Today, millions of Americans are wearing orange in observance of Unity Day, an initiative to show support of bullying prevention and unity for greater kindness, acceptance and inclusion in our society.
Growing up in a conservative, toxically machismo small town on the Mexico-Texas border, persistent bullying is a painful stain on my childhood. I was the tallest, gayest, whitest boy within three counties — and was reminded of that fact daily at Donna High School.
Some days, I heard faggot, in both English and Spanish, more often than I heard my own name. To make matters worse, I actually wasn’t out to myself yet (although I already had questions) and was struggling with that cargo load of baggage.
The apex of bullying happened in my Biology class, just a few weeks before the end of my 10th grade year. I was showing photos from our band trip to Houston and a fellow student secretly stole one of me and passed it around the entire class without my knowledge – where just about every kid in the class, including people I considered to be friends, wrote “fag” in English and Spanish over my face. At the end of class, it was handed to me as I walked out of the room.
I rushed out to my truck immediately and cried for what felt like hours. To this day, it’s still one of my most painful memories.
I don’t share this story to curry sympathy. I’ve done what I need to do to heal and forgive. The reason I share my story often with friends (and anyone else who’ll listen) is to show them that it can happen to any child, even someone as fabulous as me. 😉
Jokes aside, this is the type of bullying that many gay teens have to deal with on a regular basis while coming to terms with their true identities (not to mention all the other baggage of being a teen) and is major contributing factor to higher suicide rates among LGBTQ youth.
Today and every day, especially in our current climate where aggression and conflict seems to be the go-to emotion, let’s choose kindness and grace whenever we can. And if you see something, say something. There is no place in our society for bullies.
Learn more about how you can help on the National Bullying Prevention Center’s website