I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Tyler Clementi Foundation in this vital mission to end bullying of all kinds—especially when that bullying affects the most vulnerable.
I will never forget hearing Tyler’s story for the first time on the news. It shook me to my core. For weeks afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about the tragedy. It broke my heart, and I wished—as I’m sure so many of us did—that I had some way to go back in time and change the outcome. His story also took me back to my own teenage years and the emotional toll of the bullying I experienced for being gay, too often from fellow Christians.
I didn’t know Tyler in his life, but I have known many other people whose lives have been permanently scarred or even ended because of the bullying they endured. Bullying makes us feel alone and unloved, even when we are loved. It blinds us to the goodness in the world. It makes us feel inadequate and unimportant.
In my own life, faith has been a powerful and important refuge in times of bullying. But when faith itself is used to bully, it can become a weapon of terrifying psychological destruction. People can come to believe that they are meaningless—not only to their peers or their parents but even to God. Who among us is strong enough to withstand that kind of assault?
That’s why I believe with all my heart in the necessity of ending faith-based bullying. For 20 years, I’ve worked within Christian communities to stop faith-based bullying and change harmful messages about LGBTQ people. As Americans, we may not always agree on matters of faith, but we all deserve an opportunity to live our lives free of the emotional devastation caused by bullying.
I believe that God loves everyone, and that faith communities ought to be places of safety and refuge, not fear and intimidation. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my life to addressing the misconceptions and harmful messages that have left so many kids feeling unsafe not only in their places of worship but even in their own homes.
To learn more about Justin, check out his bio.