Beat the bullies

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Bullying is an age old problem. It’s been in every school that has ever existed. We may have seen other kids getting their heads shoved down the toilet or beaten up for just looking or acting differently. But it’s okay, as long as they survive, right? And getting roughed up only toughens a child, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what some people may think…

Over the past few years, the world’s media has been focusing more attention on an epidemic of suicides and suicide attempts by children who have been victims of bullying. Stories have surfaced all over the globe. And many of the victims have been teenagers who’ve been harassed because of their sexuality. In response, members of LGBT groups have tried tackling the issue by coming out with anti-bullying campaigns. Most notable is the It Gets Better Project, started by long-time gay activist Dan Savage in the USA, which features videos including the likes of President Obama and comedian Steven Colbert encouraging kids that there’s hope and help against bullying.

Now, riding on the same trail, Hong Kong has come up with its own anti-bullying campaign. I am ME has been produced and funded by LGBT activist group, the Pink Alliance, and it’s already gaining praise across the city. “I’m very glad that for the first time Hong Kong has its own campaign that we hope will go viral and global,” says Professor John Erni, campaign organiser and head of the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University. “Bullying is a silent epidemic in Hong Kong schools. Bullying doesn’t have to be physical. Sometimes, when kids are different, they are ignored or rumours and gossip about them are spread by peers. This is a type of relational bullying that our education system does not have a system of addressing.”

According to a survey in 2011 about bullying in schools, which was conducted by the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong and addressed 40 teachers from city schools, 45 percent said they had noticed some sort of bullying which is related to gender identity. However, 52.5 percent said they witnessed students having homophobic slurs shouted at them, and 30 percent noticed physical abuse.

The I am ME campaign features eight prominent individuals from different sectors of the LGBT community, who are proven role models, sharing their own insight and personal experiences with bullying. There are singer-songwriters Anthony Wong and Eman Lam, legislator Raymond Chan, Prof Chow Yiu-fai, Prof Hui Po-keung and Prof Choi Po-king, and LGBT advocates Joanne Leung and Billy Leung. In Prof Chow’s video, he says to his classroom of students that if you come across someone getting bullied ‘I hope you have the strength to say so what? You still have me on your side’. “The common theme to the videos,” says Erni, “is to encourage kids not to be afraid. Why? Because we are with them. We stand by them. Young people need not suffer like this. Why do they suffer silently?”

Eric Tsang, freelance videographer and long time social advocate, as well as LGBT advocate (though not gay himself), was in charge of shooting and directing the videos. For him, this is just the beginning. “I want to do more videos and not just from people in the public eye,” he says. “I am sure there are powerful stories out there that we need to discover and share.”

The next step for Erni and Tsang is to create the next batch of short films. There is no definitive timeline right now but they hope to continue the project until they see a considerable impact. So, if you have a personal bullying story that you think might help others, you can share it with the Pink Alliance by messaging them on their Facebook page. You never know, it may one day help a victim of bullying before they do something drastic. 

I am ME
View the films at youtube.com/tcjmhk and for more info visit www.facebook.com/IamME.pinkalliance.

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