Ricky Martin GQIt’s hard to believe, right? This talented singer and father of two boys was once in denial and bullying others for their own sexuality. I think this says volumes about how self-hate and denial can manifest into abusive, unhealthy behavior. Ricky said anti-gay sentiments in society and his faith ‘crushed’ his self-esteem.

Before officially “coming out” in 2010, his self-loathing for being gay manifested itself in outward anger and bullying. According to his cover interview for GQ Australia:

“I was very angry, very rebellious. I used to look at gay men and think ‘I’m not like that; I don’t want to be like that. That’s not me.’ When you’re told you’re wrong by everyone, from society, from your faith — my self-esteem was crushed. I took my anger out on those around me. I look back now and realize I would bully people who I knew were gay. I internalized homophobia. To realize that was confronting to me. I wanted to get away from that.”

Now, Ricky Martin fights against those who bully and believe that gays deserve to be treated with less respect than heterosexuals. He spoke out against hate crimes for the Give a Damn campaign in October 2010 (Watch it below!).

“One of these acts of violence and intimidation occurs approximately every hour of every day in this country. It is time for things to change. I give a damn. Do you?”

In March 2011, Martin was honored with GLAAD’s Vito Russo Award for his involvement in the campaign. By the way, if you like campaigns like “Give A Damn”, you might also like “The Pansy Project!” Now comfortable in his skin, Ricky says:

“I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

Ricky Martin GQThere’s a lot of value in someone as well-known as Ricky Martin speaking up about being a bully to compensate for feelings he was trying to suppress. I think it’s more common than we believe. Bullying has become a massive issue in our society, especially among teens in school. According to bullyingstatistics.org, 77% of all students being bullied verbally in some way including mental bullying or even verbal abuse. Out of that 77%, 14% have a severe or bad reaction to the abuse. Bullying contributes to poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety about going to school and even suicidal thoughts. Also published in the statistics is that 20% of students admitted they are responsible for bullying their peers. Ricky’s confession of having outwardly expressed his internalized self-hatred in an aggressive manner can teach us a lot about some of the reasons people bully others. According to this report, there are several factors that contribute to it. Some of it is cultural:

In a culture that is fascinated with winning, power, and violence, some experts suggest that it is unrealistic to expect that people will not be influenced to seek power through violence in their own lives. 

That sounds awful. But something that makes a little more sense is this: a bully’s personal history.

 Children who experience social rejection themselves are more likely to “pass it on” to others.

That information circles back to what Ricky Martin said about being crushed by the anti-gay messages he received from society and his faith. Although I believe the majority of society supports gay marriage, is generally supportive and continues to make strides in acceptance, I cannot say the same for most religions. This exclusion does so much more harm than good. According to recent gay bullying statistics, gay and lesbian teens are two to three times as more likely to commit teen suicide than other youths. About 30% of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. It’s so awful to say, but the several suicides that have happened as a result of gay bullying – or any kind of bullying – have not been in vain. They’ve raised awareness and gotten us to pay attention. Bullying has become much more recognized and taken more seriously in the last few years as a result. It is SO tragic that bullying takes lives and at the very least, has life-altering consequences. I’m glad that people in the spotlight, like Ricky Martin, speak out and participate in anti-bullying campaigns. With enough awareness, discipline and kindness,  hopefully we can avoid future lives being taken. By the way, today is World Suicide Prevention Day. You can learn more about that here.

Sources: Jezebel, NY Daily News, Bullying Statistics