Sunday, October 24, 2010

It gets so much better.

I haven't known how to talk about this because there's so much to say, but every day that goes by that I don't feels a little bit wasted. This may be a bit disjointed, and will definitely be long, but I'm going to try to convey all of my thoughts as best I can.

 As a general topic, sadly, bullying effects most people at some point or another. I was made fun of as a kid for being fat (which I wasn't but believed I was for years), poor and different from the other kids. In 8th grade two girls started a very elaborate, widespread rumor that I was a lesbian. I don't identify personally as a lesbian and certainly the stories they made up to support the rumor (that I didn't even understand at the time) never happened, but that became the thing that defined me at that school and I was treated like I had a disease. I had family problems at the time that no one at school knew about and these school problems that no one at home knew about. The anger I felt accentuated the problems at home and the stress caused me to have migraines and insomnia. I was a 13-year-old depressed nervous wreck. I transferred to a high school in another school district where I tried for the first time ever to be like everyone else, and that started a whole new series of problems. I made it out of those problems just fine, but I wonder if I had actually identified as a lesbian how much harder it would have been.

When B was in New York with me he faced bullies too. They made fun of him for being from Texas, for having a big vocabulary and doing harder work than they were doing, for having a young mom and for being, again, different. My friend Lucie, whose kids went to that school with B and who served there as PTA President, told me that her quiet, sensitive oldest son was depressed for all of 4th grade before she discovered that he was being bullied for "acting gay." He and B were both physically assaulted by other kids and started having behavior problems because of it. That's why I chose to send B back to Texas, and Lucie started spending all of her free time at the school watching over her kids. I know my son has a hard time making friends and struggles with his self image. I worry every day about how best to protect him when I can and teach him to grow from these experiences when I can't. I wonder what Lucie's son will face in the years to come.

When I think about the impact that little bit of bullying from kids had on our family, I am overwhelmed at the thought of our LGBT friends who are bullied in much larger, more pervasive and hateful ways simply because of who they are. My first gay friend was Chris in 6th grade. He lived across the street from me and we hung out every day. We never talked about his sexuality because at the time it wasn't sexuality, it was just who Chris was and I never gave it much thought. I met Terrell at the end of 7th grade and we stuck together as fellow weirdos throughout that terrible 8th grade year. I know Terrell was picked on for being gay, but he never seemed bothered by it. When Terrell and Chris met, came out and dated each other in high school I remember being inspired and overjoyed. It didn't occur to me that other people might feel differently until a mutual friend of ours (who was also a member of my church) told us she would never talk to him again and openly condemned his "lifestyle." The other kids I met -- my closeted lesbian friend who felt she couldn't come out because she was the leader of her church youth group, the boy on my cheerleading team who had slurs written about him all over the school, my friend's younger brother who at 16 accepted that he was going to hell because he was gay -- all dealt with more than I can ever imagine, but what really matters is that they made it and things really did get better for them.

When I think of the five people I would have stand next to me in my bridal party were I ever to get married (that's a good gauge by which to define a best friend, I think), I realize that three of them fall into that LGBT category we're always talking about lately. Maybe at one time they felt the pressure of that label because of bullying, religious or social pressure, unjust laws, societal discourse, etc. But I know them now as mid-20 somethings who are brilliant, successful people and the most caring, supportive group of friends anyone could ask for. At the core of each of them is a set of standards and beliefs that that makes them strong and motivated but also empathetic and loving. They are also just really interesting, cool, likable, classy people. It breaks my heart that they are judged and granted rights based on who they sleep with rather than those characteristics. My Aunt Sue taught me that perception and discourse breed reality and I think I about that from time to time, especially lately as I've been watching all of the "It gets better" videos on YouTube. The more we talk about these issues and stand up as members of LGBT community or their straight allies for what we believe to be right; The more we teach our kids about acceptance and love (which I will alway thank my traditionally conservative mother for teaching me) and let the youth who are going through these difficult things know that they are not alone, the closer we come to a reality that really is better. 

So to the bullies -- the children who learn it at home, the high school kids who do it out of insecurity, the religious leaders, the politicians, the families who do it out of fear or misguided diligence or "tough love" -- please think about the individuals you're affecting. Weigh what you're getting out of it against what you're depriving someone else of. Watch these videos and open your mind and heart to all of the love that's out there. I think of my son as being open minded and empathetic (he certainly is when it comes to gay rights issues because he's been exposed to my group of friends and we talk about), but I can never be sure how he is treating other kids at school. I hope we can keep an open dialogue going about bullying so he never feels the need to pick on or hurt anyone, and he can stand up against bullies who victimize kids around him. And to the kids, teens and even adults who feel alone, a simple YouTube search, or call/email to the Trevor Project will show you that you're not. We love you.

This is really hard to watch and you will probably cry, but it's so inspiring.

I urge you to search "It gets better" and check out all of the videos, but here are a few of my favorites.

3 comments:

  1. This post made me cry. I never had much experience with bullying, I just do not understand how kids can be so cruel. It makes me so sad.

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  2. eugdflkgfgtgnmdfngl

    I cant really formulate proper sentences

    very raw emotional videos.

    I hope things are going okay for B. he is such an attractive kid I cant believe he has appearance issues. but what a mum.

    xxx

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