Lapel buttons have been used for decades to spread messages, advocate for a cause or candidate, identify others who share a belief, or just spread a little humor. The buttons being used by the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center's Bully Button project are carrying on this tradition. In this case, the issue is the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths.
According to Zach Bauer, executive director of the KGLRC, the Bully Button was created to build awareness about the negative effects of bullying by using a symbol that makes it easy to identify allies of the LGBT community. "The buttons are part of our larger effort to deal with this problem," he explains. "For example, we have an online component where youths who are being bullied can report their experience. This adds another layer of protection for the area's youths on top of what the school systems are already doing."
With the help of a Good Neighbor Grant from the Community Foundation, the KGLRC has been able to print and distribute almost 2,000 buttons. "We distribute the buttons at many different events," Bauer says. "Including the Winter Gala and the various training programs we do. We also share them with Southwest Michigan organizations of all kinds that serve youths."
Does something as simple as a button make a difference? Bauer tells one of his favorite stories. "One of our teenage mentees recently walked into a local grocery store just as one of our community allies –– she's in her 80s –– was walking out. They both had the Bully Button on. He stopped her and they proceeded to have a long conversation about the button and bullying and how serendipitous it was to meet in a grocery store. It shows how a little button can help you identify and connect with others who care about an issue."