VIDEO: Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles visits Janesville school
JANESVILLE—Pity the bullies. They're dealing with difficult issues.
That was an unexpected message students at TAGOS Leadership Academy heard Wednesday from seven members of The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.
Bullies often have been bullied themselves, said chorus member Jason Currie.
“You have to remember that the bully oftentimes is a victim acting out,” Currie said.
The chorus members all talked about being bullied for their sexual orientation, something they will bring to the stage Thursday night in a show in Whitewater.
The members said they're still harassed for being gay, but they have learned to brush it off and love themselves.
Several students talked about fighting with bullies. Chorus members said violence is not the answer.
Students need to learn they can't win an argument with a bully, said Liesel Reinhart, the writer and director of the show.
“The victory is in knowing that you were right,” she said. “You have to learn to be OK with that. That's the fight. The fight is inside.”
“I really liked that part a lot,” said Mercedes Jarabek, a TAGOS senior, after the presentation. “I'm definitely going to remember that next time.”
Several chorus members suggested students learn to let go of the hurt.
“You just have to say, 'Am I going to focus on it that much?' Because it'll destroy you if you let it,” Mario Mosley. “At some point, you just have to say, 'Whatever.'”
The show and presentation grew out of the It Gets Better Project, founded in 2010 after several highly publicized youth suicides related to bullying.
Chorus members said their goal is to encourage young people who are dealing with bullies not to give up.
“When you're an adult, the things that make you different are the things that make you successful, Reinhart said.
The group gave lessons in how to deal with difficult people in between songs, including “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin, Taylor Swift's “Mean” and Christina Aguilera's “Beautiful.”
Chorus member Mario Mosley said the best way to stop bullying is to “spread the love” by finding reasons to say nice things to others.
TAGOS senior Kelsey Heaton was impressed at the chorus members' personal stories.
“I thought it was really cool, how they were so open about it and comfortable talking about it,” Heaton said. “And they seemed so happy. They were smiling the whole time.”
Heaton said she was inspired: “You can get through it, and there are other people, not just you. Because me, I felt alone, but there are other people out there struggling.”
The fact that the chorus was invited to speak at TAGOS could be a good sign, chorus member Sacha Sacket suggested.
“Things are changing, maybe not as fast as we would want, but one of the best things we can do is be positive as we can and talk about these issues,” Sacket said.
Several students said their teachers at TAGOS take the time to get to know them and care about their lives, and they don't experience bullying at the school.
“It's like a second home,” said Beth Miller, a senior.
One student said he used violence to ward off the teasing he endured at his old school, but at TAGOS, that behavior has gone away.
Mosley responded: “Yay for this school!”