One of the gents I follow at Bullying Prevention had a post up that really touched me. I’d left the following comment, expecting only a reply;
“With so many cases of bullying going on, I wonder if I should share my story as well…But I am unsure. Does reading about others who were bullied help to create a sense of care and community…or does it make those being bullied right now feel even worse to see that it has always been going on? I don’t want to make anyone upset, I want to let themknow they’re not alone”.
Little did I know that the reply would take the form of no less than FIVE posts by various authors, entitled “Will we Speak Up or Be Silent”. If you haven’t read any of them yet, may I suggest visiting Terrkin.wordpress.com? You won’t be disappointed, I’m sure.
Now, as promised, I will share some of my stories of being bullied, in the hopes that others will take comfort in knowing they are not alone. Perhaps readers will take strength from these past tribulations, and realize that life really can get better if you hold on long enough.
Verbal Bullying: Probably the most well known, verbal bullying includes name-calling, threats, teasing and inappropriate comments. In my younger days, there was no shortage of this. As my readers know, I live with Gender Dysphoria. While I no longer try to dress as a male, I had tried very hard to present myself as a boy when I was in middle school and early high school. I wore clothes from the male sections of clothing stores, kept my hair shorter than my parents wanted, refused to wear jewelry other than my pentacle necklace, and to this day have no piercings whatsoever. Until 11th grade when they grew to size 36DD and it hurt too much, I bound my breasts with cloth bandages in an attempt to flatten my chest. I’m still a size 7 just as I was back then, but I’d always worn bulky clothing to hide my curves. I spurned the Yoga and Home Ec classes in favor of Tech and Weights. And while doing so made me feel the masculinity I so desperately desired, it caused no end to the grief visited upon me in school.
Taunts were constant fare, and were freely given out by boys and girls alike. I was called a lesbian even though I’m (mostly) heterosexual. I was very pointedly not invited to parties, and had other girls shy away from me in the locker room and give me dirty looks, like I was scum on the bottom of their shoe. The one time I was invited to a girl sleepover, the mother had a discussion with me in the kitchen about how I had better act feminine in her house…I ended up calling my mother to take me home, feigning a stomach ache. From that point on I only went to male sleepovers.
It only got worse in Health class. Me, in my naive mind, had yet to truly figure out just how different I was from “other” females. So, in 7th grade, my questions about various things I’d noticed went unanswered or were given strange looks. The fact that I was visually aroused…my questions regarding wet dreams and “morning wood”…my confusion about why we were being taught that our menstrual cycles were supposed to hurt and cause mood swings…None of the female teachers validated my experiences, and in some cases I was told that I was lying or trying to “be special”. I ended up having to use some of my lunch periods to talk to the male Health teacher to learn about what I felt and experienced. I began to avoid using the restroom after that, since girls would open the door on me and corner me, saying that if I was really a guy, then I should show my penis to them, or get out of the ladies room. Combine that with the constant calls of “transvestite”, “bitch”, and “gay/homo/lesbian”…You can imagine why I began dreading going to school. In spite of this, I had my group of close male friends and graduated high school in the top 5% of my 900 person class and in the National Honors Society.
It got extremely bad when in 11th grade, people found out I was still a virgin, and that I hadn’t even been kissed yet. I hear the media say that only boys are teased for this, and I want to scream. The torment that I had to go through was horrendous and painful…but it “doesn’t happen”. More cat-calling, being groped in the hallways, having both boys and girls try to put their hands down my shirt, the cold fear that overtook me when a group of 4 jocks cornered me coming in late one day and threatened to “cure me” of my virginity whether I wanted it or not…How is this any worse than what boys go through? My answer would be that it’s not, especially since male virgins don’t usually get threatened with rape by their female peers (though they do *get* raped, and thus should have increased access to support groups). Luckily, I made it to age 22 with my virginity intact and was able to painlessly share it with my current lover of 7+ years. I only wish I’d been able to share my sexual innocence as well, but my readers know THAT was a ship long since sailed due to my stepfather.
Physical Bullying: Another aspect of bullying that is no stranger to me is that of being physically harmed. This includes shoving, hitting, tripping and the like. In some cases, one bully will trip you and another will steal your textbooks as they fly out of your hands. Playing “Keep-Away” with my lunch or glasses was another favorite pastime, as was trying to steal my homework answers when I refused to do it for them. While in middle school I suffered a sprained ankle, broken finger, and numerous bruises/scrapes from being tripped down the stairs or pushed against lockers.
One of my worst memories was in 9th grade, when I was “punished” by a 12th grade boy for doing my job. You see, I was an Office Cadet, which meant I volunteered to do “go-fer” tasks like photocopying, mailroom deliveries, and bringing memos and detention slips to teachers to hand out. One day, I completed my rounds and was on my way back when a large boy stopped me and slammed me up against the lockers, holding me in place by my throat. Apparently I’d given an in-school suspension slip to his teacher for him from the principal…and he decided to take it out on me, the messenger. He asked if I was the “girl who thought she was a boy”, and I answered truthfully. He grinned sadistically and said “In that case, you should take your punishment like a boy”. I braced myself for the punches, but instead he used his knee to slam my groin 3 times, then let me fall. I collapsed to the ground, curled into a fetal position unable to move or breathe for what seemed like eternity. My entire pelvic region felt like it was on fire, and I was convinced my clit was damaged beyond repair.
For those of you who have never been the victim of a groin kick, I’ll tell you this: I got a dislocated arm from falling out of a tree when I was 14. I’d take another 20 of those before having an assault to my pelvis again. Luckily no permanent damage was done, and the bruising on my clit and labia went away in about a week so I could touch myself without flinching again. I regret not reporting what happened…but how could I? Girls knee boys, not the other way around. My fear of further rumors about my sexuality and body being spread stilled my tongue. Even now, I wonder if I’d have made the same choice.
As you might have guessed, these are only some very specific examples of the bullying I endured. I was a magnet for cruelty ever since 2nd grade, at the hands of male and female peers. Each has a special brand of torment, boys being more physical and girls preferring subtlety. Each hurts. Each harms.
But I am also going to tell you that life gets better. If you are currently dealing with bullies at school or work, do NOT back down. Do not allow them to see your weakness, but instead prove your strength. This does not mean harming them in return…violence only begets more violence, and innocents may be hurt in the process. Take pride from the fact that you are superior in your tolerance and empathy. Be aware of your conscience and your patience. Work hard, be diligent in your studies, PROSPER.
Know that you will bend rather than break, and will emerge all the stronger for it. Combine forces with other like-minded people and create the changes that you wish to see in your environment. Report actions that are unseemly and harmful…call out those that believe that pain is power. Look them in the eye, and allow their words to wash over you without taking them in.
You are precious.
You are worthy of love.
You are unique and special.
If you ever doubt this, and feel like ending your life, know that in doing so you will be extinguishing a light brighter than anything one can see with mortal eyes. It may be the most difficult thing to believe right now, but I am here as proof that life improves.
You just have to be around to see it.
As always, comments are welcome and encouraged. If any reader wants to talk privately, my door is always open. I can be reached at email@example.com, and I promise to answer any email within 24 hours of receiving it. Remember that you are not alone, and that someone cares about you.