Straight Talk Advice

Gay and Muslim bullying — two demos that need protection

Feb 17, 2015

Schools need “immunization” from bully-induced trauma and rage

Dear Straight Talk: I'm sick of the cruel stereotyping these days. It's especially bad for openly gay teens. My girlfriend and I are assumed to have sex constantly, when, in fact, we don’t even have sex. I don't hear any cruel comments about promiscuity directed at straight couples. I also get cruel comments in the locker room and at slumber parties that I'm interested in other girls’ bodies, when it’s totally untrue. The handful of Muslim kids at my school are also stereotyped and bullied for supporting terrorism when they're just normal teenagers. Why can't this unfair judgment stop? —M.C., 16, Lodi, Calif.

Meghan 20, College Station, Penn. Ask me a question

Teens want any excuse to talk about sex. Read some history and issues facing the LGBTQ community; it’s fascinating and will provide perspective. Then, anonymously or not, inform your school of the bullying and ask for programs that teach inclusion.

Icis 16, Detroit, Mich. Ask me a question

Stereotyping is an epidemic illness. All crime could cease and the world could be harmonious but for negative judgment. I applaud your courage to be openly gay. Most deem anything different as amiss, then bath in ignorance rather than learning. At my predominantly African-American institute, the few Muslim youths hide for fear of being bullied or associated with negativity. In such situations, I make myself heard.

Karlee 17, Bentleyville, Penn. Ask me a question

I knew my best friend was gay before she came out, so it didn't change anything. We still slept together at overnights and changed in the same room. But at a Christian camp (ironically), kids were not only horrible to her, but also to me. We had known these kids for eight years. Suddenly, the girls didn't want her sleeping in our cabin or sharing the private-shower-and-stall bathroom! Homophobic people have this ego that assumes every gay is attracted to them. For defending her, I got called dyke, lesbo, scissor-sister, etc. After a week of harassment, I sat the girls down and talked about how they were making themselves look, and more importantly, what they were doing to her. She had become suicidal and literally tried to have sex with guys so she wouldn't be gay. And they say being gay is a choice. I watched this bright, charismatic girl fade into an isolated loner. Afterward, they became friendlier, or at least civil. Sometimes it just takes conversation to absolve ignorance, which is where fear and hatred reside.

Kat 19, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

In high school, I attended “Inclusion Camp.” It opened my eyes to everyday bigotry and how we become desensitized. The more you speak up, the stronger you become and the more people respect you.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I've been in three car accidents, sustaining two traumatic brain injuries. My complications are moderate, yet I've been called “retarded” by those uncomfortable with my disability. Be yourself! The “different” often overcome great obstacles and achieve great things! Only the Lord can judge, so tell bullies, “I'll pray for you.” Weed out negative people and surround yourself with those who love you for YOU.

Justin 17, Brentwood, Calif. Ask me a question

Grades 6-12 are extremely tough on all unique individuals. I know this guy who mocked musicians and artists because he was into sports. Now, he plays guitar and is into theater! People become more open-minded with age. It does get better! That said, anyone risking their reputation to protect the bullied is considered honorable.

Dear M.C.: Society has been lax on “immunizing” our schools against the human propensity to hate what is different — and for some victims to imitate widely-publicized methods of revenge. An evidence-based, student-empowered program exists that ends epidemic bullying and isolation, creating school-wide emotional wellness. The hugely-effective “Safe School Ambassadors” through http://community-matters.org has healed over 1500 schools from the inside out. Insist that your school carry this program.

Editor's Note: If your school needs an anti-bullying and cyberbullying program, please explore more about the Safe School Ambassador program by reading our earlier column where I interviewed "ambassadors" from several inner-city schools. Check out the amazing transformations in the participating schools as told by the student ambassadors themselves in our column of APR 27, 2011.

The Safe School Ambassadors program is the only one of its kind and it is genius in that it works by enlightening and training, say out of a school of 800, the 40 most popular kids from every clique on campus, as well popular teachers. Once these kids are awakened and trained, they know what to do and when to seek a teacher's help, and everyone follows them because they're the social leaders and that's what humans do, especially teens. (Realizing that teens look to other teens for help and guidance is what makes Straight Talk Advice such an effective platform as well.) If you are a student or parent, talk to your school about this program through www.community-matters.org. They have systems in place to help schools acquire funding.

