11 October 2010

Happy National Coming Out Day! (or don't let the motherfuckers get you down)

I'm an introvert. It's not my nature to proclaim any aspect of myself loudly, but almost a year and a half ago, I finally grokked why visibility matters. Soon after, I officially told my family that I'm bisexual. (It's been fine.)

Aside from privacy issues, there's definitely part of me that prefers to keep a low profile so that I won't be noticed. If you don't notice me, you won't tease, harass, or attack me. It's an introvert's strategy, and not a half-bad one, except that it encourages one to withdraw more instead of finding allies. I think it also made me more susceptible to coercion when I was in elementary and middle school, doing things I did not want to so that I would be liked.

If anyone tells you, "I won't be your friend anymore unless you…" and the action they suggest is demeaning, or really not what you want to do, walk away. (One possible exception comes to mind: if someone were to challenge your ideology, it's good to be open to other points of view; however, people who demand your compliance through ultimatums are not your friends.) They won't really like you better if you do what they propose, they'll be entertained or satisfied in some way and you'll feel worse about yourself for having given in. That was my experience anyway, more than once.

Were those experiences of bullying? I didn't perceive it that way at the time because there was an element of choice: do this or be friendless, do this or be alone, do this or be shunned. In the moment, the pressure I felt always made the situation polar black or white. There were other options: leave and tell someone you're being harassed, leave and find better friends, leave and read. I was shy and didn't have a lot of friends to begin with though, so the prospect of losing one was a powerful trigger.

In 9th grade, I watched as a good friend of mine was called gay as if it was the worst thing in the world you could be called. Twenty some years ago in my tiny school, it was. I did nothing to help her as the homophobic slurs worsened. I don't even think she was gay; I didn't know I was. I was just glad they weren't calling me names.

She stood out: she may have seemed arrogant, but she really was the smartest person in our class, and the fastest cross country skier in the state. I think they harassed her because she wasn't modest and meek. Oh, what the hell do I know? My reasoning is clearly all about my approach to avoiding their cruelty. They were just assholes.

She transferred to a private boarding school the next year which was much better for her independent self. I missed my friend though.

We need to stand up for each other, even when it's hard and scary and puts us at risk of being the next target.

I know who I am now, at least well enough to know that homophobic slurs are contemptible attempts to devalue others. However, I know that doesn't help when you're young and unsure of yourself and getting bullied. So…
Don't give those motherfuckers the satisfaction of taking you down. You are not alone and there is help to be had. There's nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, or questioning. Live and be your awesome self.

Be around to see things change for the better.
If you need help, contact The Trevor Project, "a nonprofit endeavor established to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group."

"The Trevor Project is the national provider of life saving resources to LGBTQ youth and their families. We advocate acceptance and help prevent teen suicide by promoting mental health and positive self-esteem through a premiere on line destination, nationwide 24/7 call centers, and empowering social activities."

You can help end bullying by donating $5 to @TrevorProject. Text "KIND" to 85944. Then respond "yes". Pass it on!

Happy National Coming Out Day, everybody! Be proud of who you are.

A year ago on TTaT: Out and Proud, kiddos

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  1. Oh, I love it. Not letting the motherfuckers get you down, that is. I also love your series of coming out posts. Because my coming out was similarly drawn out and vague. A bit of feeling like, "wait; did they hear what I just said?" No matter how open-minded your family is, it's still scary. Because you just never know how people will react. You never know.

  2. Thanks very much, Kylie. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a "drawn out and vague" coming out story. :) I really was stunned when they didn't get it/acknowledge it the 1st time. Especially when everyone else on the editing hall that day was nervous for me. I hadn't told them and they got it. sigh.

    Just proves your point: you never know how people will react.

  3. Sometimes I wonder if the rash of overt bullying is a sign that old-fashioned bullying--the kind where we were all taught to hate ourselves so no one else had to do it for us--is waning. I hope so. And I hope we can get through this growing pain and onto the part where everyone is actually accepting.

  4. I hope so too. Seems a reasonable theory. With more media exposure, people actually being lgbtq is more in people's awareness, both helping lgbtq youth figure themselves out earlier while emboldening their detractors. More acceptance sooner would be better.