**Author’s Note** This is the first time the author has actually come out and publicly talked about the circumstances surrounding his first coming out experience many years ago. Despite having over a decade of positive experiences to bolster his self-esteem the author still finds that the scars left by the incidents described in this blog are as newly healed wounds and asks all readers to be respectful in their comments and discussions on this post. The trauma of teenage bullying does fade with time, but it leaves a very palpable reminder upon the hearts of its victims
“We are graduating members from the class of ‘we made it’ Not the faded echoes of voices crying out ‘names will never hurt me’”
- Shane Koyczan
I remember the day it happened. I was walking down a high school hallway to where my friends and I would spend lunches in the hall behind the caf. I could feel there was something going on. People were whispering, laughing, a few even looked afraid. And it all seemed to be following me down the hallway. Much accustomed to bullying and bullshit by this point (I was a roughish looking 15-year-old tomboy who had never figured out the niceties of “femininity”) I continued on undaunted. Whatever crap they had concocted this time would be the same as all the rest – a few days of annoyance and then it would go away. When I walked into the back hall however, the truth hit me in the accusing stares of my once loyal comrades. I knew instantaneously what had happened
Like it or not my closet door had just been opened.
I still remember that moment like it was yesterday, my friends puzzled and hurt at what they viewed as my betrayal of them, my peers laughing as I calmly walked back through the caf, whispers of “dyke” and “lesbo” following me down the hallway. I was shocked, scared, pissed off, utterly lost and oddly relieved. I was out! Over the next few hours I began to work through what had happened and to assess the damage. Dear god in heaven someone had seen myself and my girlfriend having a romantic walk. There were pictures. What was I going to do now? The afternoon went by in a hailstorm of jeers, laughter, and people practically climbing the walls to get away from me while the teachers looked away and pretended to ignore the whole debacle. As the days passed the storm around me raged on unabated. My family was informed by a concerned teacher who thought they should “do something” to fix whatever was wrong with me. The torment continued, at school and now at home too. My “friends” wouldn’t talk to me, my guardians repeatedly told me it was a sickness, my girlfriend was receiving the same treatment in the halls as I was and wouldn’t look at me or return my calls. I pondered leaving school, denying it and finally began thinking of suicide as a viable option. I wasn’t sleeping and barely eating, life was miserable as hell 24 – 7 so why the fuck not kill myself?
I figured out why not the next day.
Walking down the hall that morning a largish boy from the grade above suddenly threw me against a locker and pushed himself tight against me. Grinning he told me that all I needed was a good fuck by a “real man” and I’d stop trying to be the man in bed.
Something broke inside of me in that moment.
Over the years I have heard stories from other victims of repeated gaybashings that describe similar moments happening to others. Some responded by lashing out, finally defending themselves physically, others describe the sensation as a sudden and complete acquiescence to the will of their tormentors, and some, some of those victims responded with headstones because they felt it too much to bear. For me, I remained quiet – on the outside at least. The idiot who was taunting me eventually just let go, apparently having a dyke lost in thought pinned to the lockers wasn’t quite the reaction he had anticipated.
Little did he know, the reaction hadn’t happened yet.
That night I walked over to my girlfriends house and explained to her rather befuddled parents that I didn’t care if they hated me for who I was or what I did in the privacy of my own bedroom, but they should not berate their child for my having led her astray. Their rather bemused reaction served only to fuel the newborn fire building within me. “Why on earth would we hate you or Nessa? You kids are just fine by me. We all have choices to make and we support both of you in this one” her mother explained patiently while her father covered his grin. “I only wish she’d felt like she could tell us”. Somewhat in shock I stammered my thanks and proceeded up the stairs in a daze, half expecting her father to come after me with a ball bat. Talking with Ness only confused me further, she explained that she had been trying to give me space because she knew I was getting crap at home as well as school and she felt guilty that her parents were so supportive while my family just yelled a lot. Stunned to the core I felt the final pieces click into place.
I knew what I had to do.
The next day I showed up late to school, arriving right at the start of lunch. The stares hit me like a million watt bulb and the shocked whispers hissed in my ears. Ignoring the sudden silence caused by my arrival, I walked calmly to my locker and tossed my bag in. Catching sight of myself in the mirror on the door I grinned and ran my hand through the fresh buzz cut I had just gotten that morning. Taking off my jacket I adjusted my new white t-shirt and straightened my Levis. “Call me a dyke now” I thought, “at least I look the part.” Turning I caught sight of the asshole from the day before and knew what I had planned so carefully the evening before was a now or never moment. Taking a deep breath I headed right for him, making myself look as menacing as I could “You!” I shouted continuing forward quickly “I got something to say to you, you stupid fuck” Not slowing down I barreled right into him, he had obviously been caught completely off guard by my sudden bravado because I managed to knock him down despite his outweighing me by quite a lot. Snarling I dove on him jamming my knee onto his chest and shaking him hard by the collar “Next time you come near me I’ll hand you your dick on a plate you fucking piece of crap!” I yelled. Rising, I kicked him hard in the balls and whirled around. Stunned faces surrounded me, everyone was too shocked even to move. Panting with fear and exertion I growled crankily at the faces “What’s wrong?” I asked “Haven’t you idiots seen a dyke before?” Suddenly realizing their rather precarious position everyone had somewhere to go in a hurry. As they walked away I looked back at my persecutor writhing on the floor and knew that what I had done was right. I was a dyke, and I wasn’t about to hide it any longer.
Sometimes you just have to own it.
As I type this I find myself lost in the irony that at this very moment I am once again closeted in one particular portion of my life. And funnily enough that closet is my workplace, located in the very same city that I went to high-school in (and was finally outed in) those many years ago. A lot has changed since those early years, I have grown older, wiser (I hope), more patient and more aware. I have grown stronger in myself and my sexuality, so strong in fact that the closet I now inhabit feels more like a friend than the prison it once did. Yes, hiding in plain sight can be difficult some days, but it is a fact that, if I did not want to hide, I could very well come out. I am strong enough to weather that storm, but I choose to avoid it and focus my energies on things that truly matter.
Like writing this blog for all the “us’s” out there.
And having said that, I speak now to all those who are trapped in closets that feel like prisons. I speak now to all those who are out of the closet by their own will or someone else’s ignorance and are finding the world to be a rather inhospitable place. I speak now to those who struggle just to survive each day in the face of what feels like insurmountable odds levied against them by nothing more than what body parts attract them. I’m here to tell you that, while it does not get magically better, if you work at it, it can and will get there. It takes time, things may even get worse for a while to be totally honest, but in the end, the effort you put out IS worth it! One day you who are struggling so valiantly now will also look back and see that it all had a purpose, that it all meant something. If only you give yourself the chance.
I promise you too will see that surviving was the right thing to do.
So please my friends, hold on. Do not take your life as so many have done, do what you have to in order to survive. Know that I and all those who have walked this road before you are here with open arms. We are just an email away, and we know well what horrors you are facing. We also know that, like us you have the strength to survive, to flourish.
Like us, you too can become a member of the graduating class of “we made it”