Without solutions that work, we're looking at a future of increased school shootings. Our latest column on school shootings (JUL 1, 2014) should be a wake-up call to anyone not aware of the long-term ramifications of bullying. Most school shootings are the result of excluded and/or bullied "different" individuals who eventually snap and seek "justice" for the traumatic behavior they experienced in places that should have been emotionally-safe institutes of learning instead of the embarrassing centers of emotional trauma they have become. That our students extend this trauma, unmitigated by solutions, to peaceful, westernized Muslim youth should be immediately clear as wrong-headed and dangerous.

Top-down authoritative measures against bullying haven't been effective and often add more trauma to the mix. "Once-and-done" anti-bullying assemblies might assuage an administrator's guilt, but they don't begin to dent the problem — and they cost money. We must wake up to the fact that schools are societal incubators and that programs like Safe School Ambassadors need to be part of our education budget. A society-wide effort is also needed to rein in the news networks who glorify violence by showing the perpetrator's face and handiwork over and over again. This instantaneous venue for infamy for the sake of ratings and profits is a huge part of the problem. Then there's the gun lobby who turns down sensible reforms again and again as if they've sustained a brain injury themselves. Time for society to wise up and oversee real solutions. —Lauren

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  1. By L., age 16, from Northern California on 02/17/2015

    I am gay but feel that I have to keep it a secret because I have seen the things that you describe happen to the few girls (and guys) who are openly gay at my school.  Everyone assumes that they are sexually promiscuous and will have sex with anyone who is gay and constantly get cruel comments about it.  They also think that we are sexually interested in straight girls when nothing could be further from the truth.  My girlfriend and I have to pretend that we are just best friends in order to hide our sexuality.  We are affectionate in private, but do not have sex as neither of us feels that we are ready for it yet.  I even have to hide it from my own mom who is prejudiced against gays.  I have confided about it with my straight sister with whom I am close and share a room and she is totally supportive, but no one else other than my girlfriend knows.  The “undressing” issue that has been written about in Straight Talk several times is no problem whatsoever for my sister.  We’re just as comfortable with nudity in front of each other in our room as any straight sisters are.  I love her very much as my sister, but only in that way and she knows this.

    Even though things have been improving in recent years and gay marriage is legal in California and in most states and likely to be so nationwide in the near future, we are still a very long way from real equality and I don’t understand why everyone can’t just be who they are.

    L.

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    1. By Marcie, age 17, from Vacaville, CA on 02/18/2015

      I agree that while things have been improving for those of us who happen to be gay, there is still a very long way to go and the cruel stereotyping that goes on is very hard to deal with.  The stereotype that infuriates me the most is the one that we are sexually interested in girls who are straight and “get off” seeing straight girls’ bodies.  Like M.C., I get cruel comments in the locker room and at slumber parties from girls who are undressing with me.  I’ve even had comments in the bathroom at school as if going to the bathroom in a closed and locked stall with a girl who is gay in another stall is somehow a sexual threat.  How stupid.  I mean, we are human and have to go to the bathroom just like everybody else!  It’s only girls who don’t know me well who stereotype me.  I have some close straight friends who have no problem with me seeing them nude and know that I have no sexual interest in them.  The one who knows me the best is my little sister who has shared a room with me her whole life and is totally comfortable with me seeing her nude.  In fact, I’m the only one she’s comfortable with and she won’t let her friends or even our mom see her nude ever since she started puberty, but she’s totally comfortable with me which should tell you something.  We only have one bathroom, and she’s so comfortable with me that she lets me come in in the morning to get in the shower when she’s going “#2” if you know what I mean.  However, it’s traumatic for her to even have to change into gym clothes in the locker room and have the other girls briefly see her in her underwear.  She’s freaking out at the idea of having to take showers which the gym teacher told them everyone will have to do when the hot weather comes.  Despite all this, she’s totally comfortable with me, her gay sister.

