First of all: go see “Bully.” Take your kids. Take your neighbor’s kids. Take your kids entire 11th grade class. This is an extremely important, excellently crafted documentary exposing the reality of what is actually happening in our schools. Maybe it’s happening to your child or maybe it’s happening because of your child…
I was a bully.
It doesn’t make me feel very good to admit that, but nonetheless it is true. I learned at a very young age that it was not ok to be different. Different got you in a whole mess of trouble. Different got you ostracized, mercilessly teased and bullied.
I was different. I was gay and I was afraid. The thought of anybody finding out kept me awake at night and monopolized my thoughts. My grades slipped, my self-esteem tumbled and I lashed out.
It was better to be the bully then to be bullied. It was all about distraction and shifting the spotlight from my “different” to somebody else’s “different”. Thankfully, my different was pretty much invisible. It was easier to hide than the girl with the birthmark or the boy who was overweight or the poor souls who were under-developed and small for their age.
I had a “pick on” or “be picked on” mentality. At only 12 years of age I understood “kill or be killed.” It somehow became acceptable for me to terrorize and oppress others so that my secret would remain a secret. I would intimidate. I would ridicule. I would make damn sure the conversation was about somebody else’s “flaws” and not my own.
I am not proud of my survival skills but I have found compassion and even forgiveness for the boy I used to be. I understand why I did the things I did. The behavior will never be ok and the wounds I caused may never heal but perhaps through talking about it and sharing my story I can inspire change.
I was under the impression that things had evolved in the 30 years since I was running my little grade school Taliban, but I was wrong. The shit I was subjecting my schoolmates too is still going on, thriving even.
You would think that things were improving. We are a much more inclusive society, which celebrates diversity. We have the “tough” conversations about sexuality and “right and wrong” at much younger ages. We teach our children about respect and compassion. We watch for the warning signs of inappropriate, bullying behavior and put a stop to it quickly….
Are we as evolved as we think we are?
Why are teenagers – gay, straight, small, fat, birth marked – still killing themselves? Why, in 2012, is the rubbish in Bully still happening in our schools, on our school busses and on our playgrounds?
I don’t have the answers, but I’m determined to pose the questions and keep the conversation on the front burner.
It’s the least I can do.
For more information or to find ways that we can all make a difference, check out the following links: