WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — In wake of the recent tragic suicides of gay teens who have been bullied, the nation has been forced to focus on what some label an epidemic. And Tuesday night was a prime example of the growing awareness of this issue, as some of Hollywood’s own gathered together at West Hollywood’s Trousdale club to “turn up the volume” on the Love Is Louder campaign.
The two-hour event was hosted by actress Brittany Snow , who recently joined forces with MTV and the Jed Foundation to launch the initiative in an effort to spread hope to teens who are mistreated due to their sexual orientation.
“I’ve had experiences in middle school and high school with a bully,” said the 24-year-old “Hairspray” star. “And I feel like when I was going through it, I was thinking, ‘Well maybe if I could help someone later on then this will make it all worth it.’ And individually, I think everyone should remember that. Your struggles will help others and you can get through it. You are not alone in this. There are so many people going through the same thing or have been through it, and it’s really important to reach out and just know that you are stronger than any voice that brings you down.”
Video testimonials have already been made by the likes of Joe Jonas, Ke$ha, Pink and Semi Precious Weapons after Brittany felt the need to jumpstart this movement. And in an effort to increase the awareness even more, Snow encouraged America’s youth to write the hashtag #loveislouder on their hands, hang signs around their campuses, throw their own individual parties, upload videos, upload pictures and tweet #loveislouder throughout the day on Tuesday.
“We have seen a lot of pictures of people who have contributed to raising the volume today on October 19,” Snow explained. “We’ve gotten lots of pictures of entire classrooms and colleges with, you know, 130 people with [#loveislouder] on their hands. People are talking about it in their schools and giving workshops on it. It’s really spreading into a huge movement … which I couldn’t be happier about.”
Courtney Knowles, the executive director of the Jed Foundation, told MTV News he’s also very encouraged by the amount of enthusiasm students are showing for the initiative. “We’ve heard of universities who have had, like, 1,000 RSVPs to do something on their campus,” he said. “So it’s really been amazing. Especially since this was the first time we’ve done this and we’ve really done it all online. So people just embraced it and made it their own. I think we had like  or 500 photos from individuals and groups uploaded on Facebook alone today.”
Students around the country weren’t the only ones taking a stand. Celebrities such as “90210″ stars Shenae Grimes and Jessica Stroup, Natalie Dreyfuss, Lance Bass and Jai Rodriguez kept the positivity flowing by attending the Turn Up the Volume event to show support and share their stories.
“Since I came out, it’s been amazing the people that have come to me with their stories,” said Bass, who revealed that he was gay in July 2006 on the cover of People magazine. “And even kids that aren’t ready to come out yet have come to me for advice, and that just made me feel so good that knowing that just being myself could help someone else be themselves. I mean, how easy is that? … What people need to know is that this time in your life where everyone is bullying you, it doesn’t matter. After a couple of years you will never see these people again.”
“I wish I had the network of people,” former “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” star Rodriguez said of his past experiences being bullied by an older gay male while attending a performing-arts high school. “Because as much as we were saying that viral bullying is detrimental, now we’ve got great campaigns and great organizations who are here to support kids or people who feel like they are being bullied.”
“I hope that more people will come forward,” Knowles said. “I think things are changing, and I think we’ve seen that in the push to the change with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I think we are seeing it right now in the way they are responding to these recent incidents. And I hope that younger people today are starting to realize that they have the power to influence change. And that in 10, 15, 20 years we won’t be here talking about these issues anymore.”
“The outcome has been amazing,” Snow reiterated. “And I’m so inspired and I’m so grateful that people are really grasping and taking part of something so vital.”
To spread a message of hope to victims of bullying and harassment, join MTV, Brittany Snow and the Jed Foundation in telling the world that Love Is Louder than hate. Visit the project’s Facebook page, upload videos to Your.MTV.com and use the hashtag #loveislouder on Twitter.