      I really wish people would stop stereotyping people they don’t even know.

      Marcie

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      1. By Judy, age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 02/19/2015

        I feel exactly the same as your sister.  I’m totally comfortable sharing a room with and undressing in front of my older sister who happens to be gay.  I’m not shy about my straight girl friends seeing me nude, but I’m even more comfortable with my sister and am much more comfortable with her than with our mom.  It’s just not an issue as far as I’m concerned.  We have twin beds in our room, but we have shared a bed many times on family vacations while staying in hotel rooms with our parents with 2 Queen beds and it was absolutely no problem.  I have a hard time understanding why many people have a problem with this, but many do, and I have friends who won’t come for sleepovers in our room due to my sisters sexual orientation.

        I also have friend who happens to be Muslim and she faces the prejudices and stereotypes that have been described.  I have no problem undressing in front of her and find it even more bizarre that some girls would have a problem with this than with someone who is gay.  My Muslim friend is not one of those who has a problem sleeping in our room and undressing in front of my sister and likewise, my sister has no problem with her in this way.

        Judy

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      2. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 02/26/2015

        Marcie—Tell your sister we have done columns on that. Here’s the most recent and others can be searched under Sex, then Nudity. http://www.straighttalkadvice.org/teen-advice/entry/shy-freshman-mortified-over-school-showers

        Good luck to her and to you for being bullied. Please report the bullying to the principle and take the link for the Safe School Ambassadors with you, so you show up with a solution (it’s above in the Editor’s Note). Many of them really don’t know what to do and this program is proven to work, and I mean really well!—Love, Lauren

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  2. By Linda, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 02/17/2015

    Coming out as gay actually turned out not to be as bad as I thought.  Most (but not all) of the kids at my school were pretty accepting of me and others who are gay.  A small number acted uncomfortable in the beginning undressing in front of me in the locker room and at slumber parties, but it didn’t take long for them to get over it and realize that they had nothing to worry about.

    The biggest problem was my mom.  She freaked out at first and insisted that I wasn’t really gay and just going through a phase and would get over my sexual feelings toward other girls.  However, in time she came to accept it, but she still was actually concerned for my sister.  She’s a single parent and we live in a 2 bedroom apartment.  She told my sister that she would understand if she wasn’t comfortable sharing a room with me anymore and that she could share her room or at least keep her clothes in there and use it as her “dressing room.”  My sister just laughed at her and thought the idea was totally stupid, as she’s still totally comfortable undressing in front of me.  In fact, we’re both much more comfortable with nudity in front of each other than with our mom and would both much rather share a room with each other than with her.  We even share the bathroom every morning (both on and off the “facility”) and are totally comfortable with it. 

    I can’t say things are perfect and that there has been no stereotyping, but in my case it really hasn’t been that bad, and the small number of Muslim kids get it alot worse and I really feel sorry for them.

    Linda

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  3. By Aalia, age 16, from Fountain Valley, CA on 02/18/2015

    My sister and I are the only Muslims at our school and yes, we are stereotyped.  We want to be Americans, but our parents come from a Muslim country and are very conservative and insist that we follow Muslim ways.  We have to wear the hijab to school and everybody laughs at us and they also laugh at our Muslim names which sound very foreign.  We tried to use American nicknames, but our parents found out and seriously punished us.  Other kids also make what they think are funny jokes about us being terrorists and say that we are going to bomb the school.  Our parents don’t believe in going to the school authorities to get us protection from the bullying and say that those who mock us will get their punishment from Allah when they die.  Maybe they will, but it is very hard for us in the meantime.  Our parents do not trust us and constantly search our room to make sure that we are not doing anything that might be against Islam.  We tried to wear thong underwear behind their back so we wouldn’t look so different in gym class, but our mother found it when she searched our room, so now she insists on coming in our room and standing and watching us get dressed every day. 

    We just want to be normal American teenagers, but our parents and the other kids make it impossible.

