Saturday, October 16, 2010

It Gets Better

Solitary figure on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, this morning.

The past few weeks several gay teen suicides have been reported.  These gay teens were victims of bullying and harassment by their school classmates and neighbors.  

Joel Burns, a city councilman from Fort Worth Texas made a statement on October 12th during a city council meeting stating that when he was a teenager he was also subjected to bullying.  He stated that he started to question his self worth and thought about suicide.  He went on to further state that he couldn't do that to his parents (commit suicide) and got through his bad period of life during his high school years.

I went to school during the Fifties.  I knew I was different.  I knew I shouldn't tell anyone about the way I felt, especially my family.  However, a few of my classmates did suspect because I was at times called "queer" and "fairy."  The epithet "faggot" hadn't come into universal use yet (that's how old I am).
Me during my "sissy" period in high school, before I learned to butch it up.

I especially remember one time during lunch period in ninth grade (middle school).  I usually ate lunch by myself but on this one occasion I sat down at a table with another group of guys in my class who I liked.  I especially like one guy but I had never talked to him or even introduced myself to him.  I thought this would be a good occasion to try and make friends with this group of guys.

I had already gotten my tray of food and was sitting at an empty table by myself.  I saw the group of guys, including the guy who I really like, coming my way.   As they passed my table, the guy I really liked paused and said to the other guys "Look at the fairy eating by himself.  No one else wants to eat with him.  I WONDER WHY?"  Then they all laughed and sat at the next table.  There were more things said but I couldn't understand what they were saying because of my immense embarrassment.  Then someone would say something again, and they would all laugh.  I was sure they were laughing at me.  I was sure everyone in the cafeteria knew "my secret."  

I don't remember what happened after that other than I changed my lunch period.  I avoided those guys as much as I could.  I wasn't bothered by any of them any more, especially the guy who I liked.  He apparently was the ring leader.  He didn't bother me because his family moved the next year and he no longer went to my school.

In the years since I was occasionally harassed and bullying was attempted.  I won't go into the details here (that's for my book) but what I will say is that I put an end to it with my fists.  A couple of good punches on three different occasions and I was no longer bullied. Of course I know I was very lucky not to have been seriously hurt or hurt someone else.  I was lucky.

I never, NEVER felt like committing suicide.  Again, I was very lucky. My only concern was how to get through school and the Army in one piece without being injured or killed because I was "different."  Ironically, I was never sexually active (I didn't even know what to do) until I was 21 years old and out of the Army.  

I think the reason I was harassed at school was that I was somewhat effeminate ("sissy" was the word used back then.)  I learned to "de sissify" myself.  That's probably what saved me, especially during my Army years.  During basic training I almost killed a fellow trainee who was bullying me.  Again, I was very lucky I didn't end up in the stockade for going after my harasser with a broom handle.  My company commander realized what was happening and told the man (Rondeau, I'll never forget his name) to leave me alone or else HE WAS GOING TO END UP IN THE STOCKADE.  Again, I was very lucky. 

Me, 1960.  Arny basic training.  

Not all teenagers were as lucky as I was.  That's why this epidemic of bullying has to stop and it begins with the people in authority, from the top on down.  That would be President Obama (stop enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy), Congress, law enforcement, local officials, teachers, and parents.  


To all gay teenagers who feel trapped and see no way out.  IT DOES GET BETTER.  You're in a much better position that I was in when I was growing up in the Fifties.  You can go to authorities and report being bullied and harassed.  

There will always be those in our society who bully those who they perceive weak, timid and mild.  I was perceived that way.  I refused to let it happen to me.  You can do the same.  Do not turn their hatred into self-hatred.  Throw it back in their face.  

Even at this late stage in my life there are still attempts to bully me.  Recently the husband of a co-worker of mine didn't like the fact that I posted a video of two men dancing the tango on my Facebook page.  He told me "Give it a break."  I confronted him and asked him what he meant by that remark.  He said "Ron I always considered you one of the good gays."  Uh huh.  Does this sound familiar?  Sort of like those Negroes and the good Negroes.  I told he that he sounded a bit homophobic.  When he got that response from me, a "good gay", he went off the deep end.  All his homophobia came out in full bloom. Here we go again, the civilian version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  

The bullying will never stop.  When it happens, it must be confronted.  That is the only way it will end.  Because it is true, life does get better.  I know, I'm living it now.  
I still like cats


Mike, Studio city said...

A cat, or two, is good for the heart and soul.

Ron Tipton said...

Both of those cats look like they're trying to get away from me. What's that all about? Cats really do like me, trust me.

Ur-spo said...

nicely said!