When my 6th grade granddaughter came out as bisexual at school, she was bullied for it. During that trying time in 2015, my wife and I joined a protest at Temple Square because of the LDS Church Policy of Exclusion. Prior to that, I had removed my name from church membership records in order to heal myself – a story for another day. For all these reasons and more, I am thankful that I became a member of the Mama Dragons, where we can support each other on this journey.
My daughters and I raised our families to be inclusive and to respect diversity, which is why my granddaughter felt safe to “come out” to one of her friends. That friend then told other girls at school, and they all cornered her on the playground, bullying her viciously. The girls did not face any consequences for their actions. Instead, they carried their bullying behavior into Junior High School, enlisting other students to join in their cruelty. Neither the schools nor the parents put an end to the bullying.
That wasn’t the first time she was bullied, either. When she was in early elementary school she had a love of singing, and was blessed with an exceptionally beautiful voice at a very young age. I was so happy because she shared my love of singing and songwriting! I vividly remember the first time she sang a song for me that she’d been working on. It was so incredibly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
Sadly to say, her love of singing didn’t last long. After a sleepover, when a couple of girls found out about her singing abilities, they became jealous and started bullying her. That same week I went to visit her so I could hear her new song, but she had lost her voice. She could barely speak. I thought it was a virus and that she would soon be well, but after 6 months, she still could not sing. That’s when I realized it was a symptom of a deeper problem and talked with her about it. I reminded her that she was blessed with a great gift, and not to let the petty behavior of others rob her of her dreams. We discussed famous singers who had faced similar bullying, including Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Britney Spears, but my granddaughter said she didn’t want to face bullying for doing something she loved. Her mind was made up no matter what I said. She had given up her dream of being a singer or songwriter. I was heartbroken for her and hoped that she would find her voice again eventually.
These events started my granddaughter on a downward spiral of anxiety, PTSD, and depression. At times, accumulated Dis-Ease and depression led her to feel self-destructive, even to the extent of thinking about taking her own life. Despite the efforts of her mother and I in talking to school administrators, nothing was done to stop the bullies. Unfortunately, because of serious threats, my granddaughter decided it was time to fight back. As a result of the minor altercation that ensued, the school suspended both girls; however, we understood why she felt that she had to take things into her own hands. We weren’t upset at her; we were proud of her for standing up for herself.
Many of us have seen first-hand how bullying has led to an increase in youth suicide rates. LGBTQ+ youth are especially vulnerable. In Utah, many of our family and friends have been affected by this epidemic.
Because of the bullying in school, my daughter thought it safer to homeschool my granddaughter. She also decided to limit her contact with social media where the bombardment of negative voices, ratings, and cyberbullying lowered her self-esteem. Thankfully my granddaughter has the support of her mom, her grandmother and my wife, her step-grandmother, as well as her own strong will, and she is learning to cope and thrive.
It was because of the destructive effects of bullying by peers, politicians and even some church leaders, that I was compelled to help my granddaughter and others like her. It is my firmly held belief that all kids need to learn social skills and to use the power of their voice in dealing with bullying and peer-pressure. As an LGBTQ+ person and a cancer survivor, I felt the need to share how I healed myself from my own Dis-Eases so that I might help others learn how to heal.
I understand what it feels like to face bigotry, to be shunned and excluded so that fearful and uninformed people can be made to feel more comfortable. My healing began with forgiving myself and others, and honoring my authentic self. There’s nothing more important than being true to yourself and expressing that truth through the power of your voice!
After much research and study, I focused my attention and talents on writing and publishing a book titled, A Very Important Power, about bullying prevention. In addition, I wrote original songs to accompany the story all of which are designed to help kids realize the power of their voice, their choices, and to know that they have the power to solve almost any problem – including being bullied. Chapters of the book are dedicated to helping bystanders and bullies, as well! I am pleased to say I am also certified in Bullying Prevention by the CDC, and the QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Program.
I give presentations to schools and at special events with the help of my grandchildren, and mascot, Vippi Mouse. Vippi is a life-sized, yellow and blue mouse who is a VIP Investigator and Treasure Hunting Navigator. Our mission and motto is “Helping Kids See They Are a Treasured VIP!”
As a songwriter, singer and recording artist, I have used my talents and activism to help LGBTQ+ organizations and a variety of American Indian tribal groups. I have assisted in raising funds for the Utah Aids Foundation, The Utah Pride Center, LIVE! For Life, and The Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire.
I now live in Salt Lake City, very near my two daughters and nine grandchildren, with my wife and two little Dachshunds named Oakley and Jackpot. My wife has been an activist and organizer in several non-profit organizations in Memphis, TN and Atlanta, GA and was once the Board Chair of the Utah Pride Center.
As the matriarch of my own large LGBTQ+ family, and a member of the Mama Dragons, I’m here to help give kids and their families hope, healing, hugs, and the reminder that the most valuable treasures in the universe – like compassion, self-esteem and happiness – most often come from the most difficult and trying experiences.
“When you hit rock bottom, remember, bedrock is where you find the gold!”