Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Fortunately I was never physically assaulted, though in seventh grade (when I was 12 and 13) the teasing, taunting and bullying was almost constant. Every day there were new insults (or, old insults tediously recycled again and again). It was almost unbearable, and it was everywhere -- in class, out of class, during lunch, and of course the dreaded gym class. In the lunch room there were a group of them who would converge on me like a pack of wolves, and start on me with the nasty questions almost every day.
I generally did the best I could to avoid giving them satisfaction by reacting in any way. Though my mom tells me every day of the seventh grade I would arrive home in tears.
I guess I understood why other, well-meaning kids never stood up for me. Who wants to be next on the bullies' list? What I never understood was why teachers and gym coaches and lunchroom attendants never did anything. They had real power in that situation, but they always looked the other way.
Life does get better. People (usually) eventually grow up and learn that being an asshole is no fun. Junior high is the worst.
I want to say that it was my faith that helped me survive. Knowing that there is right, and the right will eventually prevail gave me both patience and endurance. My faith, and the loving upbringing I had from my parents, also helped me to believe in my own goodness. To know that even if people treated me like shit, I was not shit. Thanks to my parents and my faith, I never doubted in high school that life was worth living, nor that I would eventually prevail over my adversaries.
My suicide crisis came later, in college, as I was coming to terms with my gayness, when certain elements of my religious upbringing made it impossible for me to believe in my own fundamental goodness, and when I began to doubt that I could succeed at anything important in life or find long-term happiness. That I survived that was something like a miracle.
But I'm here, I made it. I survived the bullying and coming out, and have a life I wouldn't trade for any other. I have a husband and a son and a great home; I'm able to do things I love -- writing and teaching. More importantly, I know who I am, and I have a relationship with God and a life full of spirit and truth as well. I've had my share of struggles, but also my fair share of triumphs. And I'm wearing a purple shirt today as a way of saying to those who are still struggling, that life holds too many big surprises to give up on it before you've had a chance to see what they are.