Students Advocate for LGBT Community
March 26, 2018
As a third grader, senior Joseph Castronovo had no idea what LGBTQ+ meant. He remembers getting bullied for a subject he had no knowledge of and how it affected him.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of bullied students were tormented on school property, while surveys from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network state that 61 percent of the bullied minors do not report attacks. However, for the students who do report the abuse, 31 percent said the school administration made no effort to respond accordingly. Meanwhile, a survey from 2005 states actual/perceived gender expression and sexual orientation-related bullying represents the second reason teens bully teens like sophomore Anna Smith*.
“I told my mom first. She was a little upset, but she accepted it after a while,” Smith said. “I started getting bullied when I was 13. After that, things just started getting worse.”
Castronovo and Smith both dealt with bullying. However, each experienced different ways to deal with their problems. Smith dealt with self-harm, depression and neglect, which an excessive amount of students who classify as LGBTQ+ can relate to. As for Castronovo, he changed his perspective on the categorization of all people and became his own person with a different meaning of “titles.”
“People feel the need to put people in boxes and categorize you, and I just don’t like the categorization of people,” Castronovo said. “I feel like others knew before me. I got bullied, but I didn’t even know what it was.”
A survey of LGBT+ Americans includes four in ten people who say at some point in their lives experienced neglect by a family member or a close friend because of their sexual orientation. According to the CDC, gay and bisexual youth and other sexual minorities arise at higher stakes of rejection by family. Student Support Counselor Mr. James Bedwell agrees, however, he refutes the statistic.
“When their families become aware it’s not as much of a big deal. It’s not really difficult for all of them, just some of them.” Mr. Bedwell said. “Their families accept them. They have somebody that will listen to them.”
Castronovo confided in his mother his sexual preference which resulted in her being very accepting and supportive. This also formed bonds with peers that he could trust and rely on to understand him.
“In 7th and 8th grade I would deny it, but in 9th grade, when I actually had friends that I could trust, it was easy to just be like ‘yea’ and they were very accepting,” Castronovo said. ‘’I feel like my mom knew first. She had a conversation with me and said that she was very loving and accepting with anything that I do in life, she’s proud of me and all of my accomplishments and nothing’s going to change that.’’
According to a survey of LGBT Americans, 92 percent of people who identify as LGBTQ+ say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade. However, experiences vary. According to the CDC, homophobia, stigma and discrimination can especially affect young gay and bisexual men.
“My father’s side of the family is Catholic, so I try and avoid that conversation. Plus, they never really ask me because they just don’t believe in it,” Castronovo said. “My mother’s side is just more accepting. It’s not like my father’s side is not accepting, it’s just that I know they’re very traditional, so I choose not to bring up the topic.”
According to LGBT+ Bullying Statistics, LGBT+ teenagers were two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other teens. The same source also adds that one-third of suicide attempts because of sexual identity actually result in death. About 30 percent who try to kill themselves actually die. Smith has personal experience dealing with this.
“I started going into depression and I started cutting,” Smith said. “I tried to overdose twice. I was 13.”
Mr. Bedwell estimates that about 40 percent of the students he receives in his office deal with LGBTQ+ concerns. His best advice for the students who come into his office seeking guidance is to stay safe at all times, surround yourself with good people and always communicate with parents.
“I feel like there’s been a great change,” Mr. Bedwell said. “I feel like people are more able to be open about it. It’s not something that has to be hidden or seen to be against the law. It gives people less of something to carry on your shoulders.”
Appreciation suits the way Castronovo feels for the rise of the LGBTQ+ community. He believes this generation has done a good job of enlightening society about what LGBTQ+ really means. On the other hand, Castronovo also stands by his own beliefs which lead him to stand in the middle of how he sees himself as a human being and how he’s seen in society.
“I don’t feel the need to be able to identify myself as something,” Castronovo said. “I am what I am – I’m me. I’m Joseph Castronovo.”