For those who do not know what Spirit Day is: Millions of Americans wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy — participants are asked to simply “go purple” on October 19 (this year) as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are. http://www.glaad.org/spiritday
Two years began a string of suicides by LGBT youth because they were being bullied by fellow classmates. The bullying was so bad that these poor children felt no other way out but by taking their own lives. It has become an epidemic that has sadly already started this school year too. This needs to stop. Children are committing suicide. How has that not stopped this? Why aren’t more parents doing something? Just because a child is not your child does not mean he or she is not someone else’s child! What if it was your child?
Now we have Spirit Day, where we can show our support to all the bullied teens. They need to know that they are not alone and that it really does get better! These kids need to know that people are in their corner and ready to fight! High school is hard enough going through physical changes and trying to find a place in the hierarchy of popularity. I think wearing purple is a great way to unify us and show that support. However, some of you might be thinking, I don’t really know anyone in high school that is being bullied. I am sure people feel sympathy to the cause but it’s hard to relate when it isn’t you or someone you know.
Well someone you do know has been bullied. Me. For the most part I never talk about high school because it was terrible. But now I feel a responsibility to share my story with everyone. I need to help some people put a personal face on a growing tragedy. I am sharing with you some of my most personal and intimate moments. I am a little nervous. I am also teary eyed. It seems that kids now are much more cruel than I remember, but this is my experience. So here it is:
I moved to Michigan when I was 16 years old in August 1998. My father had passed away when we were living in New York and my mom moved us to Michigan to be with her side of the family. I started Utica High School that following Fall. I had remained closeted in my old high school, but this time I didn’t want to be in the closet. I wanted to be me. I came out and started letting people know I was “bi” but then I fully came out as gay shortly after that. I was fortunate that a majority of the school could have gave a shit less about me or who I had sex with. I still managed to have quite a few friends. Thank God for the popular girls loving their gay men. I also want to give a special props to the Albanian kids who were always cool with me regardless.
However, there were a handful of people who had to let me know how they felt. I remember this one kid was going around telling people that I was “a disgrace to Albanians” because I was gay even though he wasn’t Albanian. I was called Skittles for a while by some dumb dbag who I can barely remember. I was called a faggot/ fag a few times. I did beat up one kid in the cafeteria for calling me a faggot and my sister a bitch. That staved off a few people from bothering me. After that I got fed up with everyone giving me shit so I started doing outrageous shit. I came to school dressed as a nun for Halloween. The Principal at the time Mr Bannon was cool because he let me change in his office. I don’t think he wanted me in the bathroom with the other guys for my safety. I also had these knee high rainbow socks that I borrowed from a friend and wore them to school. I had a rainbow belt and pictures of Ryan Phillippe in my locker. I think that behavior really sparked this one kid’s homophobia towards me. This Chaldean kid, who’s name I would like to say I forgot but I still remember it, was the worst to me. Every time I walked by him he would shoulder check me, bump into me, and he would intimidate me in our class we had together. He threw shit at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. I was only 17, so this kid scared me because I knew if he had the chance him and his friends would jump me. So I ditched that class a lot. I did go to the office about him a few times but nothing ever seemed to happen. I hated him for such a long time for being so awful to me.
The school itself was also a bully. Before I came out I remember having a personal discussion with (my science teacher) Mr. V about gay people. I thought he was cool until he told me he disagreed with homosexuality. Well I came out anyway and he never cared for me much after that.
Now here is the part that I never talk about. The Vice Principal at the time, Mr Hall, pulled me into his office and told me that I was being expelled. The reason he was kicking me out, and the words from his mouth, have stayed with me for almost 13 years. I was getting expelled because I was “causing a distraction to the other student’s learning”. I was floored. I immediately started bawling my eyes out. Then they had me gather my belongings and escorted me out of the school. Even though class was going on, I did see one girl I knew in the hallway and she saw me sobbing me eyes out as they walked me out.
Do you even know what that walk was like for me at 17 years old? I walked home for a few miles just bawling my eyes out. I was so scared, so angry, and so disappointed. My mom didn’t even know I was gay yet. How was I supposed to face her and tell her I was kicked out of high school for being gay? How come I was the one who was being punished when it was other people who treating me like shit and saying terrible things to me. How come the school didn’t have my back? What was I going to do with my life without an education?? I hated myself a lot for everything that happened. I did blame myself for a lot of it.
My self-confidence was so low that when drugs were introduced to me I more than happily jumped right in. As I look back a little older and a little wiser, I realize all I ever wanted was to fit in somewhere and not be judged. Doing drugs with other druggies was perfect to me. No one judged. Well doing cocaine and ecstasy was probably not the best idea. Drugs made me happy and filled a void in my life that I was missing. Low self esteem can make people do desperate things that they normally wouldn’t do. I would never touch any of those again.
So I never graduated high school. That is a truth that a lot of people do not know about me. Most people assume I graduated and I actually don’t correct them. It’s embarrassing to correct them. I did however get my G.E.D and have been in college for the past few years now. I did manage to turn myself around. I just wonder where my life would have been if I never been kicked out of high school “for causing a distraction to other student’s learning”. I am who I am because of it I suppose. I am doing pretty good for myself. I have my own apt, I have a pretty good job, I am going to school, I have wonderful friends, and I am close to my family.
Now here is the surprise twist that I am so ashamed of:
When I lived in NY I was actually the bully. There was another student that my friends and I picked on and said derogatory things to. I knew he was gay because I was gay too. I was just afraid of people finding out so I took the attention off of myself. We were horrible people to him. Luckily he has since then graciously forgiven me even though I can never really apologize enough to him. Our picking on him did cause him health problems from the stress. That is something that I have to live with. I was a stupid teenager and I wish I had known better. That is not an excuse though. I will tell you I definitely understood where he was coming from after being bullied myself.
So Spirit Day has a couple meanings to me. I was in both positions and I know what it’s like. No one should EVER have to deal with that kind of behavior. Bullying is now a lethal epidemic and I am praying every day that more people open their eyes. I cry a little inside every time I hear another LGBT student has taken their life. That pain is so overwhelming when people make you feel like you are nothing.
Stick and stones may break your bones, but names will break your psyche after so much abuse. So let’s all wear purple and show our support to ALL kids being bullied in high school for being different!
If you know anyone who is possibly being bullied please talk to them! Listen! Even if they don’t say it, they really need you to listen.