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Sparking dialogue

The HIFF film "Out in the Silence" is timely following a rash of suicides by gay youth

By Nina Wu

LAST UPDATED: 3:05 a.m. HST, Oct 19, 2010

Sixteen-year-old CJ Bills of Oil City, Pa., was so tired of being bullied at school for being gay that he eventually asked to be suspended so he could be safe at home.

Bills, who at one point was suicidal due to the taunting, is the central figure in "Out in the Silence," an Emmy award-winning documentary making its Hawaii premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Saturday.

Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will appear at a question-and-answer session after the screening, which they hope will be a springboard for a dialogue in the community.

The film, produced in association with the Sundance Institute, is timely following recent suicides by gay teens on the mainland, including the death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi.


» What: Hawaii International Film Festival screening, followed by question-and-answer session with filmmakers

» When: 4 p.m. Saturday (65 mins.)

» Where: Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18, Iwilei



» UH Manoa LGBT Student Services: 956-9250

» The Trevor Project (suicide hot line for LGBT youth): 866-4-U-TREVOR

» Q Element:

» Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): 672-9050

» Gay Straight Alliance Network:



» Hawaii Suicide Crisis Line (ACCESS): 832-3100

» National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-SUICIDE or 800-273-TALK

"The recent rash of teen suicides due to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bigotry, bullying and harassment is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go to counter the intolerance and homophobia that are claiming young lives," said Wilson. "We need the sort of courage demonstrated by CJ translated into a national movement for safe schools for all students everywhere."

Camaron Miyamoto, coordinator of LGBT Student Services at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said more gay students are coming out at younger ages than in the past -- in middle school or high school -- when bullying is most prevalent, rather than at college. But the bias begins as early as preschool and kindergarten.

Teens who have hidden their gay identity from family and friends can feel even more lonely. A sense of isolation, in addition to the bullying, can lead one down the road to suicide.

"I think too often we experience isolation and silence because of continued harassment," said Miyamoto. "So I encourage everyone to take a stand together, no matter what your sexual orientation."

Besides slurs, other, more subtle ways students denigrate gays without necessarily knowing it, he said, is with the use of phrases like "That's so gay," the word "sissy" or slang like "no homo." Many students also are harassed just because they are perceived to be gay, whether they are gay or straight.

It's important for gay youth to know they have resources to turn to, he said.

"I want every single student to know that they count and not only that things will get better, but they can make it better starting today," he said. "No one deserves to be harassed or bullied, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation."

National research has linked bullying to suicide in youth, according to state suicide prevention coordinator Nancy Kern, with LGBT youth particularly at risk. But other youth can be targets for many reasons, including race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or appearance.

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