The Bullying Meme -- How Were You Bullied?
Did you wonder why so many of your friends swapped out their profile pictures on Facebook wearing something purple this past week? It was for Spirit Day, an event which had over a million participants on Facebook, just one of the many ways people are acknowledging the bullying meme and the spate of recent LGBT violence and suicides.
Runnin' Scared asked a few writers and activists from around town (and across the pond) to share their experiences of being bullied. Please add yours in the comments section.
Looking back to high school, in the mid-1980's, I have to admit, I rarely felt bullied for my sexuality. I had been picked on, but I think it was general nerdiness more than anything. Once I became yearbook co-editor, most of it ceased anyway, since some students worried their photo might somehow not be included if they messed with me.
There was one incident though, the day before graduation that at the time, a few other students said might have been a form of anti-gay bullying. I was at the house of a fellow nerd, while next door the cool kids were at a graduation pool party at the house of the guy who DJ'd at school dances. I decided to pop over, camera in hand, and take a few photographs of everyone.
Almost the moment I arrived, I found myself surrounded by a group led by one student, whom I will admit, I had a huge crush on during high school. My camera was snatched away, and he and the others stripped me naked and threw me into the pool, snapping photos. I stood up in the pool, feeling humiliated, staring at everyone laughing at me. I felt like jumping up and pounding someone, but who? And besides, I was naked in the water. One girl, I think it was the prom queen, felt sorry for me, and threw my clothes into the water. I put them on and bounded away, seething in anger, but unable to do anything about it.
Since it was my own camera, and this was long before digital technology and Facebook, no images of the incident circulated. The story also never really spread as it was the last day of school. Back then a girl I was friends with, and whom I long believed at the time knew I had a crush on the ringleader, said it showed sublimated homosexual feelings on his part when he decided to strip me naked.
When I recounted this story to gay friends as an adult, many joked, calling being stripped naked by a bunch of guys and thrown into the pool a sexual fantasy, but at the time, it was anything but. To be honest, I don't think much of this incident anymore, but at the twenty year high school reunion, the guy who started the whole thing was incredibly apologetic, bringing up the incident and nervously telling me how bad he felt about it. I had put it all so long behind me.
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Peter Lloyd News Editor, Pink Paper Magazine London, UK
I can only speak from my experience in a British school -- which is that I was bullied from the age of 4 to 18. The issue of classroom homophobia was, and still is, endemic here. Fifteen years ago, when I was 15, teachers wouldn't acknowledge the concept of homosexuality in young people because it equated minors with sex, so my suffering became invisible. This is why so many schools still can't get to the root of the problem.
The worst treatment I suffered was from the one black guy in my class -- which illustrates how even other minority groups can be prejudiced.
Ironically, my treatment never would've been tolerated had I been bullied for the colour of my skin or my religious beliefs.
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Jessie Estrella AVP Speakers Bureau
On November 25, 1999, Thanksgiving morning, I was viciously attacked by three men in Brooklyn. The reason, I am lesbian. While I was being attacked, a group of men cheered them on. I suffered five broken teeth, a broken nose and most of all a broken spirit.
On June 27, 2008, I was again attacked, this time by two men at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Once again my spirit was broken. Both times, the police did nothing. When people hear "gay bash", they assume that a gay man was attacked. I am a woman and it happened to me twice.
These attacks made an impact on my life as well as the lives of my family and loved ones. Not only had I been hurt physically, but also emotionally, mentally and financially. My family was afraid of me going out after dark. My friends wanted to escort me wherever I went and my girlfriend at the time could not even look at me without crying.
Because of these attacks, I lost many days of work which made my bills pile up. I became a prisoner in my own home because of my fear of being hurt again. The first time , I was stuck. I didn't know what to do. Until I reached out for help...and I found it.
The second time, I knew what I had to do. I contacted AVP who has been my main supporter throughout these ordeals. These attacks where uncalled for. I did not provoke them. In fact, I tried to avoid them. AVP reassured me that I do not have to be ashamed of who I am and that I... that we should not be victimized for who we are.
Because of this I have become a stronger person, a prouder person and after all this, I still have no hatred in my heart. I thank God that I am alive to tell my story and I pray for the souls of our brothers and sisters that cannot be here.
I am a survivor.. A survivor for a reason... to let my story be heard. I still live in fear... fear that it will happen to me again... and I may be killed...but that still will not take away who I am.
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Jason Vincik Business Owner/Community Activist
I don't have happy memories from school. In fact, I was so traumatized by my experiences that there is much my mind has completely blacked out. Since as long as I can remember -- even back to elementary school -- I was teased, shoved, hit, alienated and called names.
When junior high rolled around, the teasing turned more violent. I was being bullied by a select few in a small-town school. One of the bullies beat me up on the bus one day, only to follow me home afterward and abuse me sexually.
By the time I was in high school, one bully turned to entire groups of guys who would corner me in the streets and beat me to a bloody mess. I started to skip school a lot -- even losing credit and almost failing to graduate. I was scorned and didn't want to attend college -- so I decided to learn the hard way.
Today, I am a successful business owner without a college degree. I have those bullies to thank for making me as tough as I am today.