The stars came together last night to celebrate the 9th Annual GLSEN Respect Awards at L.A.’s Beverly Hills Hotel.
Hosted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the event honored those who work to make the country’s schools safer by educating students and teachers about the effects of bullying.
The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons, Scandal‘s Dan Bucatinsky, and more of the celebrities in attendance talked to EW about their own personal experiences with bullying.
Parsons said he was teased as a kid, but was lucky not to have been the target of serious bullying.
“I’m very happy with where I am today and the idea that someone might not have such a positive experience in school is heartbreaking and angering because everyone deserves to feel as free as possible,” said the actor, who, along with partner Todd Spiewak, received this year’s Inspiration Award. “Everyone deserves to be who they are and figure out what it is they want to do in life and I think GLSEN really has a big impact in making that happen for people that haven’t been feeling that way.”
Parsons’ Big Bang Theory co-star Mayim Bialik said she was bullied as a child, an experience that made her hyper-aware of other kids who were being picked on.
“My parents were public school teachers and they always welcomed special ed kids into their classes so I had a very special sensitivity to it,” said Bialik. “I would always sort of try and protect and defend those kids– I always felt sort of strongly for other kids who were bullied.”
Now that she’s a mother, the actress said she tries to be a model of respect and good communication for her own children.
“I think not gossiping about other people in front of your children sets a really good example,” said the actress. “I want them to know that it’s never acceptable to use prickly words about others, even if they’re not there. I hope that has an impact on them.”
Criminal Minds star Kirsten Vangsness walked the red carpet carrying a photo of her younger self to help explain how she was bullied for her appearance.
“I’m not saying people ask to be bullied but for me personally, I almost feel like I participated in it because I was always such a pacifist about it. I never fought back or stood up for myself even when some kids started punching me by the water fountain,” said the actress. “I just kept saying, ‘I’m a pacifist! I’m a pacifist!’ It was definitely a weird co-creative experience. At least mine was.”
Dan Bucatinsky remembered being bullied by a next door neighbor when he was growing up. The actor, who won an Emmy for his portrayal of a gay father on Scandal, says he couldn’t imagine not supporting an organization like GLSEN.
“GLSEN has such a simple mission statement, which is simply that no kid should be afraid to go to school,” he explained. “I love the fact that this is an organization that is focused on teaching educators and kids about respect.”