Anti-Gay Bullying: My Experience
I held the gun up to the side of my head and took a look at myself in the mirror. It felt awkward in my hand - it was a lot heavier than I had expected it to be and I was struggling to hold it steady. Or maybe I was trembling. Either way, the heaviness was a good thing. It was the weight of the choice I had to make, and it certainly felt like the power of life and death was in my hand.
Truth be told I didn’t even know how to operate a gun, but this had become my daily ritual nonetheless. I’d come home and run up the stairs and slide the pistol out from its “hiding place” under the bed. I’d put the cold, metal nozzle up against my head and just stare at myself in the mirror for a while. This was the only way I could feel in control of anything anymore. The only way I could think to remind myself that my life was still mine - to keep or to take.
I know it sounds like a morbid after-school activity for an eighth grader. I mean, my classmates were probably out playing basketball or going to the mall. But I wasn’t having the average eighth grade experience. I was being bullied - not in the sense of “getting picked on” or “having a little trouble making friends.” No. I was being relentlessly and ruthlessly tormented by a group of kids on a daily basis because I was “feminine,” or “gay,” or, well, “a faggot.”
Every day on my way to school I felt like I was going to throw up. Every nerve in my body jangled and twisted with anxiety. Every day I knew it was going to be the same. Because they looked for me, they wanted to find me, and all I could do was wait to here those words I had grown so accustomed to hearing:
“Faggot” was my name to them, but it certainly felt like more than just a name. Looking back, I see now that it was an identity. It was a way to dehumanize me. See, a “faggot” isn’t someone you have to respect. It isn’t someone you owe any common courtesy to or someone you treat with kindness. Hell, a “faggot” isn’t even a person really. It’s someone lower than low, someone who deserves to be put down and made a mockery of. That’s what I was, and they didn’t let me forget it for a second.
I remember very clearly what the worst days were like. Or, at least, I can see them very clearly. The traumatic emotions that went with them are long gone. I figure its a part of me that has been rubbed raw over and over again and I can no more feel anything there than you can feel a part of your skin that has been calloused and scarred.
But I remember the day when they pushed me to the ground and kept saying, “get up, faggot, get up,” just to push me down again.
I remember the day in the cafeteria when they slapped me in the face with cold, slimy hotdogs and said, “what’s wrong, faggot? Don’t you like my wiener in your face? Aren’t you supposed to like that? What’s wrong, faggot?”
They threatened to beat me. They even threatened to kill me. But more than the physical, I remember the verbal abuse. Everything about me was wrong, was broken, was something they could make fun of.
“Why the fuck do you walk like that?”
“Why do you talk like that?”
“Why do you look like that?”
And they brought those things up so often that I finally had to cave in and believe them. I was ugly. I was stupid. I was a freak. I was a “faggot.” I didn’t deserve friends because who on Earth would want a friend like me?
Worst of all, their abuse often took place right in front of teachers or administrators. During this ordeal, I had stopped caring about homework or even about making it to school on time. If I was early, that only meant that my bullies had more time to attack me. If I was late, then I could at least slip in with minimal human contact. And grades? Forget those. I wasn’t eating and I wasn’t sleeping. Algebra was the last thing on my mind. To my teachers, I was just a problem. And, honestly, they didn’t like me either.
One of my teachers had told the class that I was “weird and not a very good student.” While I was absent, of course. My science teacher, who had heard that I was “bright” from my previous teachers, called me a “disappointment” in front of everyone. The Spanish teacher there had a daughter who was best friends with one of my bullies, and they would often push me and mock me right in front of her.
The principal was the worst of the bunch. Every time my mom called the school to try to figure out what was happening she brushed it off as “boys will be boys” and said she would handle it. But she never did. Once she called me and my bullies in to her office and sat me right between the three of them and then left for fifteen minutes.
When rumors started spreading that I was suicidal, the school librarian, the one person who had any kind of sympathy for me, had pulled me aside and told me not to say anything to the principal because she had been thinking of getting me institutionalized. Whether or not she had that power, I can’t say. But it scared me.
And it was around that point that the idea of death seemed like a comfort. It started out small - a little whisper that said what if I really killed myself?”But then it grew. It grew like a cancer. The whispers turned to screams saying kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself. No one will care. Just kill yourself.
The idea of suicide helped carry me through the day. It gave me some degree of peace to think I don’t have to come back to this tomorrow. I don’t have to. It’s under my control. I can just die.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone was watching me die and was somehow getting a kick out of it. Suicide would be me taking away their plaything. Taking back what was mine. Suicide would be me getting rid of all the pain and maybe even sending one last message to a bunch of people who were simply refusing to listen. They didn’t hear me when I cried, when I screamed, or when I begged… but they would have to hear me when I died.
People often say things like “suicide is selfish” or “why don’t you wait for things to get better?”
All I can say is that when you are in a depression that absolute, there is no “better” because there is no tomorrow. There is only that vast, dark void that swallows up a million tomorrows and leaves you with nothing but your present pain. I was already living in emptiness, and the only difference between that and death would be that death probably didn’t hurt.
And so every day when I went home I took out that gun and held it up to the side of my head. Toying with the idea. Thinking maybe, maybe, maybe….
But I didn’t.
I couldn’t stand the thought of my parents and my sister grieving for me in that way.
That was it. The only reason I didn’t do it. Not for any care of my own life, which I had deemed worthless, and not because I thought I had anything to live for, but because I didn’t want to hurt the people I cared about.
Looking back now, I am more than glad I didn’t. After eighth grade, I moved to a different school and found some friends. I discovered my talent for writing, and writing made me happy. I went to college, came out, and have been enjoying life.
But the memories still remain. The nightmares do too.
I never received any kind of justice for what happened to me. There was never any disciplinary action taken against the people who bullied me. I also don’t doubt that they never even think about what they did.
It doesn’t matter. Now, as a gay rights activist, what truly haunts me is the thought of someone going through what I went through and pulling the trigger.
I was bullied in school, but when I came out, I came out to a loving and accepting family. Not everyone has that. Some kids are harassed and abused in the classroom and then come home to more of it. Some go through with it even if they do have a good home. And, doubtless, some are going through it right now.
Now, I just want to be there for those people. If I could I’d visit every single one of them and talk them out of it and tell them that this feeling isn’t forever. It’s bad. It’s unfair. But it’s not forever. And you are worth so much more than you know.
So when I say LGBT rights is a cause I’m willing to die for, know that I mean it. Because people die for it every day.
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