To This Day

Bullying in schools is nothing new, but in recent years there’s been unprecedented public attention to the problem. I’m not complaining — it’s an important topic, and hopefully the attention will help people understand that bullying is often worse than Slushies in the face a la Glee.

This video on the subject is magnificent. Please take a few minutes to watch it.

I’ve written briefly about my own experiences with bullying before, a few years ago in response to some high-profile suicides by 11-year-olds being taunted for supposedly being gay. I didn’t have much to say then, but watching this video brought a whole lot of memories and feelings rushing back. So indulge me while I add a few comments of my own.

To this day I get nervous when I step into a classroom. Last year Sal and I visited some teacher friends at his old high school, and walking into an empty classroom still gave me a rush of anxiety, and an urge to lower my head and quietly slink to the back of the room in order to avoid drawing attention to myself.

To this day I get uncomfortable around straight men who doing athletic stuff outside, as I’m waiting for them to start calling me homophobic names and treating me with not-at-all veiled contempt. Maybe that’s why I loved the U.S. National Whitewater Center so much — those guys were active, outdoorsy macho men who treated me like family, and still do long after I left.

To this day I love getting instant messages on the computer, either personally or professionally. Seeing a message pop up puts a smile on my face, reaching way back into my formative years and tapping into the relief when a socially-abandoned teenage boy started finding himself all over again through the wonders of Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), back before the “cool kids” knew how to spell M-O-D-E-M or would be caught dead sitting at a computer. Hell, I still light up when I get a text message — it’s just BBSing on a very tiny computer.

To this day, I hate to see anyone feel powerless or ostracized. Maybe that’s why I was so outraged when some young jerks were harassing a transgender person or drag queen (not sure which, it was late and I didn’t have enough of a conversation with her to know what her situation is). I was too scared to stand up for myself when I was a teenager, and sure as hell nobody else stood up for me… But I’m a grown man now, and despite not being the least bit tough, I’m a lot more willing to stand up for someone — even a stranger — than I used to be.

But most importantly… To this day I know that people who taunted me as a terrified teenage boy, who told me that I was a loser, who called me a freak, and who made me honestly feel like I would forever been an outsider…. They were wrong.

They were wrong.

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