I remember being in the fourth grade the first time a classmate ever called me gay. I was in the bathroom during lunch and was waiting to use a stall because the idea of using a urinal was extremely unpleasant to me. “You’re so gay, and that is why you always hang out with girls!” a boy said to me as he was washing his grubby little hands. Although I had no idea at the time what being gay meant, it seemed like his words were meant to hurt me- and so they did.
In middle school, though, I began to crack. Between the constant comments about me being ugly (albeit, I was not easy on the eyes for any of my primary schooling) and jabs at my sexuality, I was losing myself. I used to be full of energy and happiness. I would lock myself in my room for hours at a time and scream into a pillow and pray to God that if he would just make me straight or at least make the teasing stop, I would never doubt His existence again. This was a prayer that would go unanswered on both counts.
I began to target other people who could be scapegoats for me. There was a time in Spanish class when we had to be paired up with a girl in class and create a fictional family and write out what our lives would look like together. Two boys from my class instantly took the opportunity to remind me that I should get an “F” on the project seeing as I ‘would never be marrying a woman.’ Instead of taking it in stride, I quickly made a comment about another boy in class who was also a target of humiliation tactics due to his glasses and red hair. I did this because I wanted a moment of reprieve from them, even if it was at the cost of another person’s dignity. I also did this because I suck.
I began to develop this really interesting habit in which I would be able to come up with some of the vilest, disgusting insults in record time. One would think this may have been useful against my attackers, but instead, I seemed to use this trick on those who had nothing to do with my bullying. I remember my chorus teacher calling in my parents and telling them that she was concerned by how angry I was towards her. For a while I really lost myself to the rage that would overtake me every time I stepped into school. It began to stay with me long after I got off the bus. It would crawl into bed with me at night and permeate every facet of my dreams. I began to make myself sick with worry and anger and guilt over something I would never be able to change about myself. I wanted to stand up to my taunters. I wanted to show them I was strong and powerful- but instead I continued to opt out and divert my own angry slurs towards others. I felt it was easier to deflect than to risk verbal bullying becoming physical bullying.
Eventually I moved away from those who teased me and made me feel lesser than them. But I understand that my situation was unique and not everyone is given the same opportunities to move away from their taunters. I don’t have rage flare-ups anymore, and I no longer try to deflect negativity towards myself to an innocent party. When I hear that reports of bullying have pushed another youthful person to end their life, I shake with an anger that used to be reserved just for myself. I am rageful because there are people out there who have difficulty understanding just how much rhetorical power their words hold. I cry because there are those out there who are unable to see past the negative comments, who are unable to recognize just how valuable their life is.
It is my earnest plea to every one who has been bullied to stop perpetuating hate. I’ve been guilty of it so many times it makes me sick to think about. I still cringe at the boy I was years ago. Just try your damnedest to wake up in the morning and remind yourself that you shouldn’t just eat a bagel for breakfast. No, the tears of those who dare to challenge you are also your nourishment. Don’t be vengeful, be better.