Hayley’s Story: My Path to Forgiveness

I won’t go into the details of it, because I consider the bullying I’ve experienced something I need to keep behind me in order to keep moving forward. I’m an adult now, and I have different—not bigger, just different—fish to fry. But I will say that the bullying was mostly from friends, mostly from people I’d put my faith in and trusted, and they targeted everything, from my clothes, to my interests, to my (what I feel was worst of all) my body.

But that’s not the story I want to tell anymore, nor do I want to tell one about the mental illnesses that were triggered by a decade of bullying, relieved only by (oddly enough) high school, and then college, where I became comfortable in my own skin, with the support of fantastic friends.

I’m not in high school anymore, though. Nor am I in college. I’m 23, and lately I’ve been thinking about forgiveness. Because some days I can forgive the people who hurt me, and some days I can’t. I don’t believe, for me at least, that forgiveness is a rigid thing. It’s pretty fluid, depending on my mood, a therapy session I was in, the weather, and so on.

Around 4 years ago, my worst bully was a boy who, for a whole school year, made it his mission to make my life hell. It started off tame, and morphed into lunch sessions that would end with me crying in the bathroom or a physical assault that ended with my father going to his house and telling him never to speak to me again. Which he didn’t, until one sticky, summer night four years ago.

I was at a neighbor’s BBQ to celebrate the Fourth of July. He was there, and I felt my whole body freeze up, threatening to turn into a panic attack as the boy, now a man, gave me a quick hug. It was strange. I did not want him to touch me, but before I could voice my concern, he hurried away, looking down, and I turned to see my father behind me, looking angry, not at me but at him, with his arms crossed.

I could’ve left there and then. Just walked home in my platforms, but I told my dad I didn’t want to show I was rattled. It had been years, after all.

So I stayed, and it wasn’t until much later, after my father left, that the boy, a little tipsy, approached me and sat on the patio next to me.

And he did the strangest thing. He apologized.

Both my anger and my forgiveness have a time and a place.I was taken aback, understandly. But I’d also, weirdly enough, had a therapy session with, you know, my therapist, and we talked about how sometimes, you have to forgive people who never say they’re sorry. Not for their sake, but your own. I wasn’t sure I could be the kind of person to do it, but the conversation was still mulling over my head when the boy apologized.

I can’t say whether it was sincere. I can’t tell you that I’m a mind reader or that I know for a fact that he meant it. But I told him, surprising myself and I think him, that I forgave him. This was only after I’d told him the impact he’d had: I’d covered mirrors to hide my reflection, cut myself, tried to kill my self, all by the age of 16. And yes, he wasn’t solely to blame, but he was a trigger, a trigger so bad that when he was placed in my Algebra 2 class, I begged my teacher not to sit us near each other. Thankfully, she did not.

But the next day, telling the story to my mom, I took it back. I was angry again, and hurt, and confused. Why after all these years? Why all the suffering? Why now? Why don’t we ever see the consequences of my actions until it’s too late?

I went back and forth on it—feeling generous for one hour, then wrathful the next—never agonizing over it, per say, more along the lines of trying to solve a piece of my puzzle: was I a forgiving person, or was I not?

Then, I realized: I can be both.

I’m not advocating for forgiveness, or vice versa. I do think there are some things that are truly unforgivable, and a few have happened to me in the years since that BBQ. But something in me changed, something good: I went to college, joined clubs, dated girls, made friends, then graduated college (manga cum laude, which was cool), and basically just moved on. And I discovered that I wasn’t the only one of my peers who was bullied, and I wasn’t the only one who grappled with the idea of forgiveness. It’s terrible to think that most of my friends went through the same awful ordeals I did, but it’s comforting to know I hadn’t been suffering alone—I’d only wished someone had told me while I was going through it.

I don’t credit the boy giving me an apology for my ability to move on in my life, but that apology did allow me to discover that I was okay with having an on-again, off-again relationship with forgiveness. That’s just my nature. And since then, when people have hurt me, it’s easier not to dwell. I know I can have my moments of anger, and I know I can have my moments where I just let it go. Both my anger and my forgiveness have a time and a place. Knowing it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to what I feel. Few things in this world are absolute.

