As people across the country wore purple for "Spirit Day" Friday, Andrew Frosch and Mandi Hawke reflected back on their experiences as students.
As people across the country wore purple for “Spirit Day” to take a stand against bullying and support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth on Friday, Andrew Frosch and Mandi Hawke reflected back on their experiences from years ago.
They know how hard coming out and being out can be, as they were both bullied heavily through their school years. They said they endured being humiliated, made fun of and labeled.
"Over time it wore away at me, so by the time I got to high school I didn't want anything to do with gay people, I didn't have many friends. I thought gay people were disgusting,” Frosch said. “I was too afraid to talk to anybody, or reach out for help."
Hawke said bystanders are more important than anyone else.
“Because when I was being bullied, I could rationally say to myself this person is a jerk,” she said. “But when there was 20 people standing around that watched it and didn't say a thing, it's almost like they're agreeing with them. And that is I think way more painful than the bully."
Now, Hawke and Frosch work as LGBT youth outreach advocates at SunServe in Wilton Manors, where they give kids a safe place to turn to, and a place where they can be themselves.
They said support systems like SunServe and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are speeding acceptance along.
"Now they're coming out in elementary school, middle school, high school, and they have sometimes have to deal with families or constant strain at school,” Frosch said.
Hawke said she saw 20 people posting their support for Spirit Day on her Facebook feed Friday.
“Wear purple, show your support, stand up to bullying, don't be a bystander, which is huge for the youth – Facebook is a lifeline right now,” she said.