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Palm Beach County group aims to empower the LGBTQ community

Posted: 5:51 PM, Jan 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-11 23:53:53Z
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PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A new study reveals that more than a third of LGBTQ teens have been verbally harassed.

Officials at Compass, a center in Palm Beach County that helps people in the LGBTQ community, said without education, this problem will only get worse.

"People were blocking me in hallways or running into me, knocking me over and trying to start fights," said Rex Barnes, a group leader at Compass. "Whatever it was because they didn't understand who I was."

That's because how he identifies isn't often talked about in schools.

"I actually identify as a pansexual or queer," said Barnes.

He's a youth leader at Compass, which works to empower the LGBTQ community. But not too long ago, the Wellington native said he was the one needing a helping hand.

"People said lots of slurs as I would walk by," said Barnes. "I got the 'f-word.' A lot of just gay slurs like, 'that's so gay.' Then I was just more hurt than anything."

Barnes isn't alone, according to a new survey by GLSEN.

It finds that 74 percent of LGBTQ students in Florida have been verbally harassed at school.

"It's not always just from students," said Amanda Canete, the Youth Program Director at Compass. "It can also be from staff or other substitute teachers."

Canete said there can be a number of disconnects in the classroom, including calling a trans-student by the the wrong name.

"That's outing them, making it an unsafe environment with the other students," said Canete, who added around half of the students they work with are choosing to do virtual or homeschooling to avoid conflict at school.

"I think if we can just educate each other a little more we can have a better acceptance overall of people," said Canete.

To learn more about Compass, which is open to the public, click here.