Ambassadors, your beautiful 700+ Friend Mail letters, posters and videos of support were presented to Michael at home in New York with his family, including Mome the dog, the most faithful of friends.
Michael's mom wrote that "he loved everything in the box and got a bit emotional and then felt he didn’t deserve all this ... He was feeling that surely there was someone out there who goes through more than he does that needed this package..."
Michael gave us all a tremendous gift by thoughtfully expressing in a video how receiving his letters of peer support made him feel. ❤️ Hear in Michael's own voice...
"I realized that I guess I am worthy..."
Michael's courage to stay true to himself as gay and gender-fluid, even as the bullying escalated in 4th Grade and again after playing "Elsa" in Frozen Jr in his 8th Grade musical, inspired LGBTQ+ peers and allies nationwide to send letters of support, empathy and friendship! Here is only a small sampling:
The BAFP had a very special opportunity to surprise Michael on May 8th at our BROADWAY KIDS FOR KINDNESS Benefit "to end bullying" from the stage at 54 Below in NYC with the news that he was our current Friend Mail Recipient and would be receiving letters of support from kids nationwide! Before we selected him as a Recipient, Michael had messaged us to be a part of the Benefit because the "cause meant a lot to him personally." Although we were already fully casted, a Google search brought up an NBC feature (see bottom of page) from 2022 about the horrific bullying Michael has endured in his town and community... so while his talent is extraordinary, inviting him to join our Broadway kids for 2 of the 9 musical numbers on stage, was really a ruse devised with his awesome parents to get him to the event! 😁
~ Michael's Story ~
Courageous 9th Grader survives relentless bullying since 4th Grade, just for staying true to himself.
15-year-old Michael is "a very kind and caring, authentic soul," says his mom, and "inclusive of everyone." The 9th Grader from Long Island in New York loves fashion and dressing up! His dream is to be invited to the Met Gala in NYC, “fashion’s biggest night out” that benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also likes to play golf with his dad and watch his favorite TV show, the "Miraculous Ladybug." His hobbies include writing songs and plays, and his ultimate passion is performing. Michael is an actor, singer, dancer and musician, who is professionally represented and "trains non-stop"and recently had the honor of singing a duet on stage with Kristin Chenoweth!
This "animated" and "very colorful" teenager first expressed the self-awareness that he was different in 1st Grade by saying he sometimes "felt more like a girl than a boy." In 4th Grade, he was called "gay" for the first time as a slur by a classmate. "I didn't know what that was," Michael recalls, but he assumed "it must be bad." Kids noticed Michael was more comfortable lining up with the girls and enjoying more typically feminine fashions and activities, and they began to laugh at him. From 4th Grade on, "the bullying was relentless,” his mom said to an NBC News Reporter.
20% of students in the U.S. report being bullied, which is about 7 MILLION kids every year. In comparison, bullying targeting LGBTQ+ youths is disproportionately high; in middle school alone, 65% of LGBTQ+ students report being bullied.
Note: No one deserves to be bullied ever, especially for who they are. The BAFP acknowledges, supports and cares deeply about LGBTQ+ youths and families; we stand up against hate in every form, especially bullying.
We are sympathetic to our Ambassador Educators that live in states that forbid the "acknowledgement" and discussion of your LGBTQ+ students and families. If you still want to inspire support for this bullied child, there are PDF story hand-outs with and without LGBTQ+ terms at the bottom of the page. Maybe that will help. As aways, the Youtube by On-Air Teen Ambassador Brielle is a good middle ground for the younger students.
Authentic, Caring and Inclusive of Everyone - That is Michael! ❤️
Over the following elementary and middle school years, Michael found expression and acceptance through his theater group and booking performances, and the support and love of his family. He managed to stay unapologetically true to himself, identifying as "gay" and "gender fluid" (using pronouns "he" and "they") despite enduring daily assaults from bullies wanting to silence and humiliate him. This included threats to strangle, kill and shoot him, constant slurs meant to demean him, being taunted into fights, cyber-bullying on social media, the loss of all his friends at school, objects being thrown at him and being hit, pushed and physically abused, even ridiculed by adults who did not approve of who he is. Classmates formed an “I hate Michael” club.
“There’s nowhere that I can go that feels safe,” Michael told the NBC Reporter, at least “not in school."
In 8th Grade, Michael got the chance to play his dream role of "Elsa" in Frozen Jr. when he was cast as the lead in the middle school musical. Michael was nervous as he walked up the steps of the raised platform and began to sing "Let It Go." To his relief, his pitch-perfect performance was greeted by cheers and applause from the audience (SEE VIDEO)! But, it triggered a new escalation of the bullying that continues to today. Often, Michael joins the approximately 160,000 other kids in the U.S. who miss school every day to avoid being bullied. His parents are currently searching for a new school placement.
Having survived ongoing physical, cyber, verbal and social bullying through 9th Grade, Michael knows firsthand the disproportionate amount of bullying that LGBTQ+ youth endure, especially when they find the courage to be visible. Michael craves loyal friends who can show him the respect he shows to everyone else, but he has none at school. He is ostracized in town as well, and finds acceptance only in his theater group.
Such purposeful cruelty takes a toll, not only on Michael but his whole family and the parents that have rallied behind him. His mom no longer works outside the home because protecting (and celebrating) her son takes all her time. She drives Michael to and from school every day because she fears he would be bullied on the bus. Michael's mental health has been effected after years of daily attacks and abuse, and he has been diagnosed with anxiety, PTSD and an eating disorder, just like so many bullied kids. As Michael told the NBC reporter, "The bullying has changed me a lot."
The change in Michael also includes finding his strength inside the trauma. "When things are the hardest," his mom told the Reporter, “he digs his heels in ... in his life, when it’s the worst, he is the most determined."
"What I want is for it to help other kids, too,” the 15-year-old said of his family’s efforts to make his school district more inclusive.
A YOUTUBE INTRODUCTION OF Michael's story by our On-Air Teen Ambassador, Brielle Diaz Withers, is a good way for younger students to learn a Recipient's story!
^^ Watch for a special sign-off from Brielle at the end!! ❤️
Ambassadors, this is our chance to STAND UP for your LGBTQ+ peers, and show Michael the acceptance and support he craves, and never received from his classmates. Your empathetic words and art WILL MATTER to help heal the trauma of the ongoing assaults. Your "Friend Mail" letters, videos and gifts of inspiration WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE to let him know he is not alone and that HE MATTERS. Tell him, YOU BE YOU and we stand up AGAINST HATE in all forms at the BAFP, especially in the form of bullying.
"CHANGE ONE LIFE AND YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. IT'S IN YOUR HANDS!"
THE DUE DATE FOR MICHAEL'S "FRIEND MAIL" EXTENDED TO JUNE 5TH!
Friend Mail must arrive in our NY office for review by the Due Date to be included in the main surprise delivery!
Click on picture to read the June 2022 NBC News feature on Michael.
Mail "PHYSICAL" letters to:
Be A Friend Project
P.O. Box 30
Beacon, NY 12508
Email letters, videos, scans & Google Drive links, send to:
PDF Hand-Out with descriptive words of "gender fluid" and "gay" and LGBTQ+:
PDF Hand-Out without descriptive words of "gender fluid" and "gay" and LGBTQ+: