I had “Robocop 2” playing in the background last night while cleaning the place up, cooking dinner etc. when I heard the 14-year-old drug dealing bully tell one of his lackies “Don’t be such a fag.” It made me stop and realize, wow, that was 1990. Things have come a little ways since then.
The comment was meant to be demeaning to the other character, which was considered perfectly fine. But then it was also a reflection of the time the film was made when it was still okay to say something like that without realizing the implications of the words. We’re more conscious of what we say these days and while that in itself is a good thing, it makes it even more dangerous when someone says it, knowing exactly what it means.
There are consequences to these words and one need only look at the rash of suicides throughout this year to see this.
A number of people, celebrities and folks like the rest of us, have recently attempted to give some visibility to the bullying epidemic. There’s one set of videos titled “It Gets Better” where someone tries to convince you that this too shall pass, that things will get better. I can appreciate the message and I agree with it; things do get better.
People have asked me for years now how close I wrote Andy Stevenson, the main character in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation” and “Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord of the Loins,” to myself. Andy hints at not having good memories about high school, but his memories are mine. And like me, he just didn’t feel the need to talk about them much.
Yes, I was bullied back then. I was called a fag almost daily, was jumped twice, once during school and once after school, I had my locker door slammed on my hand and body many, many times, had my ass pinched in the locker room during Phys Ed while people around me laughed and it got to the point where I’d wake up with severe stomach cramps during the week just thinking about having to go back to school.
I consider it a minor miracle that I survived those years. And yes, thing got better. Things got better the moment I was gone and went off to college. But I question the “It Gets Better” videos I’ve seen (and I admit that I haven’t seen them all) for one simple reason; how does that help teens being bullied now? Why should anybody have to wait for years of hell to pass before getting any relief?
Are we comfortable telling our parents? Probably not. The people who bullied me saw me as weak. Why would I want to acknowledge that to my parents and have them see me as weak, too? After all, I’m an only child whose father was a police officer. Parents set the example and we don’t see anybody bullying them.
It’s flawed thinking, though. Keeping it inside is what kills us. If you don’t feel you can go to your parents, then go to someone else, someone you trust; aunts, uncles, a friends’ parents, glbt organizations that offer counseling or hotlines if you can’t go to a glbt center. There are options in the now. And if you do have to approach your school to report bullying, have someone go in with you. Schools tend to talk a good talk about having a zero tolerance for bullying, but I’ve yet to see it as being more than political rhetoric or, simply, bullshit.
Some folks have stated that someone the age of some of the younger teens committing suicide shouldn’t be thinking about whether they like boys or girls at that age. I hate to break it to them, but I knew at age 8. It happens. It’s a part of life. It’s a natural part of life.
In the end, though, nobody should have to be subjected to bullying. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or color you are. And there is help. Don’t wait for later. Seek it now.