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Bullied gay teen meets with President Obama, proposes LGBT youth advisor

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When we last checked in with Caleb Laieski — a gay teen from Arizona who started his anti-bullying activism when he was forced to drop out of high school at the age of 16 — he was in the middle of a month long lobbying crusade, meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

Now, two months later, Caleb is back from his third trip to Washington D.C. this year, where most recently he was an invited guest of the White House to attend President Barack Obama’s LGBT Pride Reception on June 29.

President Barack Obama with Caleb Laieski
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, courtesy Caleb Laieski.

While meeting with the President, Caleb proposed that the administration appoint an LGBT youth adviser to the President, which would serve as a liaison between the Obama Administration and the nation’s LGBT youth population to address anti-LGBT bullying and seek solutions to other issues facing LGBT youth.

In March, Caleb attended the White House’s first ever Conference on Bullying Prevention, which inspired him to advocate at the federal level, “for those who are afraid to speak up.”

In May, Caleb returned to Washington to lobby for support for the SNDA — the House version, HB 998, currently has 145 co-sponsors; the Senate version, SB 555, has 34 co-sponsors.

During his 22 days in Washington, Caleb met with almost 200 legislators and members of the Administration, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and the staff of Sen. Al Franken, the SNDA’s chief sponsor in the Senate.

Caleb also met with Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and shared his personal experience being on the receiving end of anti-gay bullying. The story stuck with Sebelius, and days later, she spoke to Caleb’s story at the first-ever LGBT Youth Summit that was hosted by the U.S. Department of Education.

Caleb was a victim of bullying on a daily basis in his public school, which led him to leave regular classes and pursue his GED instead of a high school diploma.

After leaving school, Caleb sent a legal notification to his school district that he would bring a lawsuit to protect himself and others who were harassed by bullies, prompting the district to change its policies. He later sent a similar notice to every school district in Arizona, contacting more than 5,000 school administrators, city council members and state lawmakers, demanding improved measures to fight discrimination.

And in a tragic event that struck too close to home, Caleb lost a close friend his age to suicide last year who had faced similar experiences with bullying.

In fact, statistics show that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 3 out of 5 LGBT youth (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN.

Caleb said his goal is to channel his inner pain into a positive experience by becoming a strong personal advocate for bullied LGBT Youth.

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24 more reader comments:

  1. this is just amazing :)

    Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:54pm
  2. he sure is lucky for such an unlucky kid :P

    Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:56pm
  3. wait what

    Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:56pm
  4. I’m not American, but I <3 Obama.

    Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:58pm
  5. Way to go, Caleb!

    Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 11:00pm
  6. An amazing young man speaking for a cause and actually getting off the couch to make a difference – such an inspiration. If he were here in Canada, he’d be nominated for the 20 under 20 in a heartbeat.
    That said, I still think it’s a very sad representation of the world that young, inspiring minds that could benefit academia so much has to halt his education to fight for equality.
    On a side note, please, fellow LGBTs, give your support to Obama the coming presidential race. Sure, he’s kind of dragging a bit, but at least he’s making progress AT ALL. As far as I can tell, the American LGBT community would do far worse with any of the other candidates. The likes of Bachmann and Perry certainly would not bode well to our cause.

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 12:59am
  7. Pure proof that he needs to be re-elected. If he doesn’t, we have only antigay candidates and the most extreme ones to date. It’s getting pretty dangerous. Support your allies and support a warm hearted president. The only one to even look at the issue of LGBT bullying and armed forces. I <3 Obama!

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 1:52am
  8. What I said to Caleb is bring up the idea of an Youth Advisory Committee that will meet in DC to brief the Administration on current bullying trends and have Congress approve a budget for a web site and educational campaigns, that would meet in DC for three days, once a year. I’m not sure how this turned into a Czar for LGBT bullying but that would come down by an appointment of Committee Chair appointed by the President or by Youth Advisory Committee election. LGBT bullying would be 1 focus of the committee as would teen peer pressuring in drug abuse. The committee would be broad and it’s campaigns tackle all the issued surrounding bullying.

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 9:43am
  9. In a way I fault Caleb… You shouldnt drop out of high school because pepole make fun of you because your gay! IM BLACK AND GAY AND THATS 10 TIMES HARDER AND STILL FINSHED HIGH SCHOOL WITH A 3.0 GPA! He should have stood up more for himself instead of throwing the towl!

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 10:09am
  10. True, but sometimes it becomes too much. Not everyones strong willed and it can take time to mature and become stronger. Now just look at him. A huge advocate for LGBT youth. So he really didn’t throw in the towl at all! I’d say he did a damn good job :)

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 12:47pm
  11. As much as this is definitely a good thing, I think everyone is just dancing around the real issue. If same-sex marriage were legal in the US, then it would slowly become a, not necessarily a societal norm, but definitely something less foreign to others.

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 2:37pm
  12. Ur right

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 2:40pm
  13. a child shall lead the way, good for him!

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 2:45pm
  14. This fellow is an inspiration. Good on you, we cannot begin to say how much we appreciate your work.

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 3:49pm
  15. What a remarkable young man!

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 4:28pm
  16. Caleb Laieski is my friend on Facebook – he’s a very brave and very intelligent young man. I know he had a very hard time in high school, but he’s made the best of it. I’m proud of you, too, Joshua.

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 4:41pm
  17. Good for Caleb for standing up for himself and putting pressure on the school administration to make active change. I can only hope that these school districts are investing in some kind of training for working with sexual minority young people.

    http://www.LGBTEducationForum.com

    Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 6:50pm
  18. Powerhouse for our community. Thanks Caleb Laieski

    Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 at 1:16am
  19. If all school districts don’t start to actively stop anti-Gay bullying, they all need to be sued.

    Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 7:33am
  20. Great Caleb! Goodluck! Hope those bills will get pass in Congress, government officials need to wake up!!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 8:23pm
  21. The problem with Caleb staying in school is that the death threats from wanna be “gangsters” got too close for comfort. As well as an attempted hit and run on his life.

    All while school administrators simply looked the other way and refused to take any action to protect Caleb when all of these things and more were brought to their attention.

    So, when it came down to fight and die or escape and continue the fight from the outside, then I think Caleb did a very sensible thing in quitting school, but not quitting the fight!

    GO CALEB!!!

    Posted on Monday, August 22, 2011 at 7:16pm
  22. homosexualität ist in jedem land schwierig nicht nur in den usa. ich lebe in deutschland und hier sind schwul und schwuchtel schimpfwörter. viele männer und frauen haben angst sich zu outen weil sie angst haben ihr soziales netzwerk zu verlieren. ausgegrenzt zu werden. ich kann schwul sein und leben weil ich nichts zu verlieren habe

    Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 12:56am
  23. Prevent Bullying and Teen Suicide!

    Please sign and share Caleb’s petition…

    http://www.change.org/petitions/president-obama-please-appoint-an-advisor-on-lgbt-youth-issues

    Posted on Monday, September 5, 2011 at 3:25am
  24. I’m really impressed with the work of Caleb, and all the positive strides he’s made. It would truly be an honour to meet him one day.

    ~Randall

    Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7:43pm