LITTLE ROCK Ark. (KTHV) -- More than half of homosexual Arkansans say they are verbally harassed. Many times, it starts in school and leads kids down a path none should go. Chad Griffin, a native Arkansan, kicks off his first day as president of the Human Rights campaign right here in the state; hoping to stop kids from being bullied. Griffin is leading one of the largest civil rights organizations; their goal to, achieve equality for LGBT.
"When I was younger, I was identified as a lesbian, I didn't come out until high school and I told my mom and brothers about it and they were accepting." But not everyone accepted Shawnna James the way her family did. "I was so afraid to be myself, when I was in high school, I heard one person make a joke, my middle name is Leslie so they called me Leslie Lesbian and at that point I knew I was not going to say that I was a lesbian."
In an effort to avoid bullying, she hid her lifestyle, not really having anyone to stand up for her. But now someone is. Monday, new president of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin spoke at the capitol on Arkansas' anti-bullying law in 2011. While Griffin says that is a huge step forward, there are still challenges our youth face every day. "This law sends a great message that anti LGBT bullying is not just kids being kids, but rather insidious harassment that gets in the way of a young person's education and their happiness."
According to the Human Rights Campaign 60 percent of Arkansas LGBT youth feel they don't fit in with their community, and two thirds of them are harassed with anti gay slurs. James spent many years as one of those statistics but now she is out to everyone and hoping to help others dealing with the same problems.
"I was really depressed a lot when I was in my sophomore, junior year of high school, and it wasn't until I found support systems online, I found space to become myself."
Just Communities of Arkansas also presented at the conference. It's becoming an avid defender of bullying victims, no matter their sexual orientation.