So I just left the studio taping my “It Gets Better” spot for itgetsbetter.org. I was asked to add my own voice to the growing movement that has swept the nation by some friends who knew of my own struggles coming to terms with my sexuality. Sitting there sharing my life and giving my words of encouragement that I think will get lost among the thousands of others that have shared theirs, made me reflect on my own experience.
I don’t think that anyone can say that they grew up without ever being bullied. I remember the first time that I was called a “faggot”, I did not know what the word meant, but I knew it was not something nice. I was never truly affected by being teased; after all I grew up with three brothers who made it their past time to torment me. The benefit of growing up in an environment where you were always teased is that I grew up learning how to deal with what people said. Don’t get me wrong, that was not their intentions, it was more like a by-product of their torture. However kids will be kids, and brothers, well they are in a special group all their own, but I digress.
The first time I was called a “faggot” was in elementary school shortly after my family moved to the United States after living in Jamaica for a number of years. The term was used then more so as a way of saying I was different rather than a comment on my sexual orientation. I was in the sixth grade and for the most part, girls were just girls. I remember it centered on a group of boys calling me a faggot because one of them said that my hair was too long and I walked funny. Even so, the pain that is felt from that one word stuck with me for a very long time.
I grew up in Jamaica, where my brothers were known for their athletic abilities and involvement in social issues. Back then the closest thing to a homosexual we knew of was a man with mental issues that wondered around the streets of Harbor View that they called “Batty Man Busta”. As a child you were told to stay away from him and for obvious reasons.
Growing up I was teased for the color of my skin and Asian influences or the lack thereof, was more of the target than my sexual orientation. I mean I played dolly house with the girls across the street. O.K., wait, there was that guy that was a little older than we were that they called Miss Baker, but no one beat him up or forced him to jump off the bridge. Still, the Jamaica I grew up in is nothing like the Jamaica of today where to call someone a “faggot” or a “batty man” is the equivalent of saying “let’s kill him”.
I think that growing up we are faced with the fact that we will be bullied, and how we choose to deal with it says more about how we were raised by our parents. Some would say that they cannot even think of wanting to end their life because they were being teased. It is easy to know that those who say that may have never felt the desperation and desertion that someone feels, when you feel that you are alone in a great big world that says that you should be ashamed of the feelings you have that come so naturally.
I can relate because I was there, twice, and each time I thought that it was the only way out. There was no one to say that “it would get better”, it was just me in the emergency room downing charcoal with a nurse asking me where my family was and was there someone she could call for me. There was no outpouring of support from the internet, and the President did not chime in to say that my life would be better. At the end of it, I walked home from the hospital, slept for two days and got up and went on with my life each time.
So today, we have rallied together to tell those who are struggling through the world having to deal with being bullied about their sexuality and other issues that “it gets better”.
Well it does, but it will not get better tomorrow or next month, but at some point in your life you will look around and say “it got better”. At that moment you will smile at yourself in the mirror and look back on that moment you thought that you would not last another minute and see all the things you would not have experienced if you had chosen death.
So will a video message stop someone who is at that moment thinking that it will not get better? Will it stop them from feeling the shame and ridicule that gay teens often suffer often times from the very people who should be protecting them, their family? I don’t think that it will, but I can only hope that for a few it will, otherwise, why even do it.
Will just the videos be enough? Of course they won’t. We need more realistic intervention, education and awareness for not only the bullied, but the bullies. We need to provide parents with better opportunities for understanding, interacting and accepting their own children. This problem is not new, but since we feel that the time has come to face it, let’s not just look at the big elephant in the room that is trampling over everything and get a gun and shot it. If that is too graphic in nature or too violent, we can always open a door so that it can get out.