    Aalia

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 02/26/2015

      Aalia—I am sorry for the juvenile treatment you and other Muslims, or perceived Muslims (in your case Debbie), are getting from your classmates. Most will grow out of this phase and look back embarrassed at themselves. I hope you can forgive and I encourage you to ignore it and stand strong. I also encourage you to go to the school administrators yourself, or the school counselor. If you explain to them what you said here and ask them not to notify your parents, I doubt that they would, and it could result in improved conditions on campus. I don’t see how it could hurt to confide in the administration about the bullying. Many schools actually just don’t know what to do regarding bullying, they are lost, so give them the Safe School Ambassadors website information (above, in my Editor’s Note), so that you come bearing an evidence-based solution.

      Regarding your parents, in the past, when America was younger, most immigrants wanted their kids to become Americanized, but public high school student morals and behavior are so lax and verging on indecent much of the time for many of the students today, I can understand how your parents and many of today’s immigrants want to protect their children from that influence. I worked very hard to protect my own 3rd generation children from it! Please know that there is nothing wrong with you and that millions of Americans welcome you and support you.—Love, Lauren

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  4. By Debbie, age 16, from Fullerton, CA on 02/18/2015

    I’m not even a Muslim, but still get stereotyped as a Muslim anyway, and so does my sister.  Our dad’s parents came from the Middle East and because of this we have dark skin, hair, and eyes, and people think we “look” like Muslims and assume that we are and we also have a last name that they think “sounds” Muslim.  The fact is, our family belongs to the Methodist Church!  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a Muslim or that all Muslim’s are terrorists, but the fact is that we are not Muslims regardless of how we look and our last name.  I even get asked how my name can be Debbie when I supposedly “don’t look like a Debbie.”  What exactly is a “Debbie” required to look like?  It makes me want to scream. We dress like everyone else, but we get asked why we don’t wear a hijab or even a burka.  We also have to listen to the cruel comments about being terrorists and supporting Isis and believing in beheadings (that’s the latest). 

    Due to the way that I am treated, I really feel for those who really are Muslims as well as those who are gay and also face similar stereotypes.  Even though my sister and I are totally straight, some girls are clearly uncomfortable undressing in front of us and we have heard that it is because we “look different” and are “enemies of our country.”  It doesn’t bother us to undress in front of white girls and to us it’s no different than when we undress in front of each other in our room since we’re still all girls with the same body organs, so we don’t understand why some girls have a problem with us in this way.

    Debbie

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  5. By Lisa, age 16, from Fountain Valley, CA on 02/19/2015

    Our problem is that our mom is gay and gets stereotyped and my sister and I get stereotyped by association.  Many of our friends won’t come for sleepovers because they aren’t comfortable staying in a home where they think “gay sex” is going on, just assuming that our mom is constantly having sex.  She does have a girlfriend who sometimes spends the night and they probably do have sex, but they do it behind closed doors and her room is down the hall from our room, so we don’t see or hear what is going on, so we don’t worry about it and it’s no different than when our mom and dad were together and we didn’t worry about it then, either.  When you spend the night with a friend whose parents are straight, does anybody worry about the fact that they might be having sex behind closed doors in the bedroom?  Why should it be any different just because our mom’s gay?  One friend also said that she was concerned because the door to our room doesn’t have a lock like was written about recently in Straight Talk, and she was worried that our mom might come in when she was undressed and said that she’s not prejudiced against gays, but still wouldn’t be comfortable with someone gay seeing her undressed.  We told her that she had nothing to worry about since our mom always knocks before coming in our room.  Even though she’s gay, she’s still our mom so we don’t care if she comes in if we’re undressed or even naked.  However, we assured our friend that if she was worried about it our mom would wait and give her time to put something on if she happened to be undressed, but that didn’t satisfy her.

    We weren’t surprized when our mom came out as being gay as we had already pretty much figured it out anyway and can accept it.  However, the unfair stereotyping that rubs off on us is hard to deal with.

    Lisa

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 02/26/2015

      Lisa—We have done columns on this. Maybe they will help. Here is our most recent one, and others can be searched under Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans in the search bar.  http://www.straighttalkadvice.org/teen-advice/entry/teen-fears-moms-gay-marriage-will-cause-bullying .

