Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wearing Purple

I was bullied in school. There was a group of guys who -- for lack of a better word -- enjoyed sexually harassing me. They would say really vulgar things, and ask me sexually explicit questions, just to see if they could upset me or get some kind of a reaction out of me. They'd also taunt me for being Mormon, with questions like "How many mothers do you have?" The sexual teasing was also related to being Mormon, because these bullies knew I was deeply religious and sexual teasing was the most religiously offensive thing they could think to do. I never thought it was obvious I was gay, but -- according to my sister -- it was considered common knowledge in my high school that I was also queer, a fag. So if that's the case, I was literally tortured for being both gay and Mormon.

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.


Reuben said...

great message.

Also, working from home means we don't comb our hair anymore????

just kidding.

JonJon said...

Lovely post. Thanks, John.

J G-W said...

Hey Reuben: at least I put on a shirt!

Thanks, Jon.

Jonathan said...

Working from home means that days like today when I wake up with a headache, I don't have to put on anything more than a bathrobe until it's time for the kids to get home from school. But that's probably more information than you wanted to know.

You're right: junior high (now middle school) is absolutely the worst. I got the religiously oriented sexual taunts too, though not anything gay-specific.

Charlene said...

This new "It gets better" YouTube effort is cool.

I didn't wear purple today but no one told me until after I was at work!

Bravone said...

Glad you're still here John. Love you!

;) said...

I also got bullied a lot in school- but it was okay. They never tried to bully me twice because they knew that I stood up for myself. They knew that they couldn't mess with me. And that's what the youth has to do: Showing strenght and let the guys who bully know that there are consequences. It works. ;)
But I am glad that you've made it. What I do know is that everybody gets bullied in school. Puberty was awful, must admit. I also bullied folks when I was 13/14. Worst time of my life.