I read today about a 15-year-old boy who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. I remember being bullied myself and how, at times, it seemed like it was too much to take. I feel so bad for this kid–people made fun of him for something he could not help and should not have to even if he could.
It really makes me wonder what bullies get out of it. Are the kids who put this boy down all the time happy that he finally gave in to despair and ended his own life? I wonder if it made them feel better about themselves to put down some kid who never did anything to them. I don’t understand how people can put others down for how they look, or for their sexual orientation, or for things they like. We are so quick to use terms like geek, fag or slut without really stopping to think about what those words mean to the people we use them against.
I was picked on for being a big girl. I was never obese, but I sure wasn’t slim, either. I was picked on for wearing glasses and for having acne and bad hair. I was picked on for not being athletic and for being a good student. I was picked on for liking to read. I was picked on for being shy. In elementary school, there was a girl who would follow me as I walked home from school and she’d bully me. She’d say nasty things to me, call me names and threaten to beat me up. I didn’t even know who she was or what I’d done to her. Looking back, I don’t think I had ever done anything to her–I was just one of those kids who seems to invite bullying.
I had trouble standing up for myself, largely out of fear and a lack of self-worth. My brother was abusive, and years of his abuse stripped me of any self-esteem I may once have possessed. So when this girl started taunting me and threatening to hit me, I felt I had done something to deserve it, something to provoke her, even though I had not. That is the kind of kid that bullies seem to be able to pick out a mile away. They somehow know that kids like me will just take it because we are incapable, for whatever reason, of fighting back.
Sometimes, we take bullies by surprise, like that Australian kid who achieved YouTube fame when he finally snapped and kicked the crap out of the little snot who kept tormenting him. It was truly spectacular to see a kid who has been picked on and put down finally come to the realization that enough is enough and that he can stand up for himself. There are times when I wish that I had done that, that I had just really and truly lost my temper and beat the hell out of that girl. Maybe then she would have respected me.
As it turned out, one day she was making her usual threats, and looking more like she’d make good on them. I couldn’t help it, I just started crying. I thought she was going to hit me, and I knew from being hit by my brother that it HURT. I didn’t want to hurt, so I started crying and saying that I wanted my dad. For some reason, that stopped her and she asked me why I didn’t just go get my dad then. I told her that he didn’t live with me, and for reasons I’ll never know, she seemed to suddenly shift her attitude and become less threatening and maybe even a bit sympathetic. She stopped bullying me after that, which has always puzzled me. Was it because I suddenly became a real person in her eyes, with feelings that maybe she had too? Had we found some sort of common ground? Why did it take her threatening to beat the shit out of me for that to surface and for it to matter?
The thing is, we all have a lot in common and we all have similar experiences. Lots of kids come from divorced parents. Lots of kids have family problems. Lots of kids feel depressed, have low self-esteem, struggle with things. Why can’t we see similarities instead of differences? And why can’t we appreciate our differences instead of using them against each other? And why is it EVER okay to physically threaten or harm another person just because we don’t like something about them?
Kids get so hung up on being cool and popular, they fail to realize that once they are out of high school, none of that matters. We all eventually move beyond high school (well, most of us, anyway) and the things that mattered to us then don’t mean anything anymore. Being thin and pretty and wearing the latest styles and being on some sports team just doesn’t mean shit anymore. The world doesn’t care about that stuff. Being cool doesn’t get you a high-paying job or land you a mortgage. It just makes you look immature, and pitiful, when everyone else has moved on. So bullying some kid in school may make you seem like a king, but in the real world, you just look like an asshole, and no one likes an asshole. I wish kids would GET that.
The kid I mentioned earlier was trying to create a group in his school that was welcoming to gay students. He wanted to help others who may have felt as lonely and isolated as he did. He didn’t do anything wrong, and now he’s dead because he was unable to deal with other people’s senseless cruelty. I hope the people who tormented him every day for nothing more than being homosexual, which had nothing to do with them in any way, feel remorse for what they did to him. I hope they stop bullying others and start looking at what is wrong with themselves.