      I’m glad to hear that within the family, everyone is supportive. This is the most important environment of all, so kudos to you and your sister for your loving support of your mom! I hope things get better at school. Don’t hesitate to complain to the principle or a counselor if they don’t and tell them about Safe School Ambassador’s so you even show up with a solution. (see the website above in my Editor’s Note). Good luck to you!—Love, Lauren

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  6. By Molly, age 16, from Huntington Beach, California, United States on 02/20/2015

    I have a close friend ever since elementary school who came out as gay last year.  It makes no difference to me and we are still as close as ever.  I was always totally comfortable undressing in front of her, and nothing has changed.  Why should it?  My sister still has no problem when she has sleepovers in our room as we continue to do, and we never get the feeling that she has any sexual interest when she sees us nude.  When I have sleepovers at her house, I share her double bed as I always have, and again it is no problem.  However, she does face the stereotypes that M.C. and the others describe and gets cruel comments when changing with others in the locker room as well as comments about the assumed promescuity with her and her girlfriend.  She no longer gets invited to slumber parties because others are not comfortable sleeping in the same room and undressing in front of her.  I really feal bad for her.  Since we are still close friends, I’ve even had comments implying that I must be gay and even that I have sex with her (I’m compeletley straight), but I just ignore them and will not let this stop me from continuing to be her friend.

    Molly

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    1. By Stephanie, age 16, from Santa Rosa, CA on 02/22/2015

      I also have a long time close friend who happens to be gay.  It is no problem for me and I’m just as comfortable undressing in front of her as I was before I knew for sure that she was gay although I had already suspected it.  The problem is my older sister who I have to share a room with.  She demands that we no longer have sleepovers with her in our room now that she knows that my friend is gay and our mom agrees with her! She had many sleepovers in our room before my sister knew she was gay and my sister was never shy about undressing in front of her and even being naked in front of her and she has to admit that no problems ever arose.  I said that if she’s not comfortable any more, then change in the bathroom when my friend is here.  She said that would be too much of a hassle.  So I said OK then my friend will agree to leave the room when she gets dressed and undressed but that wasn’t good enough for her either as she said she’d still be very uncomfortable sleeping in the same room which makes no sense.  I mean my friend certainly isn’t going to try to do something sexual to her in her sleep.  Give me a break! But our mom says that this is a sensitive issue and my sister has the right to be comfortable in her own room.  But it’s my room too and I think I should still be able to have my friend over for sleepovers and my sister still gets to have sleepovers in our room with her friends and I don’t try to complain and this doesn’t seem fair.

      Stephanie

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  7. By G., age 16, from Somewhere in California on 02/20/2015

    I’m in kind of a quandry over this issue.  My sister has confided in me that she is gay and has sex with her girlfriend.  I’m OK with this and have no problem continuing to share a room with her and undress in front of her, etc.  I know that she has no sexual interest in me, so I’m still just as comfortable when she sees me nude as I ever was, just like any straight sisters are.  The problem is our mom.  We go to a church that teaches that this is a terrible sin and that you go to hell for it.  My sister and I don’t believe this and don’t believe many of he other “hellfire” things the church teaches, but we can’t say anything because our mom gets furious and punishes us if we question the chuch’s teachings. 

    I plan to keep my sister’s confidence about this.  However, I know that our mom would severely punish both of us if she found out and if she knew that I was aware and didn’t tell her.  It’s difficult being in this position, but I’m following my heart which tells me to support my sister and to also keep quiet about this.

    G.

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    1. By J.J., age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 02/20/2015

      I want to commend you for supporting your sister in these tough circumstances and under the threat of punishment, and I hope you will continue to do so.  I am in a similar situation, and I don’t know what I would do without the support of my sister in face of our intolerant parents and church which require me to remain “in the closet.”  I am also glad to see the comments from so many straight girls who understand that undressing in front of a girl who happens to be gay is not a problem, and anybody who really knows someone will realize this.  My sister remained just as comfortable and casual about nudity in front of me in our room after I confided in her that I am gay.  However, many girls do still have the stereotypes that are described and think we are interested in other girls’ bodies.  I’ve heard girls make comments like this in the locker room and at slumber parties when they are undressing and even nude right in front of me and have no idea that I am gay.  I really wish I could tell them so that they would realize that there was nothing to worry about but unfortunately, I must remain in the closet at least until I move away from home.

