by J.D. Rhoades
Like a lot of you probably did, I found the above video very moving. despite the fact that there’s a nagging cynical voice in the back of my head that says it’s just Google trying to cash in on the “It Gets Better” meme. Still, it’s an important message, given the number of high-profile suicides of young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc. people.
It got me thinking, though. While LGBT folks are particularly at risk, they’re not the only ones. There are a lot of people bullied every day for no other reason than they’re different. You know, your geeks, freaks, and weirdos. Your nerds, spazzes, dorks, and dweebs. Kids get bullied because of their ethnicity, their religion, their weight. Some get bullied because they’d rather read than play or watch sports. I’m not sure at what age kids start being cruel to anyone who doesn’t fit seamlessly into the pack, but I know it gets particularly mean starting in junior high and can escalate to downright brutality in high school.
I was moderately lucky. I was reading from the age of four, and I had my nose in a book at every opportunity. I read stuff that was above my age group, and I talked about it. And don’t believe people didn’t notice. I got called names. I got pushed around. But I got bigger. I learned to throw a punch. More importantly, I eventually discovered that being funny could get me out of having to throw punches, especially if I was funny at the expense of teachers and other authority figures. So by high school, most of it had tapered off But there were still people I felt nervous around because I saw too many examples of what coud happen to someone who was merely perceived as different. For exampe, a friend of mine made the wrong joke to a carload of cruising rednecks and got his face slashed open with a box-cutter for it.
But you know what? It did get better. I got out of town, went to college, found some like-minded friends in an enviroment where being a “reader” wasn’t suspect (video NSFW):
…and the bullies (mostly) grew up.
But some kids don’t make it. Kids like Phoebe Prince, who killed herself at 15 after being mercilessly harassed by schoolmates. Or Ryan Halligan. who was hounded to death by people who pretended to befriend him, then mocked him publicly for things he’d told them in confidence. The list goes on and on. These were kids who weren’t gay, they were just different, and the pack turned on them for it. They saw no way out. They didn’t know that it gets better.
So, if you were a little different, a little weird, a little out of the mainstream, tell us: did it get better? And if it did, do you know some young person in a similar situation that might need to hear it?