The moments where I do have it in me to forgive don’t abosolve him. I think we both know that, though I haven’t seen him since that summer night. I think he’s in England now, doing his own thing, maybe with planes, because I remember him liking them. In this moment, I hope he’s doing well. I know I am.

PS: The picture of me shown is from my college graduation, which I worked super hard to do! I was very happy in this picture. I hope you all find that happiness, too.


Demonstration: Tyler Clementi Foundation to Biola University: Stop Teaching that Being LGBTQ is a Sin


Media contact: Rich Harrington, (603) 731-9811, rich@tylerclementi.org

In response to religious-based bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students and communities at Biola University, the Tyler Clementi Foundation has partnered with students, alumni, and local faith leaders to demonstrate as #Upstanders.

Date and Time: Monday, December 4, 2017, 11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Location: Biola University, 13800 Biola Ave, La Mirada, CA 90639. Biola Ave and…


  • Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, Christian, and mother of Tyler Clementi, who died by suicide in 2010 after being cyberbullied on his college campus.
  • Rev. Mel White was a highly-visible member of the Evangelical Protestant movement until he came out as gay in 1994 and devoted himself to ministering to LGBTQ people.
  • Mitchell Gold, co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, also co-founder of Faith in America, which in November joined forces with the Tyler Clementi Foundation to fight faith-based bullying.
  • Erin Green is a gay Christian, former Biola University student, LGBTQ activist, and Faith Programs Coordinator at the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
  • Dr. Ken Fong is the executive director of the Asian American Initiative and Assistant Professor of Asian American Church Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • Pastor Danny Cortez is the founding pastor of New Heart Community Church and a Board member of The Gay Christian Network.

Additional information:
11:00 a.m.- 11:15 a.m.— Meet on-campus at Metzgar lawn.
11:15 a.m.- 11:20 a.m.— Greeting and introduction by Erin Green.
11:20 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.— Prayer circle led by a local pastor.
11:30 a.m.- 11:40 a.m.— Walk over to the public demonstration location on Biola Ave.
11:45 a.m.- 11:50 a.m.— Erin Green gives formal introduction and speaks about her experience on campus.
11:50 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.— Official speaker series.
12:30 p.m.- 1:00 p.m.— Open for additional individuals/students who want to share their stories.


Tyler Clementi Foundation to Biola University: Stop Teaching Being LGBTQ is a Sin — #LGBTQnotAsin

Bad Theology Kills

Media contact: Rich Harrington, (603) 731-9811, rich@tylerclementi.org

La Mirada, CA—On November 28, 2017, The Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities, submitted a list of grievances and requests to Biola University in response to two instances of religious-based bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) communities.

  1. On September 30, 2017, Alan Shlemon lectured at a Biola University-sponsored event entitled Homosexuality: Clarity and Compassion, where he endorsed sexual orientation change efforts that are not only unscientific and dangerous to LGBTQ students, but also violate standards set by the American Psychological Association.
  2. The Nashville Statement, signed by members of Biola University’s faculty, conflicts with university policy, which states, “All members of the Biola Community are expected to treat one another with respect and Christ-like compassion.” While Biola claims to support and protect all students, it continues to use its exemptions from federal Title IX nondiscrimination protections to bully and harass LGBTQ students.

LGBTQnotAsin“By paying Alan Shlemon to disseminate dangerous, unscientific misinformation about sexual orientation change efforts on campus, and by enabling a climate of fear among faculty who disagree with the anti-LGBTQ Nashville Statement, Biola University has reinforced the anti-LGBTQ narrative they already face because of their Title IX exemption,” said Erin Green, a former Biola student and Faith Coordinator for the Tyler Clementi Foundation. “Biola University has a moral, ethical, and professional responsibility to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“As a Christian and mother of a college student who died by suicide after being cyberbullied on campus because of his sexual orientation, I am hoping that Biola University will follow Christ’s commandment to love their neighbor as themselves,” said Jane Clementi, co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. “Biola University cannot simultaneously abide by the Christ-like compassion of the Golden Rule, while also supporting policies, speakers, and laws that harm our children.”

