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Justin Tranter Was Punished in H.S. for Enduring Anti-LGBTQ Bullying

Justin Tranter
Justin Tranter and Idina Menzel

The out songwriter shared a disturbing story of harassment at a Spirit Day concert and fundraiser.


Justin Tranter is no stranger to being bullied.

The out songwriter, who has written hits for some of the biggest names in the music industry like Britney Spears and Ariana Grande, opened up about a traumatic experience they endured in high school at Beyond, a Spirit Day concert that benefitted GLAAD and LGBTQ youth.

"There was a moment where I was in science class and the kids behind me were counting down to 10 ... and when they got down to zero, they both shoved two sharp pencils into my neck," Tranter told the crowd Wednesday evening at the Sunset Room Hollywood to audible gasps.

"I screamed. I was bleeding, so I screamed some more," Tranter recounted. "I got sent to the vice principal's office and I was given a week of detention. And the vice principal said, 'I think you should think about what you did to cause this.'"

Above: Jozzy sings "Old Town Road," which she cowrote, at Beyond

Tranter said they had the good fortune to have supportive parents in the absence of a supportive high school administration. They only spent one semester in public school before being moved to the Chicago Academy for the Arts.

In their remarks, Tranter, 39, stressed that the bullying of LGBTQ young people is no relic of the past. As Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, outlined earlier in the evening, over 80 percent of youth in this demographic reported being bullied or intimidated for being who they are. "They're being hit the hardest right now," said Ellis.

To help fight this anti-LGBTQ climate, Tranter assembled a star-studded fundraiser on the eve of Spirit Day, GLAAD's annual anti-bullying campaign. Bebe Rexha and Idina Menzel took the stage for performances, as did LGBTQ singer-songwriters Jesse Saint John and Jozzy.

Above: Bebe Rexha sings "Meant to Be"

Troye Sivan, Emily Hampshire (Schitt's Creek), Shea Diamond, Victoria Monet, Monique Heart (RuPaul's Drag Race), August Getty, Frankie Grande, Parson James, Vincint, Stephanie Rice, Karl Schmid, and Angel Bonilla were among the guests in the crowd of over 500, which together helped raise more than $400,000 for GLAAD and LGBTQ youth. The Ariadne Getty Foundation, CAA, and Ketel One were sponsors.

"This shit is not over. It is nowhere close to over, especially with this administration," Tranter told the room, which was tinted in purple -- the color that many brands, celebrities, and companies adopted Thursday to show their support for LGBTQ youth. "So that's why we are here, to celebrate LGBTQ people in the music business, but we are also here to create a really magical message for any kid that we can reach and let them know that we love them and they're not alone."

"So turn your shit purple and make sure no one else gets sent to detention for getting the shit kicked out of them," Tranter concluded.

This is Tranter's third year organizing a Spirit Day concert and fundraiser. Past years have featured performers like Adam Lambert, Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons, JoJo, Courtney Love, and Hailee Steinfeld.

Watch Tranter perform Rent's "Seasons of Love" with Idina Menzel below.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.