October 2, 2010 My heart is very heavy the last couple of days. I can't get dear sweet Tyler Clementi out of my mind. Not since the murder of Matthew Sheppard have I been so moved by the death of a young man. I'm also heavily burdened by the suicides of Billy Lus, Seth Walsh and Ahser Brown, whom all killed themselves to escape the pain of living with the daily humiliation from bullies, just this past month. These are the ones making headlines, but most of us know that gay teens have the highest rate of suicides of teenagers. Probably I ache so deeply because I am these boys and they are me. The pain of my own childhood and teen years has come rushing back. As the resident sissyfag growing up I was taunted daily from 3rd grade to 12th. Riding my bike to school I knew there was no escaping the bullies that waited for me, knocked me off of my bike, and told little kids to hit me and kick me and I let them. I was pulled into the principal's office and told to stop asking like a sissy and I wouldn't be picked on, because it was upsetting one of my teachers. Beatings, being spit on, and being called all sorts of names was a daily part of my life. High school usually provided daily humiliations as well. Physical beatings mostly stopped but daily name calling happened every time between classes, all day long. Bullies would even call and harass my parents in the middle of the night. My sister and brother had to listen to people tell them "did you know your brother's a ***". Anyone that was associated with me was taunted too and soon I had no friends and walked the halls alone. I looked straight ahead, took it all in, and never said a word. I rarely missed school gathering many years of perfect attendance, as if to challenge myself to endure it all. I learned to hide my feelings, never talk about it, pretend it wasn't happening and put on a happy face for the most part. I was too ashamed to talk to my parents about it. I wasn't seriously suicidal, but it did cross my mind, but mostly I accepted that because I was such a horrible person this should be my lot in life. I bought into it and internalized all that hate, thinking what a horrible person I was, what a horrible thing being homosexual must be, and I deserved everything that came my way. For approval I got straight A's, and found some semblance of self-esteem in that. I won an award for best French student and it was the most humiliating experience in my life, because I had to walk in front of the student body, the principals and all the teachers while people laughed and called me all kinds of names..it was deafening. I feared graduation would be the same thing, and I dreaded graduation with all that was within me. However, if namecalling occurred, I didn't hear it. I was ranked in the 10 ten academically and was the only one in the top 10 that wasn't named an "outstanding senior". I know why. When I came out at age 17, I acted out in many ways, staying out late, hurting my parents in the process. I enjoyed finally finding a group of people that accepted me. I ran away from home to leave the pain and sorrow of high school behind. It didn't work out and I nearly flunked out my senior year in the process. There were some bright spots, and I did make some good friends along the way. Mostly girls, but that's how it is with gay boys. I didn't go to ball games didn't have much of a social life, and the only reason I went to the senior prom was because it was a closed prom and I was able to go with a friend whose boyfriend couldn't come (it was a safe date...thanks Connie). When I learned to drink, after high school I was able to relax and make friends, and of course that brought a whole myriad of other problems. Being a social outcast did little to prepare me for being an adult. Life of course went on and I grew up and face grown up problems. It took a long time for me to decide that I was really o.k. and that being gay wasn't an abomination. I was in my 30's before I decided someone could actually love me and had my first relationship. I decided that despite it all, I'm a nurturer, caretaker, empathetic and nonjudgmental.....which I suppose makes me a good nurse. So Tyler, Billy, Seth and Asher and all the other bullied kids of the world, your pain is my pain. I wish I could go back in time and love you and give you strength, and let you know it will all be ok and that you are so loved.
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