True Faith Doesn't BullyOnly one Biola professor, Wade McNair, Psy.D., has felt able to make a public statement about these issues via his personal social media, which provides him a certain amount of cover from retaliation: “This semester, I received two messages from two different students. One is still at Biola and one that has graduated, both having taken my undergraduate course. In both messages my students validated the need for me to continue to teach at Biola as an LGBT-safe faculty member. Both shared their stories and the joy and hardship of being LGBT, a Christian, and a student at Biola. The recent choices by Biola have left me disappointed and questioning my decision to teach here. But the student impact is the priority and I encourage all other LGBT-safe faculty to stay strong and reflect the love of Christ and the value of each human being created in His image! We make a difference!”

The Tyler Clementi Foundation is asking the administration within Biola University to respond in writing to our request, linked here, by 5:00 p.m. PST on Friday, December 1, 2017.


Download press release with request document submitted to Biola University and relates supporting documentation.


Faith in America and The Tyler Clementi Foundation Join Forces to End Religious-Based Bullying

Jane Clementi and Mitchell Gold speaking at the 2017 Upstander Legacy Celebration

On November 13, 2017, at The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s Upstander Legacy Celebration, Mitchell Gold, co-founder and co-chair of Faith in America, and Jane Clementi, co-founder and Vice President of the Tyler Clementi Foundation Board of Trustees, announced that their organizations will be joining forces to work together to end religious-based bullying. The following is a statement from Mitchell Gold:

“Faith in America was founded in 2006 to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ people, especially youth, by faith-based discrimination. In the early years, leaders and funders in our own LGBTQ communities worked against us because they felt the truthful word “bigotry” was too strident. Many thought we could achieve full equality by avoiding religious issues entirely. Despite this resistance, Faith in America grew through donors and supporters who shared heartbreaking experiences of faith- based discrimination, organized around the inspiring vision of a world where religious denominations no longer teach that homosexuality is a sin.

“The Tyler Clementi Foundation has become a critical partner in achieving this vision. Jane Clementi has a powerful voice as a mother and person of deep faith. And now with Jason Cianciotto as its new executive director, The Tyler Clementi Foundation will become an even stronger and more impactful leader. Faith in America wants to be a part of that. By joining forces and using precious community resources more strategically and efficiently, we can hit the grand slam needed to end faith-based discrimination.

“This is why I joined The Tyler Clementi Foundation Board in September and, in partnership with Faith in America’s Board, have begun the process of closing down our operations as a separate nonprofit. All of Faith in America’s programs, staff, and resources will be transferred to the Tyler Clementi Foundation. These include the Save yOur Kids! Campaign, which informs anti-LGBTQ religious denominations and the general public about the immense harm and suffering caused to LGBTQ youth and adults, as well as our College Accreditation Project, which challenges religious institutions of higher learning that include anti-LGBTQ teachings in their programs that graduate accredited, mental health practitioners.

“I want to thank Faith and America and Tyler Clementi Foundation boards and staff for embracing this visionary plan to join forces. Now more than ever, as anti-LGBTQ religious fundamentalists have taken over our highest political offices, we must protect LGBTQ youth from the lifetime of harm caused by faith-based discrimination and rejection from their families and faith communities. I want to be the first to welcome and invite Faith in America’s donors and supporters to learn more about The Tyler Foundation’s programs and services by exploring TylerClementi.org. Please take the #Upstander Pledge, download and implement the #Day1 bullying-prevention program in your school, workplace, or faith community, and follow us on social media.”

See the full video of the announcement here.


3 Tips When Talking Politics With Family This Holiday Season

Talk to Family Over Holidays

Talk to Family Over Holidays

This holiday, give the gift of bullying prevention. Make a gift to TCF today and help us create a country free from bullying.

Many believe you should never talk politics or religion with friends or family. For people passionate about change…that is mighty hard. This holiday season, it is inevitable that the current, tense political climate will come up for millions of families. How can you survive this experience? Here are three tips:

DisengageDisengage: Breathe in. Breathe Out. You know your situation and your family better than anyone. Do you really believe that engaging that relative pro-actively or reactively is going to change anyone’s mind or not ended up in tempers rising? Consider resisting the temptation to engage or stepping away when it is brought up. Family is family and holidays should be enjoyable.

