Bully This

The recent suicide of gay teens has been getting some national press attention. This is sad but also good. It’s about damn time that influence of bullying is discussed, blogged about and gets national press attention.

Part of me wants to scream out what about all of the kids who came before who committed suicide? What about my generation? This kids who quietly passed away with no attention? The kids who suffered with no one speaking out?

Part of me knows it’s time that my generation of GLBTA folk speak out and talk about the crap that happened to us as kids, about the presence of bullies in our school. Speaking out is the only way I know to let today’s youth know they aren’t alone, that yeah it sucks but it gets better.

So here is my story:

My junior year of high school (1992-93) I fell in love.  Head over heels, mind boggling love. At the time I’d never have admitted that I was sexually attracted to the girl but there was chemistry between us that gave me that weak in the knees and butterflies in my gut feeling. I followed her like a puppy dog.  I’m sure my feelings were visible to many but most of my friend being great people either ignored it or asked me questions directly.

Shortly before school ended it started. The bully identified me as a target. One day at my locker he shoved me and called me dyke.  His friends giggled. I walked off not sure how to respond. After years of taunts of being “leslie the lesbian” I was somewhat accustomed to taunts but not the shove. I knew something was up.

Up until this point I’d gotten along with most of the school population and was considered  kinda popular, kind of a class clown, etc. I wasn’t a kid that went unnoticed. I was involved in a lot of school activities- National Honor Society, Varsity Softball, Silver Quill (now a nationally recognized literary magazine), you name it I probably did it. I was the kid who signed up to be prom queen as a joke and lost by only 15 votes. I got good grades, straight A’s, I had tons of friends. In short I’m not the typical bully’s target.

That is until he picked up on the gay vibe. Then I was a target. I had a big damn bull’s eye on my back.

Summer happened and I didn’t think more of the incident until the first week of school. The bully found me and started the taunts. Every time he walked past me in the hall he’d say “Dyke!” I laughed it off, made fun of him being a small dumb annoyance.  I think the laughing him off pissed him off more.

Over the summer something happened that drove the girl and me apart. As some of my friends from high school read this blog I’ll pass on explaining exactly what happened, that’s between she and I but suffice it to say we were no longer friends. I had the broken heart only a teen girl can have. Tears and anger and was followed by depression. My parents suspected that something had happened but didn’t know how to ask.  My teacher’s knew something was going on.

Feeling depressed and isolated I retreated into my anger and art.

The shoving started. He’d walk past me and shove me into my locker.

Once during our study hall he followed me to my locker and told me, “You don’t like guys so one of these days I’m going to show you how to like them.” The threat hung in the air. It pissed me off but what was I to do?

I was as worried that my friends would find out I was gay and act like the girl I was in love with and drop me like I was worthless.

In my mind it was better to take his abuse than to have my friends find out I was gay. I honestly thought that the rest of my friends would react the same way the girl I’d been in love with had and I’d have no friends.

It’s not that I wasn’t brave it’s that I was terrified.

Once he started I never felt safe at school. I made sure I had all my books for study hall or I’d make sure I got a pass for the art room. My grades slid and I dropped out of calculus. (well that was mostly because when I signed up for it the girl I was in love with convinced me to sign up for it) I had anger issues, trouble sleeping, dropped out of a couple of my activities and was falling asleep in a couple of my classes.

At one point my former softball coach and assistant headmaster pulled me into his office for a chat. Basically he’d gotten wind of my grade and anger issues and told me he was worried about me. This kind man told me he’d noticed a change in me and was worried. He gave me opportunity to talk. I talked but when it got close to the real issue- the heart break and the bullying I shied away from it. At the end of the conversation he told me “You’re leaving something out but it’s okay. I’m here for you if you need anything.”

After that I calmed down a bit but I was still terrified. During my hated history class the teacher sent me to my locker to get my notebook and pen, as I’d not gone to class prepared. The bully saw me coming and started in, when he was about to shove me into my locker one of the varsity basket ball players also came out of a classroom saw what was going on and shoved the kid and said “what’s she ever done to you. Leave her alone.” The bullying stopped. It took one person brave and strong enough to make it end.

I graduated with honors and went to college on scholarship. I’m doing well now, living my dream. I’ve got a great job working for a big company and run my website in my spare time. I’m happy, have a loving partner and enjoy my life.

Life was shit for what seemed like an eternity but it gets better, so much better. I get to have the last laugh on the bully. He lives in a trailer, does hard manual labor day in and day out, his wife is a complete and utter nut bag and he’s got 3 screaming ill mannered brats. I’m not the only person this guy bullied so I guess what goes around really does come around.

I want all the teens out there who are being bullied and targeted for being different to read this and know: you aren’t alone. It sucks but you aren’t alone. There are so many of us who have gone through the same shit. The expression “you come out stronger” gives you no solace when you are being shoved into lockers and called names and terrified that the bully is going to make good on his promise to “make you like it.” Reach out to those of us who have posted our stories for you to read. We’re here and we care. Life holds so much for you in the future, there will be a time when you’re happy. You can make it.

As an end note, I’ve come out to all my friends from high school and college and for the most part they all accept me for who I am. I wish I’d not been so terrified and had been able to come out to them in high school.  I think that life would have been more interesting had I been able to be completely honest