      J.J.

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    2. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 02/26/2015

      Dear G.— Please know that I support you in remaining silent toward your parents on this issue. It’s one of the few situations where I take this stance. Too many times parents (sometimes even those who support gay rights) are not comfortable with their own teenager’s homosexuality, to the point that they inflict unnecessary trauma on the teen, emotional and/or with beatings, or even withdraw support and kick the teen out, sometimes permanently. I hear many stories where parents accept and continue to be loving, but it will never be me recommending that you tell them. I want you safe and functioning. I recommend that kids who are gay, and ESPECIALLY if they have parents with known prejudice or hostility toward gays (like yours), to NOT come out to their parents until they are done with college and/or self-supporting with a job.

      There is nothing wrong with being gay, it is just how nature made some of us, and I find nothing wrong with letting your parents fully support you and get you launched, as they would do for any child of theirs, before learning this. That way, if they are going to reject you, at least you are not left bereft before you have the means to provide support for yourself (i.e. with a college degree or a real job).

      To you and all siblings in this situation, DO NOT TELL! Not only for what might happen, but because an issue like this is not your place to tell. If your parents find out and are angry at you for not telling, tell them that: It wasn’t your place to tell. Your sibling was in no harm and it was their confession to make. If they are in harm’s way, that’s a different story.  I hope this helps. —Love, Lauren

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  8. By N.R., age 17, from Santa Rosa, CA on 02/20/2015

    I guess I’m one of those who could be accused of stereotyping.  I don’t feel that I’m prejudiced against gays and I believe in equal rights for them including gay marriage.  However, I have to admit that undressing in front of someone who is gay does make me very uncomfortable when I’ve been in that situaiton in the locker room and at slumber parties.  Since they are sexually attracted to other females,  to me it would be like undressing in front of a guy who is sexually attracted to females.  I try to tell myself that it shouldn’t matter since our bodies are still physically the same, but it doesn’t change how I feel.  I’m not overly modest and don’t have a problem with my sister or my staight friends seeing me nude, but having someone gay see me does really make me uncomfortable.  My sister who I share a room with is totally straight, but if she was gay I don’t think it would bother me that much for her to see me nude since she’s my sister, but I don’t think I could ever be comfortable with anyone else who is gay. 

    Maybe this is an unfair stereotyping, but it is the way I feel.

    N.R.

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  9. By April, age 17, from Toledo, OH, USA on 02/21/2015

    I have a stepsister who came out as gay last year.  We had been sharing a room and bed during visitations for 3 years and she had never done anything to make me feel uncomfortable when she saw me nude or when we were sleeping in the same bed, so I didn’t see any reason why things should change just because she came out as gay.  We had become good friends and I am still just as comfortable with her as I ever was.  We even help each other wax as we can’t afford a fancy professional job. However, I do have friends who have heard that she is gay who make stereotype comments and don’t see how I can share a room and undress in front of her and share a bed with her and have told me that I’d “better watch out” when I’m in bed with her.  However, she has a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend, and I have no concerns about any sexual issues with her.  I know her better than anyone else and don’t have a problem with her, so I don’t know why others who don’t really even know her think it is such a big problem.

    April

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    1. By Mindy, age 16, from Petaluma, CA on 02/21/2015

      You are TOTALLY right!  It’s those who don’t know you who stereotype you.  I’m gay and my sister whom I share a room with and undresses in front of me every day and my straight friends who have had sleepovers and slumber parties with me know that there is nothing to worry about in us undressing in front of each other and seeing each other naked.  It’s the ones who don’t really even know me who think I’m sexually interested in straight girls and get sexual feelings from seeing their bodies and make cruel comments, but that’s really what stereotyping is, making assumptions without know the true facts. 

      The same is true for the few Muslim kids at my school.  I’ve gotten to know a few of them and know that their just normal teenagers.  It’s those who don’t even go to the trouble to get to know them who label them as “terrorists.”  I really empathize with them, since I face similar stereotyping and prejudice.

      Mindy

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