What if gay was straight and straight was gay? My friend showed me this video today and, at first, I was just going to share it on my Facebook, but then I stopped.
This needs to be shared, but I needed to add my own words to it. I should caution: watching this at work is fine unless you mind people seeing you cry. Even a burly man like myself cried.
Bullying is a problem in America. It is a problem around the world. Kids are afraid of being who they are. Constantly, they’re bullied. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. As Shane Koyczan said, “the school halls were a battleground.” You never know when the enemy is going to show up; when you’re going to be attacked; when you’re going to be … Destroyed.
I should know. Minute by minute, hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly, I was bullied. For years it went on. For years I was the brunt of the joke. Fat jokes. Jewish jokes. Being in the plays made me gay. “I’d rather die than go on a date with Jacob,” said one girl to a friend of mine. I’d rather die…
I would come home and I’d cry. Every day. If there was an ROI on crying, I’d never work a day in my life. Those years. They were numbing.
You learn how not to feel. You learn that it’s better to be cold than feel that pain. And so I would walk into the fire. I would accept what was said and I stopped crying. I stopped feeling.
Finally, one day, I snapped. What would provoke a short, scrawny little guy to jump onto a 6’2, 250 pound man baffles me so many years later. But he did. His arms wrapped around my throat. I could feel him trying to choke me. And so I took all 250 pounds and I slammed back hard into a locker. I turned and watched as his body crumpled to the floor. I crouched down, made sure he could see my eyes, and I said, “Don’t ever touch me again. Don’t ever talk to me again.”
From that day on, the battleground became a peace zone. No one harassed me. No one teased me. My tear ducts got a break. I got a break. But the lessons I had learned stuck with me. I was cold. Calculated. Calloused.
Bullies want you to hate yourself because they view happiness as relative. They’re afraid of what’s different and because of that fear, they’d rather make you feel bad than try to elevate themselves. They’d rather tear you down than build themselves up.
I remember about a month ago I was presented with a situation that made me tremendously uncomfortable. I reacted poorly. The person talking to me could sense the ignorance I had. While it didn’t cause a problem–to my knowledge–I recognized that had I taken it farther, I would have been in the same regiment as a bully.
Because bullies are cowards. And fear comes from lack of knowledge. Instead of continuing to react about that situation, I educated myself. Was I more comfortable it? I don’t think so. Was I accepting of it? In part. But I understood. And therefore, what fear I had could go away. When fear isn’t in your life, neither is hate.
I recently went through an emotional change in my life. The first response for anyone when that happens is to be afraid. And when you’re afraid, that’s when fights happen. That’s when you start to say things you don’t mean. That’s when you call someone “a bitch” or “ugly” or “fucking useless.” But really, if you meant those things, you would have said them when you weren’t fearful. Fear very easily contributes to anger which very easily contributes to hate. We don’t like to be afraid, so we’re angry at what makes us afraid.
But what if, instead of being afraid of that change, we didn’t allow that first response? What if we didn’t allow ourselves to react so poorly? What if, instead, we simply thought and tried to understand. Wouldn’t that be better?
I walked away from that emotional change in my life fine. Sad, but fine. Isn’t that better than angry?
If those were behaviors that we were taught at a young age–to ask questions, to try to understand, and to gain insight into what the other person is thinking–wouldn’t bullying go away?
Bullies do what they do because they don’t know anything else. They don’t know. So when that gay teenager is being bullied for it, it’s because the bully doesn’t know. Does that make it right? Absolutely not. But it’s their ignorance that is fueling their hate. I pity them. I pity their lack of constitution and self-respect.
It’s okay to have fear. But it’s the cowardice bullies that allow that fear to turn to anger and then hate. I pity them. I pity the most cowardice people I’ve ever met: bullies.