Feel EmpoweredFeel Empowered: For those who don’t want to “agree to disagree” and want to feel more empowered, consider telling your personal story and not letting it escalate. Is there a way to explain calmly that elections have consequences for actual people—people like you, people who are minorities? Tell the story of an LGBT, immigrant, Muslim or disabled person you know and maybe just maybe you will feel more empowered that you planted a seed of empathy.

Find Common GroundFind Common ground: Think about values instead of positions or candidates. We all share similar values even if our actions demonstrate contradictions. Nearly all people support fairness, liberty, public health, a clean environment, caring for the less fortunate, etc. Center conversations around values. If you take up all the moral high ground, you leave little room for people to stand with you.

This holiday, give the gift of bullying prevention. Make a gift to TCF today and help us end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.


Oh, What a Night!


Congratulations to our 2017 honorees:
Rev. Frederick A Davie
Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Alfredo Paredes
Executive Vice President & Chief Retail Creative Officer, Ralph Lauren
Board Co-Chair, Hetrick-Martin Institute

Neil Giacobbi, AT&T

A special thank you to our many generous sponsors for their support!

A special thank you to our host Maulik Pancholy, and special musical guest Lance Horne.

We also want to thank:

Jane Clementi, Robin Robinson-Dillard

Andrew Bear, Laura Birk, Paul Boskind, Alan S. & Ben Buie-King, Kevin Carroll, Jason Cianciotto & Courter Simmons, Joe Clementi, Bruce Cohen, Craig de Thomas, Peter Montgomery Drake & Jared Moreno Drake, Neil Giacobbi & Bethany Godsoe, Mitchell & Tim Gold, Drew Gulley, Monica Lewinsky, Bert Orlov & Adrienne Opalka, Caryn Reed-Hendon, Bob Williams & Stephen Heavner, Vikrum Vishnubhakta, Scott Woodward

We want to express a very special thank you to our 2017 Upstander Legacy Celebration Sponsors

Champion Sponsors: Barilla, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

Changemaker Sponsors: Workplace Options, Morgan Stanley & Kevin Carroll

Upstander Sponsor: Bloomingdale’s, David Yurman Jewelers, tarte cosmetics, Union Theological Seminary

Benefactor Sponsors: Cynthia and Robert Bear, The COIL Foundation, Ira Schuman and Richard Eaddy of Savills-Studley, Inc, Peter Montgomery Drake & Jared Moreno Drake, Open Society Foundations, The Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers University

Patron Sponsors: Jason Cianciotto & Courter Simmons, Ira Schuman and Richard Eaddy of Savills-Studley, Inc., Salt Hotels, Second Paramus Associates, Teachers College (Columbia University)

Friends: Paul Boskind, Drew Gulley, Catharine Hough, Dr. John Hunter, Michael Lynch, Bert Orlov, Janice Robinson, Vikrum Vishnubhakta, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Phillips Nazro, Michael Adams, Alfredo Paredes, Greg Kubiak, Molly Bass, Mary Gore, Dan Luna and Bill Singer, Bob Mollusky, Calvin Mew, Thomas Witt, Odeh Ahmad, Matt Schaible, Danielle Malloy, Chris Jones, Eric Reinitz


Meet Upstander Trey Darnell

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.


Tyler Clementi Foundation Announces New Executive Director, Jason Cianciotto

Jason Cianciotto, MPA

October 24, 2017 (New York, NY)—Today, the Tyler Clementi Foundation announced the appointment of its new Executive Director, Jason Cianciotto, MPA. Hired as the result of an extensive nationwide search, Cianciotto brings over 15 years of progressive leadership at nonprofit advocacy, research, and direct service organizations. His professional qualifications to lead the foundation are matched by his deeply personal connection to its mission.

“I know first-hand what it’s like to be bullied as a youth nearly every day at school because of my sexual orientation, only to come home to a family who forced me to attend so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapy, and who eventually kicked me out onto the streets because of their religious fundamentalism,” said Cianciotto. “That journey led me to dedicate my life to advocating for and healing LGBT populations and other stigmatized minorities, while ensuring the next generation is nurtured with dignity and acceptance. I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to fight alongside the Clementi family, Board, staff, and volunteers to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.”

