Three years ago,
after months of planning,
we launched
The Beyond Bullying Project
at West High School*
in San Francisco.


Jessica Fields
The Beyond Bullying
Project Team

The first morning we arrived at the school, a thick fog covered the courtyard where we would set up the U-Haul storage locker that our media partner, Bay Area Video Coalition, would transform in a private, cozy, storytelling booth. As students arrived at school, we fought off the damp, and set up our information table, put out a bowl of granola bars, and hung our banner.
We didn’t know what would happen next. Would students talk with us about LGBTQ sexuality? Venture into the booth to tell a story? How would the school greet us and our giant box?
By mid-morning, the fog had burned off. Students moved passed us quickly, shuttling themselves from class to class. Our graduate student research assistants stood in front of the table, beckoning students over with promises of food and an iPod raffle. It was a slow day—we chatted with students, made some presentations in classes, but few students risked entering the booth. We had set ourselves a goal of recording 50 stories about LGBTQ sexuality in each school. At this rate, we would not come close to meeting that goal.

On the second day, we showed up again: granola bars on the table, iPod to raffle off, and friendly grad student assistants engaging everyone who walked by. A resource staff member brought some of his students over. A member of his student club started decorating the booth with rainbows. By lunchtime, we had company. Over sandwiches and sodas, we heard stories about life at West High: the long commutes some students made to show up everyday, the teachers who could be counted on for support, the welcoming atmosphere of the library. Students started entering the booth to tell stories—sometimes with a research team member, sometimes with friends, and increasingly alone. By the end of the first week, students lined up at lunch hour and between classes to tell stories; teachers came down with students or by themselves to tell their own stories.

The booth, now festooned with banners, rainbows, and an impromptu chalkboard, became a place to hang out, eat lunch, avoid class, and share stories. Halfway through our stay at West High and we had already easily collected over 50 stories

Now, three years later, we have over 450 stories from three high schools across the United States.

With the launch of our updated website, we are excited to share the project with you. They record the staggering array of ways lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer sexuality and gender affects the lives of students, teachers, and schools. There are stories of suffering, harassment, loneliness and violence; but there are also stories of crushes, friendships, family, and support. We hope you will read and listen to the stories we share here. Every month, we’ll release another set of audio and text stories, so keep checking back to see what’s new. And, if you are so inspired, consider sharing your own story here. Regularly we will post new stories, written by visitors to our website, alongside the stories we collected in schools.

If we are going to move beyond bullying, then we need to document not just the pain of coming out or the joy of falling in love, but all the experiences in between—making an unlikely friend, finding a book that speaks to you, meeting your sister’s girlfriend, or feeling supported by a lesbian teacher. We hope that The Beyond Bullying Project might be a place for all of us to find these stories.

Special thanks to the schools, educators, students, researchers, media makers, and funders who have made The Beyond Bullying Project possible. Special thanks to the following folks:

  • Ford Foundation, our initial funder;
  • Bay Area Video Coalition, our media partner; and
  • LBJDIGITAL, the web designer behind our new site.