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what i will tell the girl i bullied

Twelve years ago, I saw a death wish in Sanyu's stricken eyes. Yet I laughed and judged her for being different. I was a Christian but short of glory and blind to reality. She had been made to believe she was cursed and sick. I believed what the Bible told me to.

It horrifies me that I could not hold a terrified girl's hand and say it will be okay. I did not know any better.

Why has nothing changed since that horrible day more than a decade ago? Why are sexual minorities still bullied?

Homophobia hidden behind the mask of religious and cultural beliefs has led us to become hateful and hinder social development. Children deserve the right to become free thinkers and make informed choices.

It’s hard enough being a teenager but growing up is even tougher for LGBT teens bullied for their identity and genetic wiring. To solve this, we need to include LGBT youth in comparative sex education programs. These students who are already bullied frequently should not be shunned because they exist.

Globally, one out of four students faces bullying due to sexual orientation. Lesbian teens are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than any other youth group. About 30 per cent of suicides are related to a sexual identity crisis.

Bullied students are also more likely to miss school. And unfortunately, teachers tend to target them too. They gang up against gay students and abuse them physically and verbally. Punishments include caning, expulsion or public belittling.

Uganda's culture does not support promotion of LGBT rights. It’s illegal and unsafe to talk about sexuality. Sex education remains a major challenge in schools.

Teachers know speaking about homosexuality in schools is unlawful. But what about the moral right, and emotional and psychological support all students deserve regardless of their sexual orientation? If schools are not prepared to talk about this, it’s not surprising that kids grow up with misconceptions. Being teased and bullied is something that could greatly affect a person’s self-esteem for the rest of his or her life.

LGBTI persons are not considered when making policies that involve everyone else. Lack of acknowledgment of homosexuals in our society does not mean these people do not exist and that they are not real. Real people with feelings, they are human beings segregated from society and unfamiliar from love from the outer world.

I have spent more time convincing homosexuals I am on their side than actually advocating for their rights. It is heart-breaking. "You do not hate us?" cannot be an acceptable norm of greeting.

I have argued with some of my well-educated friends about homosexuality. They unfortunately still equate homosexuality to incest.

What we have become and the precedent we have set scare me. The need for sexual education in schools can no longer be ignored and children should understand this diversity and embrace it. There is nothing non-traditional about sex!

This is why an inclusive culture should begin in schools. There is a need for a sex education curriculum. Students should not be left uninformed about their anatomy. Schools should ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity are not mentioned in a negative light. Expulsions related to sexual orientation must stop in schools. LGBTI students should be treated just as heterosexual students are.

If I could go back 12 years ago, I would have befriended Sanyu. I would not be a bigot like they made me then. I won't hide behind religion and make an innocent girl contemplate death with hateful talk and judgmental eyes.

If I met Sanyu today, I would say how sorry I am for the horrible experiences she had to suffer due to me and the whole school. I would tell her I was this young, naive scared girl in an all-girls Catholic school who was taught to hate lesbians and not associate with them. I would tell her what a brave person she was and that she is an inspiration to other young girls. I will ask her to help me in destroying the tradition of hate against LGBT students and cultivating a universal feeling of sisterhood.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Mukut's picture

Beautiful,Patsy

Your personal ode to Sanyu is touching. You have spoken about a very important yet neglected issue-bullying of LGBT students and denial of their rights.

So proud of you beautiful Patsy ! Your thoughts are as much radiant as you.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Tash's picture

Hey Mukut, thanks! you know

Hey Mukut, thanks! you know am proud of you too! Yes, this is a neglected topic am glad i addressed part of it.

Much love!x

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Iryna's picture

Accept

Dear Patsy, this issue is very strong for Ukraine as well. Yes, people here also speak about this is a big sin and invent other things to aquit their homophobia. The problem, I think, is deeper. The crowd refuses to accept anyone who is different from others. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to change. At least, not so fast. But I believe, the most important thing I can learn my children is to accept people in the way they are and not try to change them.
I appreciate you for this issue, Patsy, this public attitude really drives me crazy.
Warm greetings,
Iryna

Tash's picture

Hey Iryna, thank you. Yes ,

Hey Iryna, thank you. Yes , you are right about how its almost impossible to change .That's why its important to keep creating awareness. It will take people like you to change the hate tradition towards homosexuals, that's comforting.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

pelamutunzi's picture

brave and important

I must say you are very brave because of your advocacy for LGBT. In Zimbabwe there is intolerance on people with different sexual orientations. The government has spoken out numerous times against it. I would say we need to change our perceptions on people who are different. Im glad of your resolve t take back what you did to that girl if only we can reflect and do the same for all people we have unfairly treated.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Tash's picture

Hey Pela, yeah, Mugabe has

Hey Pela, yeah, Mugabe has made it clear his stance on LGBTs. I don't get why governments choose to get into issues that are of less relevance and neglect more pressing matters like in Mugabe,s case the state of his economy. I appreciate your feedback though, if i start on Mugabe and leaders like him, i may never stop! Its important to try and educate people more to understand this, sadly not children only.
thank you.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

jacollura's picture

Thank you, Patsy for this

Thank you, Patsy for this honest and well-written post. You are indeed brave and resilient. Because I love Uganda, I hope that Ugandan's attitude toward homosexuality will someday change.
Love,
Julie

Tash's picture

Hey, Julie, thank you for

Hey, Julie, thank you for loving Uganda. I know this because i have seen what you do. Yes, some day maybe....i believe.

Much love!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

JaniceW's picture

Sanyu

This is a wonderful piece (as always) Patsy. I do believe that although you are not able to reach out to Sanyu today, you are honoring her by advocating for LGBT rights and are actively breaking down the barriers surrounding the stigmas attached to their community. Her legacy lives on in you and your activism.

