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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
By Marlene Miranda | Wharton High
One subject comes up at every tb-two* story idea meeting: bullying. • Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied — because of some difference in appearance, in sexual orientation, in other ways big and small. A day hardly goes by without some story of discrimination, stereotyping, cruelty, or combination of them all, sometimes with tragic results, like the latest suicide in Iowa. • Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. • One was not, as long as we did not identify his school or last name. Nathan is a junior at a local high school. He is gay. His parents know, but are struggling with the knowledge. An edited transcript is below, beneath the player where you can listen to Nathan tell his story.
"A lot of things make me different. Sometimes it’s the way I talk, sometimes it’s the way I act. I smile a lot, a lot more than average. I’m the first one who wants to help someone else, or I’m willing to buy a candy bar for my friend or something. Also, my sexual orientation isn’t … of the norm. People judge me because of that.
I don’t think I could remember a time in my life when I wasn’t bullied. For the longest time, it was like normal to me. It happened so often it was like breathing . It was getting dressed, go to school, get bullied. It was like a routine.
I guess the earliest time I can think of is elementary school. All the other boys wanted to go to the field and play dodgeball. All I wanted to do is go on the playground and hang out with the girls. It was considered weird, especially during a time when everyone believed cooties existed. Most of my friends were girls; I only remember being friends with one boy when I was younger.
The worst was through middle school. Middle school is horrible. Kids weren’t kids anymore, but they’re not grown up at all. There was a lot of name calling, a lot of teasing. Sometimes they’d get physical and push me around, you know, shove me in the bathrooms and stuff. Most of the time it was a lot of verbal bullying. I got notes that told me what a bad person I was, and how nobody liked me. I’d see graffiti in the bathroom walls and hear rumors about me. They’d call me queer and faggot, and all that. They’d call me a nerd, a dork or a loser. All the classic name calling things.
I went to the bishop of my church. I confided in him and told him that I thought I might be gay. It wasn’t what I needed. That’s all he focused on. He was too busy telling me how I needed to change some of the stuff I was. I tried to change, but it didn’t work out. I blamed myself for it. I respect him for what he tried to do, which was express his belief. That’s all he could do, that’s his job.
He tried to talk to me about bullying. I was different, that’s why I was bullied. It wasn’t because the kids were mean, it wasn’t because they were going through problems and needed to take their anger out on someone. It was because I was different. I was a little weirdo who deserved to be bullied because he didn’t fit in.
I hated middle school. Middle was hell. Or, for me, it was. The name calling was bad, the kids were mean. It followed me until freshman year — or at least the feelings were still there. The self-hatred was still there.
Bullying lowered my self-esteem a lot, it made me have the worst self-image. I felt like I was never going to have any friends; I felt like I was going to be alone my whole life. I felt like nobody cared about me. I even felt like my parents didn’t even care about me. It was like the whole world was out to get me when I was bullied.
I had a big turning point in my life. It happened my freshman year. It was the second time I tried to take my life. They took me to this place and I talked to this counselor. I told him this is my problem, this is how I feel, this is who I’m attracted to. This is wrong and I’m wrong, and I’m a freak and I hated myself for it. He said something so simple to me, it sounds weird saying it. But all he said was, “Well if you feel these feelings, why don’t you accept them? Why not accept that this is who you are?”
And I had never in my whole existence ever believed that. I never thought, why not just accept it? I was always pushing it away, like no, I’m a weirdo, no one is going to like me. But when I accepted who I was as a person, my whole perspective changed.
Things never really got better for me, but my perspective changed. When you accept something so big, when you accept who you are, nothing seems quite as daunting. Because when you don’t, it feels like everyone’s trying to get you. When you don’t have to worry about your identity, who you think you should be, who your friends or people in school say who you should be, it’s like a burden lifted off your shoulders. That’s what it is. You feel lighter, you feel happier, you feel more confident in the things you do.
It’s easier for me to focus on the more important things in life — like school, family, work, getting a job, having nice friends, preparing for college. Now those things take priority in my mind. Before, life was just, “Who am I? What am I doing here? Why am I this way? Why doesn’t anyone like me?” But after you accept who you are, you can focus on some important aspects in life.
If I could say anything about the people who bullied me, I’d say they didn’t bring me down, they taught me a lesson. It doesn’t matter what they say to me. I still get bullied now, and it’s like I don’t even care anymore. It’s better to be yourself. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be who you want to be, and it overpowers those feelings of doubt or regret. It’s kind of cliche, but it’s like becoming a butterfly after being in a cocoon for so long. That feeling is so beautiful.
What they did wasn’t right. What I did to myself wasn’t right. But it’s happened, and you can’t really change it. It’s made me a stronger person and I’ve healed over the years. I want them (people being bullied) to hang in there and not be worried about how other people perceive them. Life gets better. It’s amazing. I mean, now it feels like everyone’s out to get you. And everyone knows your name, you’re the ugly kid, or the unpopular kid, or the nerd, the loser and it’s after you’ve overcome all of that, you feel that sense of accomplishment. Just hang in there. It’s tough. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but you’ll get through it.
I plan on being a fiction writer. I want to be a husband and a father. And I want to have, hopefully, beautiful children. They better be pretty (laughs). But you know, that’s where I’m going, living happily ever after.