I am writing this post on October 20th, 2010. The date is important because today has been declared Spirit Day by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. For those of you who have not heard of this, Spirit Day (in the words of the promoters) “honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it’s also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.”
I want to state right off the bat that I am just as horrified and outraged about the suicides that sparked this event as any other sane human being would be. It is also not my intent to offend anyone who may have been bullied or teased because they were a member of the LGBT community.
The above statement is what is known as a disclaimer.
I have a problem with Spirit Day.
I do not have a problem with the idea of speaking out against bullying. At all. What I have a problem with is the fact that suddenly, in the realm of public discourse, the word “bullying” has become synonymous with homophobic activity.
As someone who once sat on the foot of a bed with a gun in his hand I can assure you that LGBT children are not the only ones who suffer from bullying, and they are certainly not the only ones who are driven to the brink (and sometimes over) the edge of suicide.
I was bullied for the way I dressed. I was bullied because I was smart. I was bullied because I had bad skin. I was bullied because I played Dungeons and Dragons. I was bullied because I was a Caucasian student in a predominantly minority school.
Ultimately, though, I was bullied and made fun of primarily because I was fat.
From “friendly” fat jokes to being physically beaten, school was torture for me. I was laughed at. Teased. Mocked. I was the kid who the popular girl would express interest in as a joke (yes, that happens). I had a “friend” of mine fill one entire page of my year book in the 8th grade with “HEY BUTTER BALL, I GUESS YOU ARE PRETTY COOL?” I had one student tease and cajole me so much that one day I threw myself at him in a fit of blind rage, only to have him laugh in my face as I ineffectively flailed my arms around with all the strength of a Kermit The Frog freakout.
Bullying isn’t a “gay” issue. Kids are bullied because they are “ugly.” Kids are bullied because they are intelligent. Kids are bullied because they are dumb. Kids are bullied because of the way they dress, or the music they listen to. Kids are bullied because they are just socially awkward and don’t know how to relate to others. Kids are bullied because of the color of their skin, or their accent. Kids are bullied because of their religious beliefs.
Kids are bullied for countless reasons. The six suicides that have been in the news recently are horrific, but they are by no means unique. We shouldn’t be focusing on the fact that they were bullied because they were gay. We should be focusing on the fact that they were bullied, PERIOD.
I do not have any purple clothing, but I am wearing purple today. I have bruises and scars that I will carry with me for my entire life. I will never be able to see myself for who I am, because whenever I look in the mirror I see the fat, worthless, unlovable person that so many people convinced me that I was. I am a survivor of bullying, but I very nearly wasn’t. There are many, many children out there who are going through exactly what I went through right this very minute who are not members of the LGBT community.
Please…don’t forget them.