Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Response To On Bullying

From my friend and excellent blogger Virginia, this thoughtful and moving response:

Excellent post. This entire bullying gay kids situation takes me back to 1973 when I was a freshman in an all girls Catholic high school in San Francisco, Holy Slut High, where rumors spread like fire that I was lesbian.  I endured escalating exclusion, taunts, slurs, and getting shoved from behind when I was standing at my locker.
These supposedly good Catholic girls were starving for someone to hate so they zeroed in on me.  I was also very small, pale and wore glasses. 

I looked like a classic wimp.

I begged my parents to take me out of that school but they told me, “You have to roll with the punches.”  I told my dad that I felt threatened every day, and some kids had started shoving me around.  He suggested, “Let me teach you how to throw a punch.”  I said, “No thanks.” 

Approximately two months into this hell-on-earth daily harassment, the meanest girl in my class, Lori, the daughter of a Tony Soprano-type, was waiting for me with five of her nasty friends.  They were crowding the bottom of the staircase leading to the exit.  Of course, no school officials were anywhere in site.  The Brides of Christ were probably too busy praying for more funding.

When I tried to walk around them, Lori stood in front of me, blocking my path.  She opened a gleaming silver switchblade in front of my face.  37 years later, I can still hear that click.  She uttered a litany of profanity filled homophobic slurs and described in vivid detail why I deserved to die, “What do you have to say about that you fuckin’ dyke?”

I put down my books and opened my arms wide and said, “Go ahead.  Make good on your threat in front of five witnesses.  You have to kill me now because if you leave me with a single breath, I’m going to tell the cops it was you that did it.”

She was instantly speechless.  Her posse looked disturbed.

Addressing her pals, I continued, “And you guys, when the cops question you, you’re all accomplices since you stood there and watched and did nothing to stop her.”

Back to Lori, whose erect knife was looking a little more limp by the second, “And if you make good on killing me, you’ll soon find out, these five aren’t your friends.  They’re all going to blame you to save their own skins.  Also, I fully intend to haunt you to the day you die from my grave.”  To her friends I added, “And I plan to haunt you guys, too.”  Opening my arms in even wider surrender, I insisted, “So, get on with it.”

All of them, including Leader Lori, now looked terrified. 

One of her friends spoke, “Shit!  Let her go Lori!”  Lori mumbled, “You’re fuckin’ crazy.  Get the fuck outta here.”

New word instantly spread throughout my school, undoubtedly from the five witnesses, that I stood up to Lori, and a new rumor spread that I was smart “and probably bisexual” (I wasn’t, but this must have seemed acceptable).  Gloria, a respected Latino girl, who did not participate in bullying me, declared,  “She’s cool no matter what she is.”  The ostracism stopped.  As for Lori, within weeks word spread that she was knocked up.  Tony Soprano took her out of my school.   

Looking back, I know I was lucky to survive that period.  It was the toughest time of my life, and I certainly would not encourage gay kids today to call a bully’s bluff, especially one wielding a switchblade.  Yet, I naively thought that in the 37 years since I wore a lavender target on my back, we live in a much more tolerant world, but it appears the hate-filled narrow minded kids (and grandkids) of the likes of Lori remain intent on being a part of the problem.  There should be a campaign targeting bullies as what they are, a scourge that drags the world down and make it a worse place.  Make them feel like the unwelcome ones.

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