At the end of this month, the Von Bs are joining forces with several friends and businesses for an event to benefit Michael Morones, the 11-year-old My Little Pony fan who was bullied so severely that he attempted suicide. More on the event in a later post; however, all the planning over the last couple of weeks has gotten me thinking about bullying and how it has affected me personally.
As I have written before, I was bullied when I was younger. For me it started out because I was smart and a good kid. That followed me through elementary school, middle school, and high school. Once I reached high school, the bullying also started to include comments about me being gay. Now, to be honest, I didn't have a clue I was gay until the end of my senior year in high school. For me, not being interested in girls wasn't even something I noticed. I was a geek (some things never change, I know), so I knew girls wouldn't be interested in me, and for the most part I was OK with that.
However, when you don't date, you are smart and most of your friends are girls, people start to assume and talk about you being gay. This was something that did not bother me at that point in time. I just went on living my life and letting comments roll off my back.
It wasn't until later, after I realized I was gay, that all that teasing started to affect me as a person. I would say that before I was gay, I was very easygoing and dare I say likeable and happy. I think on some level after I realized I was gay, I made a subconscious decision to never be teased about who I am again. This was the first step in me shutting people out and not letting anyone get close. I was scared to allow any male friends to get to know me, because I didn't want to be teased about being gay, or worse yet, allow myself to develop any possible feelings toward them. I felt I couldn't really befriend girls, because, once again, that would lead to people talking about me being gay. So I made a decision to go through life alone.
Now, when I say I made a decision to go through life alone, I don't mean I was a hermit. I mean I refused to allow anyone to get too close, and I refused to confide in anyone. I couldn't let anyone through those walls I built to hide my secret. I had friends, but it's very difficult to develop meaningful friendships when you are hiding such a large part of yourself.
I can honestly say that it was during this time that I contemplated suicide on several different occasions. To this day I can remember those days like it was yesterday. I remember how I thought about doing it and why I felt it was my only answer. I didn't want to be alone for the rest of my life, and at that point in time, I was sure that that was what was going to happen. To be honest, I don't know exactly what stopped me. Maybe it was the faith I had at the time, or the fear of the impact my suicide would have on my family. Whatever prevented me, I can say with certainty that suicide would not have been the answer. I can also understand how people can reach the point where they feel it is their only answer.
Now, you would think that once I accepted the fact that I was gay, came out of the closet and found a partner, the fear of bullying would end. Well, you would be wrong. For me all of that just complicated my life even more. The friends I had at the time dropped me like a hot potato. Some couldn't handle me being gay; others felt that I should have made more of an effort to include them in my life. To this day that still hurts. I was the one dealing with a life-changing event, and I was expected to be the accepting one.
I felt I was trying, but it wasn't easy, because I didn't know at the time that I was dating a bully. You see, for the 10 years I was with my ex, he mentally abused me, and if you stop and think about it, that is a form of bullying. He played on my fears that I had shared with him. He spent years telling me that I was an ugly, dark person and no one liked me. He alienated me from the few friends I had and my family. He spent almost every waking moment telling me how ugly I was and that I was lucky to have him. It was during these 10 years that thoughts of suicide once again started to return. I can still remember sitting at the computer one night that he was out and typing out my suicide note.
I'm sure that the only thing that stopped me that night was my grandmother, who had passed away years earlier. I'm not a very religious person, but I believe without a doubt that she is always watching over her Tommy, and she is the reason I didn't end my life that night. It was at this time that I began to fix my relationship with my parents, and I began to see that I deserved better. Luckily for me, I also met Vivian, and she showed me just how much I had to offer to not only others but myself.
Bullying is ugly, and unfortunately it seems like an accepted rite of passage. Well, I'm here to say that that rite of passage needs to end. Being bullied affects you for a lifetime. For me the effects of bullying did not start to rear their ugly head until years later. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to beat the effects of being bullied. There are too many who aren't as lucky. No one deserves to be bullied, and all of us -- gay, straight, bi, and transgender -- need to come together and put an end to it.