Homophobic school bullying takes a terrible toll – something this Mean Girls star knows all too well
On Spirit Day, millions take a stand against LGBT+ youth bullying by wearing purple in public.
A survey by The Trevor Project revealed that the majority of LGBT+ youth (52%) who were enrolled in middle or high school in the US reported being bullied either in person or electronically in the past year. However, this issue is far from new.
One of the thousands of LGBT+ people who have been affected by bullying is Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett. Now happily engaged to fiancé Jaymes Vaughan, in the past he has opened up about how he was bullied so badly at school for being gay that he developed stomach ulcers.
In an Instagram post for World Theatre Day, Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in the cult classic film, shared how high school theatre was the only place to give him “the tiniest bit of refuge” from the homophobic bullying.
Sharing a video of himself at 16 years old, he wrote: “I give you a video of a 16-year-old gay boy in Ohio. He has a pitchy voice, no rhythm, and can’t dance to save his life.
“He’s awkward, his teeth are too big for his face, and he lives in fear every single day because he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the boys in his class.
“He constantly gets pushed into a locker by an asshole named Justin and when he walks down the halls he gets called a faggot.
“He cries himself to sleep every night and develops stomach ulcers because of the stress and the homophobia in his small town.
“He thinks really dark thoughts and lives miserably in secret.”
The theatre, he said, was a place where “for the first time in his life, he feels safe”, where he “isn’t ridiculed for being different, he’s celebrated”.
He continued: “Grown-up Jonathan wants to say thank you to every single person who has ever had anything to do with any theatre anywhere at anytime.
“If you were an actor, a stage manager, lighting, sound, wardrobe, front of house, back of house, even if you just bought a ticket and supported theatre.
“You did so much more than that. You made a safe place for so many struggling little Jonathans out there.”
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Sending a message to anyone who felt a connection to his story, Bennett added: “Know that you are not alone and that you are a star and you deserve to shine bright.
“And never stop singing and dancing, no matter how good you are because it’s not about being perfect, it’s about shining your light. And the world NEEDS your light. The curtain’s up, the stage is set, all the little Jonathan’s out there… ‘You’re on!'”
On Spirit Day, held on the third Thursday of October each year in the US and coordinated by GLAAD, millions of people wear purple to visibly show solidarity with LGBT+ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible LGBT+ anti-bullying campaign in the world; sending a message to young people that homophobic bullying won’t be tolerated, and that together we can end it.
You can take the Spirit Day pledge here.
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