Blessings to you,
Janice

Tash's picture

Hey Janice! thank you, am

Hey Janice! thank you, am always happy when you stop by and read my posts! Yes i hope if she can not read this, maybe another girl like her will, some one going through the same thing, and i hope it gives them hope that, people do change and that they too should not lose hope in humanity it always gets better, i see little change in my own country from time to time. I just have a feeling it will get better.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

inspiring

like you I sometimes think of undoing the things which I have committed due to my ignorance about gender/power relations and institutionalized hierarchy of gender binaries.

I would like to correct all those mistakes.

to err is human but to learn from those errors makes a better human.

All the best.

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

Tash's picture

Hey Sutanuka, tell me about

Hey Sutanuka, tell me about it! it takes a load off getting rid of that hate! We can help others not to make the same mistakes by educating them on what we know now.

Thank you!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

:)

I have never hated anyone. But the point is I have committed some mistakes. like sometimes in a group I joined in making fun of a male friend who was thought to be "effeminate" and not "masculine" enough as he was a classical dancer. He also shared some stories about his childhood when he loved to play with dolls and as usual this was also laughed at.

in hostel there was a girl who was avoided because of her "masculine" attitudes.

And now being part of gender studies I know what non-sexist child rearing means.

Hope the concept of gender binary will be challenged from the very root, from childhood: there will be no such questions about what it takes to be a man or a woman.... every individual irrespective of one's sexual orientation would be respected.

Take care

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

Tash's picture

INTERESTING-non sexist child rearing

Thanks for shedding more light on that. Well,the thing i did wasn't Christian like.looking back i know what i participated in was hateful , this was such a reflective post for me and how far i have come as a person. I share the same sentiments with you on starting to educate children early about sexuality.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

obviously i can understand

it does not matter it is christian like or not. The problem is this kind of hatred is ingrained in our minds through culture, custom, religious doctrines.

And we need to begin the "unlearning" process to be better human beings.

big thumbs up to your courage, for speaking about it and making a change.

Best Regards,

Sutanuka

I live in my convoluted mind....

delphine criscenzo's picture

The toll of bullying

Dear Patsy,

Once again thank you for being such a strong ally for the LGBTQ community in Uganda and beyond.
Thank you also for being truthful about the judgement you passed on Sanyu. It is sometimes difficult to acknowledge that our beliefs used to be different that we impacted someone negatively by our words.
Bullying is such an issue and has incredible consequences on the lives of LGBTQ youth as you pointed out.
Thank you for this insightful piece and this call to stop bullying!

Delphine Criscenzo
Online Training Coordinator
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

Tash's picture

Hey Delphine, thanks saying

Hey Delphine, thanks saying that, i appreciate it.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

hannah87's picture

Thanks for your wisdom!

Dear Patsy,

It takes a lot of courage and introspection to see our past mistakes and vow never to repeat them. It takes a lot of wisdom and humility to see how it was that you were able to treat another person poorly- you were acting out what you were taught in Catholic school.

I also went to Catholic school, in the US. I was taught so many negative things about people who were different. I think in our hearts as we grow older and wiser we realize that this type of brainwashing against our brothers and sisters is so deeply wrong.

Thank you for this article. I, too, have treated people poorly in the past and have made mistakes which I hope to never repeat.

May the Uganda people and government remember compassion, as well as the US and all countries towards the LGBT community, and the "outcasts" of society.

Blessings,

In faith and love,

Hannah Rose Whitmore

Tash's picture

Hey Hannah, thank you for

Hey Hannah, thank you for being brave too and admitting to your mistakes, i have been talking to a couple of people about the bullying of LGBT teens since writing this post and they admit to it but are not remorseful because they feel they are helping preserve society . Only when people are open to the LGBT issue will they discover the truth and not fight it anymore perhaps?!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

cricketts's picture

Bravo for your bravery!

Patsy -- Thank you so much for this miraculous piece. You are so brave to take this position publicly. It's people like you who are the seeds of change. The tide will turn, but not without people like you speaking out. I applaud you for taking this chance, and addressing the issue so articulately. By starting and ending with your personal story, you really establish a deep sense of connection and make the piece more persuasive.

In the U.S., I work with a nonprofit that has a sizable LGBT community making donations in Africa. Every so often, we hear them express concern that they are helping to support people who would discriminate against them if they met them in person. I think they would be so heartened to hear and see your progressive stance on these issues. The more people who speak out, and the more we can look past our personal biases, the closer we can all become to find solutions to the world's real problems. I think you're absolutely right that this starts with education and young people. With people like you leading the way, I have faith in future generations to end discrimination.

Camille Ricketts
camille@kiva.org

Tash's picture

Hey Camille, Miraculous!!-

Hey Camille,
Miraculous!!- why, thank you!

My goal in this struggle is simple really, to create awareness and hopefully impact on negative attitudes towards the LGBT community in my country.

Thanks for the kind words, yes, the future does look good,with each day i see and read words of hope from social media by LGBTI people in my community.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

luciasur's picture

Talking via email

Patsy
I got your name from the World Pulse staff as someone they are working with in Uganda. It seems that what they are doing is good work with less overhead than many NGOs. I've connected on projects regarding inspirational women in Zimbabwe through World Pulse. I did a photo show on that topic after 3 trips to Zim.
Can we talk via email about the next project I'm considering doing photographically and via interviews, which would be in 2 of the following: Uganda, Malawi, and Cameroun?
My email is psfoto@comcast.net
I'd appreciate your perspective on the work I want to do. You can search Paul Sivley Photography on Facebook, Google +, Linkedin, Houzz.com, Angie's List and Yelp to learn more about me.
Thanks!
Paul Sivley

Paul Sivley
Portland, OR USA

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