

Today’s landscape is clearly much different. Bullies need to know that there can be life-changing consequences to their behavior & this heartless, unnecessary negativity needs to end now. Not only does Tyler’s devastating story highlight those consequences in a very real way, but makes it clear that serious conversations about bullying – in all communities – are long overdue. The Tyler Clementi Foundation offers incredible resources that make it easier to start those conversations, getting us closer to stopping bullying once and for all.
 
How do you know when you see bullying?
Bullying can be as “small” as a snide comment or as big as physical abuse, but no matter the form bullying takes, it’s hurtful. It’s on all of us to intervene when we see it, which can take real courage, but it can also seriously change lives.
 
Women in the workplace often report experiences where they were bullied or harassed. You have incredible experience running a large company with a diverse team. In addition to the foundation’s #Day1 bullying prevention toolkit, what are other ways companies around the country can ensure that all employees across identities and abilities are treated with dignity and respect?
The tone of corporate culture is set from the top down. It’s so important for executives & managers to create a collaborative, positive environment. By enforcing anti-bullying policies, shutting down gossip, & standing up for their team members, we can create more respectful work environments.
 
#Day1 is also used in classrooms across the country to create safe space for all students, asking each student to be #Upstander to bullying and not a bystander. Should schools be taking a pro-active approach to prevent bullying? In addition to the #Day1 toolkit, what resources do you think a school should have available to prevent bullying?
Schools should absolutely be taking a proactive approach to prevent bullying. It should not just be the responsibilities of the students to stand up against bullies. Teachers should not just shrug off certain behaviors. There should be a focus on building empathy & teamwork among students. Additionally, school faculty can designate themselves as allies against bullying so students know they have an adult they can trust, & who will intervene if students need help.
 
What do you do to let your child know that it is ok to talk to you when they feel like they might be being bullied?
I always tell my sons that they can come talk to me about anything & I will listen, without judgment, to what they have to say. My #1 job is being their mom, & I will do anything I can to help them solve a problem – even if all they want is a sounding board.
 
Do you think bullies can change? How?
I think many bullies have the ability to change their behavior, but a big part of that change is by shifting the mindset behind bullying in society– it’s never funny or cool to tease or humiliate others. It’s going to take a lot of work, but once bullies recognize this & empathize with those they’ve treated poorly, the world will become a lot kinder.


Maureen Kelly is the CEO & founder of tarte cosmetics, a cruelty-free line of easy-to-use products packed with healthy ingredients that deliver real results. She’s also a Starbucks lover & beach bum! When she isn’t working on creating the next covetable new tarte launch, she’s at the beach with her husband & two sons. Learn more about Maureen and tarte on Twitter and Facebook.


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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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.

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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.

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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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Meet Upstander Wasif Qureshi

Wasif Qureshi - Photo Courtesy Carolina Peacemaker

Photo courtesy The Carolina Peacemaker

What are common misconceptions you often hear about Muslim-Americans?
Muslims are anti-American. Muslims are anti-modernity. Muslims are terrorists. Muslims women are oppressed by their male counterparts. Muslims are in opposition to, or hate people of other religious faiths including Jews and Christians.

Has there been a time when you have felt bullied or harassed due to your faith? Could you tell us a bit about it?
I personally have not been bullied in my recent life based upon my faith. Although, I have heard many such complaints from people who are easily visually identified as Muslims. This group comprises mainly of women around the city of Greensboro as well as students that either visually or by action are as identified as Muslims.

How can non-Muslims best support their Muslim brothers and sisters?
Two ways: Educating Muslims on the rights they possess as US citizens and supporting programs that help bring basic information/recognition around Islam/Muslims (as understood by Muslims) to academic, work place and faith-based settings.

Statistics for how many Muslim-American students experience bullying

Click to see full image.
2017-01 - Bullying-Muslim-Students

What’s the most effective way to address a bullying situation involving a Muslim-American victim?
First, report the incident and document it and provide trauma support to the victim and extended families. Second, Bring awareness to the problem. Lastly, build an anti-bullying network and hold anti-bullying programs via a regular cadence.

How can a classroom make safe space for young Muslim-Americans?
Bring awareness of bullying faced by Muslim-American youth, provide education around Islam and Muslims helping fight the misconceptions I mentioned above, and open dialogue between students to understand dynamics causing issues in the classroom.

What do you believe people across communities can do to end the harassment and violence towards people of the Muslim faith?
Three things: Inward facing education around Islam and Muslims, hopefully with Muslim involvement; participate in outward facing community events and programs with Muslim counterparts; and reach out to people that are not part of the “choir”.

If you could say one thing to someone who feels negatively about Muslim-Americans, what would it be?

Meet a Muslim locally and learn through the relationship, what Islam means to the person on the ground.

Do you feel there are particular differences to how American women of Muslim faith are perceived by society compares to the men of Muslim faith?

There is a stark difference, as Muslim women are viewed with an eye of judgement and cynicism, particularly those that wear a Hijab and are easily identified as Muslims. Harassment, marginalization and even emotional pity is given to the misconceived condition of the Muslim woman and the position is found hastily generalized.

How do you see rhetoric from politicians and public figures regarding Muslim faith affect treatment of Muslim-Americans? Do you feel it contributes to increased harassment of Muslim-Americans?

This harassment ebbs and flows over time and in earnest started after 9/11. There have been many incidents of increasing hate crimes around the US based upon recent election rhetoric. Specifically, the Islamic Center of Greensboro has received a few threats, including letters asking for Muslims to disappear from the Greensboro area. The response to this threat was the formalization of a yearly Peace Festival, started in 2015 and the inter-faith and community engagement event has been successfully organized for two years running.


Wasif Qureshi is President Emeritus for the Islamic Center of Greensboro and father of two beautiful children. He is hopeful and committed to the cause of peace, justice and equality with a focus on the immediate sphere of influence.

Photo courtesy The Carolina Peacemaker


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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