This is a follow-up to the anti-rape culture blog post. Wil Wheaton has a slogan, “Don’t be a dick.” My friend Patrick Schwisow (@PSchwisow on Twitter) had a blog post entitled “Don’t be a Chet.” Bill & Ted say, “Be excellent to each other and party on!”
So why is so damn hard for people to do these things? There are a few things that really get my dander up and all of them revolve around simple Human Rights. Sexism and the rape culture we live in is one I’ve already blogged about. This post is about bullying in general, but especially as it pertains to the vast LGBTQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning) community.
Some back story first. When I was growing up, you were either straight, gay, or confused, as far as society was concerned. Being gay was “wrong.” Being straight was “right.” Being confused just meant that you hadn’t been with the right straight partner yet. These were the values I saw around me every day. I was straight, all my friends were straight, everyone in my family was straight. Except that isn’t the actual truth. One of my friends was gay. He was in the closet, and may not have even realized it himself, but he was definitely effeminate. We teased him a lot, it was what we did. My great-uncle was gay. My family glossed over this just calling his partner his “friend.” Other types of bullying were prevalent while I was growing up as well. One friend was quite poor and while he was extremely intelligent, he had very little in the way of social skills. He was teased mercilessly being called gay (he wasn’t) and stupid (he wasn’t) and just being the butt of a lot of jokes. Another friend was a little overweight. He was teased for being fat and slow and dumb and gay. I was above average intelligence, and a bit socially awkward, and less than average income. I was teased for being a dork, geek, nerd, and dweeb. I was also called gay or queer more than once. Even in our little circle of friends we would tease each other and some got picked on more than others. I was a bully and I was bullied, we all were, inside our group and from without. We were taught by the example of those around us that this is just the way things are.
I was bullied by those around me, outside that little group of friends more than from within. And I probably teased those within more than the rest did. It was my way of trying to separate myself from them, and to be more like the popular kids. I wanted so desperately to just fit in. I wished on many occasions to just be a straight C student, to have more money, to dress better, to be good at sports, just to fit in with the cool kids. The cool kids who were the worst bullies of all. So, since I couldn’t control my grades or parents’ income, or sports talents, I joined them by being a bully to my actual friends. They (the “cool kids”) still would not accept me as one of their own, of course. They still teased and shunned me, treated me as an out cast. My actual friends, however, still accepted me, despite the bullying. Of course, inside our circle, we thought of it just as “boys will be boys” and “good-natured ribbing.” And we all did survive, and we all did grow thicker skins for it. That which did not kill us made us stronger…
But what if it had killed one of us? What if the teasing had gotten so bad that one of us had committed suicide?
Teasing and bullying is not something to be condoned or expected. It doesn’t make everyone stronger. I may have survived it, but there were several times throughout my life where I did consider suicide as a better alternative. I’m only here today to tell my story because I was too chicken to go through with it. I was not brave enough to slash my wrists or hang myself. I didn’t have access to a gun. I was too afraid that I’d fail and that pain would’ve been even worse. I did OD on over the counter medicines a few times. Once I just slept for a day or two. Once I wander the town in a daze that I don’t remember. I did crawl halfway out of my window to jump once or twice, but I lived on the second floor, so it was rather pointless. I did try to choke myself, but without the conviction of a rope, I started breathing again when I got too tired to hold on. Some of this is a part of my battle with depression and some was my battle with bullying. The two went hand in hand. Each fed into the other and made the whole thing stronger and spiral down.
I’m not bullied any longer, for the most part. I do still suffer from depression and the weight of the years is getting heavy. I keep dragging my past around with me and it just keeps accumulating.
I don’t know where this post is heading and I’ve strayed off the intended course, so I’ll wrap up with a reiteration:
“Don’t be a dick!” “Don’t be a Chet!” “Be excellent to each other!”