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Almost every week we find ourselves at The Advocate running a new story about an LGBT middle- or high-school student being beaten, harassed, or bullied -- many have taken their own lives because of such abuse. So we asked our readers to send us their bullying stories and share how they're surviving this treatment or how they got past it. Here's the first in a series of tales from the trenches.
Tony Holland: When You Can't Tell Your Parents You Need Help
The first memory of gay bashing I had was in the fourth grade, when I decided to show up for school in daisy dukes, cowboy boots and a T-shirt that was tied in a knot on my side. That was the day it all began.
I endured pure hell for the rest of my school days. And I couldn't tell my parents about the abuse because then I would have had to come out of the closet, and that's something I never thought I would do.
I was beaten up at the bus stop, teased in school, had rocks thrown at me, and my book bag turned inside out. I quit riding the bus my first year of high school because the teasing was so bad. There would be days when I couldn't find a ride, and I would wait until all the buses were gone so that I could call my momma and have her come get me.
I remember one instance when I was shot in the eye with a paper football that was shot from a rubber band; it swelled my eye up.
I always wanted to come out but never had the courage. I remember my dad would see something on TV and always be like, "faggot this" and "faggot that." When a friend once told my parents that I was gay, they confronted me about it. My dad said he "wouldn't have a faggot living under his roof." So I decided then and there that I was never going to tell them that I was, indeed, a homosexual.
For years, I endured it, so much to the point that I tried committing suicide on quite a few occasions. One day I woke up and decided it was time to just come out. I had been seeing everything on TV about Proposition 8 and the NOH8 campaign, and I wanted to be a part of that so badly. I tried for at least two weeks to figure out how I was going to do it. I would get off of work and dial my parents' number but never had the courage to hit the talk button. I would just sit there and cry, for so long, then go inside and cry myself to sleep.
Then one night at work I decided to see what I would say in a text message. I inserted their names and typed out a very short, yet clear text message that read, "Momma, Daddy, I don't care if you never talk to me again but there is something I have to tell you... I'M GAY!!!!!" I was reluctant to send it and incredibly nervous at the same time, but as a guest walked in I just hit the send button and waited for the shit to hit the fan. Boy, did it ever.
My dad called me crying; he was so angry. Everyone else was cool with it. And although it took him a while to get used to my news, my dad eventually came around. It's still not something we discuss a lot. We're not Facebook friends because he doesn't want to know the details of my life. I think I have always known I was gay, and even my dad will now say he's known since I was three.
Some advice to those who are being bullied and are afraid to come out: just do it! Stand up for yourself, be who you are, and don't be ashamed. If you ever feel suicidal, please call someone -- a friend, a family member, even the suicide hotline. My dream is to some day open an LGBT center in my hometown. It will be a place where LGBT kids and adults can go and be free to enjoy life. And to the parents out there who don't accept your children: remember, just love them unconditionally and understand that if you bully your kid, you bury your kid. Always remember: we were born this way, baby!
Christopher Allen: A Wake-Up Call on Society's Evolution
A fellow student had blatantly and unapologetically written the Bible verse "Leviticus 18:22" on the dry-erase board at the front of the class. According to popular interpretations, this particular verse condemns love between two men as an "abomination." The smirk on Zack's face ensured that there was no mistake: this Bible thump was being directed at me, a classmate who was openly homosexual.
It was Friday morning in my high school French class. Our teacher had allowed students to use a space on the dry-erase board for anecdotal quotes or inside jokes between people in other classes. This ritual of writing on the board had started innocently enough, with people jotting quotes from Ghandi, Einstein or Dr. Martin Luther King. One student, unfortunately, felt that it was appropriate to use our space on the board for preaching, in a public high school no less.
A day earlier, Zack had written a verse from the Bible that condemned atheists and non-believers in Christ. My best friend Chelsea, who sat next to me in class, happened to be both a lesbian and an atheist. She spoke up to our French teacher, Madame Burton, who, not wanting anyone to be uncomfortable or offended, promptly erased the quote. It seemed fairly obvious that Zack was somehow surprised, even indignant. His actions the next day would push these boundaries even further.
There it was, clear as day the next morning. Zack had written these words: "Though shalt not lie with a man as one does with a woman. It is an ABOMINATION." The last word he wrote had been capitalized and underlined. I was appalled. I stared at the board vehemently, and the more I looked at those words, the angrier I became. By the time the bell rang and Madame Burton walked in, I was fuming -- trembling with rage. I had never in my life been more angered.
"This is offensive, and completely uncalled for!" I shouted, my foot tapping angrily.
"All right Chris, you need to calm down," Madame Burton said in a placating tone. I was visibly angry and was, by this point, putting on a real show of emotion.
"I will not calm down!" I refused. "This is completely uncalled for!"
Zack's continued smirking and obvious enjoyment in upsetting me did not improve the situation. I demanded to see the school counselor immediately. Thankfully, both Chelsea and I were permitted to leave class for the guidance office.
Chelsea, who was just as upset as I was, conveyed her emotion in a different manner. She ran ahead of me while Madame Burton signed me out of class and was in tears by the time I made it downstairs. There, I managed to fully express how angry I was to our guidance counselor, who sympathized with us. We were then told that this incident was more than a case of discrimination; it was in fact, harassment. Our counselor allowed Chelsea and I to sit in the library for the remainder of the class period. I was still too angry to even look at Zack, but I was thankful. I had barely known this kid, and yet he had chosen to harass us based on our sexual orientations.
I felt disturbed that someone could still think this way. I managed to surround myself with friends that had accepted me for who I am. I was very much under the impression that, apart from conservatives and evangelical groups, society had generally accepted gays and was much more tolerant than it had been in the past. This incident was a reality check, and my bubble of safety and acceptance had been burst. It reminded me that the true abomination is that much intolerance and bigotry must still be challenged before gays will be treated equally.
Alicia Phillips: On Sticking Together
Transitioning into the gay community and being a part of it have made me who I am today. But it meant enduring very traumatizing situations.
In middle school, I came out as being bisexual. I had a feeling then that I should be dating boys but had a more romantic connection toward girls. I told my best friend, and she worried I would begin to hit on her. We stopped speaking.
Every day in the cafeteria, I was bullied for being gay. My peers would throw bagels, coins, and plastic knives at me from across the room. In the hallways I would hear words such as "dyke," or "faggot," and it would just upset me beyond belief. Because of it, I didn't really talk to anyone. I was that "short, scary, emo girl in the corner of the room," as my friend puts it now. It just felt like the world was out to get me and I was completely alone.
Tenth grade was the year that I came out to my family and the school as being a lesbian. The people in my grade had matured a lot by then, and I didn't get called anymore names. I got really lucky with my family because they accepted me and loved me for who I was. However, in eleventh grade, that all changed.
In a family management course I had taken, the teacher talked often about my sexuality and asked questions as if it were a joke. "Oh if you and your girlfriend were to have babies, who would have the kids? Would you play rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to have the child?" These comments and questions coming from the teacher and my peers really irked me. I didn't know how to handle it.
Once I became a senior -- and the new freshmen came into the high school -- the bullying started to get serious again. I'd be walking through the hallways and a girl I didn't even know would call me a dyke and tell me to go meet up with my girlfriend in a demeaning way, as if she were disgusted by it. I'd be walking through the hallway, holding my girlfriend's hand or holding her around her waist after school and people would come by making gagging noises to the point where my girlfriend would almost be crying. They'd bother her for being gay more often than me because she was younger than me.
However, what they don't know is that you insult one of us, you insult all of us.