St. Hope Foundation
When I was asked to do a blog on Anti Bullying, I was really taken back. It’s amazing how sometimes you never realize a subject is sensitive to you until you’re asked to write or talk about it. While researching the website, www.stopbullying.gov, I started to thinking about all the years growing up when I had to deal with bullying. Most individuals who know me as an adult would rarely think that I went through many traumatic years of dealing with and keeping bullies at bay. It started as a young kid when other kids noticed that I was just a little bit different. Bullying for being gay started before I even knew the definition of the word. By the time I reached middle school, I had to some degree become used to it. The name calling, harassment, intimidation, inappropriate touching, fights, threats, and fear had slowly become a constant factor in my life. My family had so many problems at home that it was rare I ever brought my issues to them. Besides I already knew what my father would say. He also saw something different in me that bothered him and caused him to engage in his own form of bullying inside my home. He wanted me to be tougher he would say. He assured me it was all for my own good. Teachers and Principals at times helped. But even they could not be at all places at all times. As I progressed into and through high school, I begin to develop my own tools of survival. Quick wit, a sharp tongue, thick skin, emotionless expressions, solitude, and a serious attitude kept me from always being a victim, kept me from being used and taken advantage of by the people who surrounded me every day. As I grew more into myself, I developed this intense hatred for those who took advantage of or bullied others. I found myself using my survival tools to help others enduring similar situations. To prove to them that different or not, we were people as well and did not deserve to be treated any differently than individuals who saw themselves as being main stream or “normal”. Yet, even with all that preparation I was not ready for my next big challenge in dealing with bullying. It was my freshman year in college and first time staying on a college campus. I don’t know when my roommates decided that I was different/gay or when they decided they would single me out as an example but pretty soon behavior I thought I had escaped by graduating high school started all over again. I have to admit in my innocence I assumed that college would bring individuals who celebrated difference and a world free of bullying. That shattered dream left me feeling depressed and defeated. I eventually stopped living there and it’s a blessing I didn’t drop out of college all together.
Why did I share this story? The impact that bullying has on many of our youth today, Gay or not, shapes who they become and often leaves scars that can last for life. Bullying can come in many forms but in any shape and fashion it should not be tolerated. Bullying can lead to low self esteem and suicide among other things and negatively impacts everyone who surrounds it including the bully. It creates an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that smothers the life and joy out of those who are forced to endure it. If we are to combat bullying we must first task ourselves to become more aware. WWW.stopbullying.gov list several warning signs of bullying but I know firsthand that there can be no signs at all. We must first decide that bullying is a serious issue that hurts our communities and our youth and should no longer be tolerated in ANY form. We must have the challenging conversations with our youth regarding meeting individuals who are different and how to respect and appreciate those differences instead of hating and attacking them. We must be more conscientious of how our youth are interacting with their peers, as well as, how their peers are interacting with them. We must prepare our youth beforehand for bullying by equipping them with the self esteem, love, and open communication that they will need if bullying should occur.
Here are some other ways www.stopbullying.gov says you can help to take a stand against bullying:
- Take a stand and do not join in.
- Walk away.
- Give support.
- Talk to someone you trust.
- Get involved with your community and around campus to find ways to prevent bullying.
- Teach others that bullying is not okay and that they can stop bullying before it begins.
- Tell them to stop.
- Do not blame yourself.
- Be proud of who you are.
Remember it’s up to us as individuals to all take a stand against the bullying or ill treatment of any human being. To make sure that all youth are given the chance to blossom into who they are meant to be without having to live in a world where they feel their differences will cause them to be ill treated. To provide an atmosphere filled with positivity, care, and love. Everyone has the power to stop bullying but it’s up to us as adults to be the leading example for how bullying should be dealt with in our homes, our schools, and our community. I challenge each and every one of you to become more aware of the bullying that may happen around us every day and to take an active stand in addressing it. You never know when that one moment may save or change someone’s life.