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Teasing, Being "Picked On," and Bullying

I had a number of second thoughts about posting this. On the one had it's about a very personal experience when I was in high school that was extremely painful and humiliating to me. I didn't want people to think I was looking for sympathy or anything along the lines of, "Oh, poor Matt."

On the other hand, I just read an article in the media (  about the fact that from 2009 to 2010, there was a 23% increase in murders of LGBT and HIV-affected people in the United States, with the second highest yearly total ever recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

It's probably true that most teenagers get teased and picked on in school. I think sometimes "teasing" can be completely innocent. I remember teasing and picking on some of my friends and my complete intention was to just joke around in a friendly way -- sort of like the way kids have of being friendly or even affectionate with each other.

And then there's all the teasing and "picking-on" that's meant to hurt and demean somebody else. That's a different animal altogether.

I sometimes think when people hear the term "bullying," they tend to see it as a word that describes normal teen behavior. I'm trying to remember to use the word Violence instead of "bullying." And that's what I'm talking about here.

Lots of teens like me have experienced homophobic abuse, bullying and violence in school and it's always been important to me that no one feel they are the only one experiencing it. When you feel you're totally alone, it makes what happened to you even more painful.

I was beginning to come out to myself at 15, but started coming out to others at 16. Even though I went to a pretty progressive high school, and most of my friends knew I was gay, there were still a few cretins and assholes there. I got plenty of respect and acceptance from friends, but these few cretins took every opportunity to call me all kinds of names and I was beaten up pretty bad one time.

One time this asshole from the South found out I was gay. He was a self-proclaimed “redneck” who prided himself on being ignorant and “tough.” One day he and 3 goon friends of his cornered me behind the school building and one held me while the others kicked and punched me, while calling me faggot, and other choice words. There were 5 or 6 of their friends watching this and laughing and cheering them on.

It was not only physically horrible, but the humiliation of being watched by others while it was happening was awful. I felt so totally alone.

I got a black eye and bruises on my arms and torso and my parents went to the boy's house and talked to his parents. My parents filed charges against the kid who organized the whole thing. They also went to the school the next day and had a conference with the principal. God only knows what my parents said to the Principal, but I was left along by that kid and his posse after that.

At the time I was totally convinced I was the ONLY gay kid being treated like this. My parents reassured me that I had done nothing wrong by deciding to be out at school and supported me all the way. I also got involved in the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) in my school and it proved to be an incredible support. 
Sometimes it helps me to write about painful experiences. When all my thoughts are jumbled up inside, it's hard to sort things out so I can figure out how to handle the pain.

Here are some resources you can check out if you're being bullied or people have been violent toward you:

The Trevor Project, It Get's Better, Safe Space, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Network
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