Cianciotto honed his leadership at nonprofits serving LGBT and allied communities at the local, state, and national level, including as Research Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Policy Institute, Executive Director of Wingspan, Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center, Director of Public Affairs and Policy and Managing Director of Special Events and Major Gifts at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and Vice President of Policy, Advocacy, and Communications at Harlem United.

Cianciotto has authored or co-authored over 50 articles and publications, including the book, LGBT Youth in America’s Schools, which was honored as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title by the Association of College and Research Libraries. His expertise, thought leadership, and personal story have been featured in print, radio, and television, including on CBS News, The Hallmark Channel, MSNBC, and HuffPost. A more detailed biography and print-quality photo of Cianciotto is available here.

“We hired Jason because we wanted someone with the heart, head, and vision to help us ensure that no parent loses a child to bullying ever again,” said Jane Clementi, who co-founded the foundation with her husband Joe after Tyler died by suicide in 2010 when he was cyberbullied because of his sexual orientation.

“Now that bullying has been elevated to our nation’s highest political office, the Tyler Clementi Foundation is more important than ever,” said Alan Buie-King, Chair of the foundation’s Board. “We actively looked for a leader whose personal life story and work history will foster strategic growth that not only strengthens our existing programs, but also aggressively addresses head on the worst sources of life-threatening bullying and harassment during this unprecedented time in America’s history, from schools, to religious fundamentalism and the Oval Office.”


Meet Our 2017 Upstander Legacy Celebration Host Maulik Pancholy


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.


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.


Why I Stand Up and Stand Out to End Bullying

I grew up in a small town with predominantly white neighbors, teachers and school mates. For the most part, many people were accepting of this small family of Pakistani-American’s that found a home in a new city.

However, what I remember most from my childhood are the moments where people were not-so accepting—the people that said horrendous things to my parents, siblings and me.

After the attacks on September 11th, the bullying got exponentially worse. I remember sitting in class as we discussed the terrorist attacks led by Islamic extremists and someone saying to me, “Tell your uncle Osama to stop bombing my country!”

I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t this my country, too? I was born and raised in this country.”

Suddenly, my whole family noticed a change in our community. The cashier at the local grocery store wasn’t so accepting of my parents’ accents. She talked down to them and spoke slowly as if they couldn’t understand her. Why were people being such bullies? Were we doing something wrong? NO. The answer is NO.

tcf-social-uppal-tileIn today’s world, bullying is everywhere: on social media, in schools, at work, and in politics. I think the biggest problem we have is that children aren’t being taught to empathize.

My primary goal in life is to raise a good kid; I don’t mean a kid with straight A’s or a kid that is the star athlete. I mean a kid with a good nature, a nice person who likes to make everyone smile. I have a young daughter who is as curious as they get. She asks me questions like, “Why is that man in a wheelchair?” and “Why is that ladies skin darker than mine?” I tell her, “That’s one thing of many that makes that person special.” It’s difficult trying to explain to little children why they can’t say whatever is on their mind, but it’s a conversation parents need to have with their children. Children need to learn to empathize with others, to put themselves in others’ shoes and share the pain of there friends and neighbors.

As important as it is for me to teach my daughter to empathize, I find it equally important for her to stand up against bullying—whether it’s directed towards her or someone else. I show her all the ways she can use her voice, her words and her knowledge to change the world around her.

When I find out she is upset about something she saw in the news or something that happened to a schoolmate in preschool, I encourage my daughter to stand up and stand out, to do something that will make a difference. I never want her to feel like she can’t make a difference which is why I take pride in being a loud-mouthed, opinionated woman. All I can hope for is that she will follow suit one day and try to change the world around her for the better.

Meriam Uppal is a 29-year-old from Rochester Hills, Michigan, a Human Resources Manager for an automotive company in Rochester Hills, and a Political Science graduate from Wayne State University pursuing an MBA at Walsh College. She has been married for over 6 years and has a 4-year-old daughter..

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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