Jonah Mowry's Mom Says Gay Son Inspired by Support

Teens increasingly go to the Internet to reveal struggles with bullying.

December 5, 2011, 3:57 PM

Dec. 6, 2011— -- The mother of Jonah Mowry, the gay 14-year-old who got national attention when he spoke about his anguish over bullies, said her son has been "uplifted" by support online.

"I'm thankful," Peggy Sue Mowry told ABC News. "There are a lot of people that are giving their warm wishes and uplifting Jonah, and I think that's good."

But Mowry also said the family was disheartened by other vile comments that had been posted recently online.

"He is sick over all the horrible posts and so are we ... it's very overwhelming," said his mother, a 52-year-old hairdresser from Lake Forest, Calif.

Jonah's parents helped him craft a response to deal with rumors that he was a fake. His father is Kevin Mowry, a music instructor technician at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.

The teen explained that he had made the dark video at 4 a.m. just before starting school in the fall. "I was dreading going back to school and I had not come out to my family yet," he said. "Only my closest friends knew. I didn't know how to say what I needed to say. All I could think about were all the bad things that had been happening at school last year, every year for that matter."

He said his friends were supportive and he thought the video would help others.

"It had to be done," his mother told ABC. "So after school we had him sit down and compose it."

Jonah's YouTube video went viral this week and some online accused the teen of being a "fraud," and looking for publicity.

"I'm disappointed that somebody could look at the first video and then look at the second and think it's a lie," said his mother. "He's a child. He's a 14-year-old boy. He's very young."

"First and foremost, I am proud of the responses we've gotten from people," she said. "I'm disappointed that people would question whether it's " true."

Jonah posted two YouTube videos. One, last August, was a wrenching account of his cutting injuries as a victim of school bullies.

In the first -- "Whats going on ... [sic]" -- Jonah was weeping to the music of Sia's "Breathe Me." Holding a series of notecards, he says, "I've cut ... a lot. I have scars. Suicide was an option ... many times."

The second video, posted Dec. 4, showed a giggling and happy teen who was doing just fine. "To the people who think nobody likes me," he said. "Everyone in my school loves me."

Jonah's plight struck a chord in celebrities like gay singer Ricky Martin and blogger Perez Hilton.

Teens have increasingly taken to the Internet to reveal their struggles with bullying and questions about their sexual orientation. Last October, "20/20" recorded Skype interviews with a number of teens in the series "I Am Different."

Jonah said he had been bullied since first grade and had first begun cutting himself in the second grade. Last August, when the video was made, Jonah was about to enter eighth grade.

The boy, who displays numerous scars in the video, claims he has sustained insults of, "Gay. Fag. D**k. Douche. Homo. A**hole." His video ends optimistically: "I'm not going anywhere, because I'm stronger than that. I have a million reasons to be here."

A Facebook page dedicated to Jonah's cause says, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Advocacy groups praised Jonah for speaking out against bullying and homophobia.

"This YouTube video illustrates a sobering reality about the bullying crisis in our schools," said Andy Marra, spokesman for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). "We know there are far too many students like Jonah that experience harassment simply because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."

Teen bullying has reached epidemic proportions. Several young children have been so anguished they have killed themselves.

Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students experienced harassment at school in the past year, according to GLSEN.

All students deserve the right to reach their full potential and it is the responsibility of school staff to ensure safe learning environments for all that promote true respect for difference, the group says.

In one of the most highly publicized cases, California eighth grader Larry King, 15, was shot and killed by a classmate in 2008.

The murder trial of Brandon McInerney, 14 at the time of the shooting, ended in a hung jury. Media outlets reported that Brandon had killed Larry "allegedly because he identified himself as gay." Facing a second trial, McInerney, now 17, recently reached a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter with use of a weapon in exchange for a 21-year prison term.

Earlier this year, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., took his own life after he was bullied online with gay slurs for more than a year. His death prompted Lady Gaga to express outrage over relentless torment on social networking sites.

In 2009, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, only 11, hung himself after school bullies repeatedly called him "gay." The Springfield, Mass., Boy Scout was teased ruthlessly, despite his mother's pleas to the boy's school.

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