When I was in 6th grade, a boy in my neighborhood made up a rumor that I was a lesbian. Since I was so unpopular, everyone was willing to believe anything that someone said about me and soon I was being called all kinds of names and asked how I liked frenching girls. The rumors persisted, no matter what I did.
It got to the point where I couldn’t say that I thought a female celebrity was pretty without someone overhearing and declaring that I thought that because I was gay. Because only gay women can decide whether or not someone is pretty, apparently. It got to the point where I started questioning my sexuality, because, goddamn, everyone in the entire school thought I was gay. Even people who called themselves my friends pondered if I was secretly a lesbian. Maybe I was.
I wasn’t though. Although I can appreciate a beautiful woman as much as the next person, I don’t want to have sex with them. I want to have sex with men and only men. But as damaging and scary as this bullying was, it’s nothing compared to what actual LBGTQIA children face.
Homophobic bullying, whether the person is actually gay or not, is harmful to everyone. It’s still bullying and it’s still reinforcing the idea that any sexuality other than straight can be used as an insult. And sometimes I wonder if it was just that. I was called a lesbian because that’s the worst insult the other kids could think of.
By the time I was halfway through high school, Tatu, the Russian girl-on-girl kissing duo had become popular and there was a sudden push for younger people to accept other sexualities. When gay became cool, I was no longer accused of being gay. Because I wasn’t cool.
Then there were two girls at my tiny high school who actually WERE gay. People who had called me queer without a second thought, openly talked about how they supported the two girl’s right to be in a relationship together. As if what had happened to me just a few years ago had never took place and they now had a clean slate of tolerance and acceptance for all people.
Some people, like this asshole, want to talk about how bullying is a natural part of life and perfectly okay. It’s even needed to prevent kids from turning into “wimps” and “sissies”. But it’s not and it won’t. There are no positives to being bullied, only negatives. This is not a learning experience that people can grow from, it’s something that can traumatize people, stunt their social and emotional growth, and even push some children to suicide.
All bullying needs to be stopped, but special attention needs to be paid to the homophobic bullying that thousands of children suffer every year. It needs to be made very apparent that calling someone gay is not just another way to insult them. That your sexuality is not something you can choose or something that someone should use against you as ammunition. That tearing people down is never a way to build yourself up or make yourself cooler.
You don’t have to like everyone, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you do have to treat others with respect and dignity if you ever want to be recognized as a worthwhile human being. It’s seems funny in today’s society that the average person will realize that racism is wrong and not acceptable, but practice other forms of bigotry as if it has no connection to being prejudice against someone for a factor of their life that they can’t control. Bullying is never okay and society as a whole needs to stand together to stop it from being accepted, dismissed or denied.