By Aimee Genter-Gilmore, PQ Monthly
This morning, my mom (who is my #1 commenter on Facebook, just so ya know) posted this link to my Timeline: I Was a Bullied Gay Teen. Here is an excerpt:
By the end of my junior year of high school, I had managed to transcend most of the teasing and mental torture of others because I had conformed to a more “normal” “suitable” person (in their eyes — not mine). I lost 80 pounds, I dated the cheerleaders, but I was still gay. I had traded their hate toward me for hatred toward myself. I was the leader of the gang that was now responsible for my inner mental torture.
…By senior year I had found my first gay love and felt I had to face the world for who I was. I had no one to talk to about it with (so I thought — I was wrong) but to my face in a mirror, sometimes with tears streaming down my face, sometimes in fits of hysterical laughter, mostly just full of fear of what was going to happen to me.
When I did finally did come out I made quite a splash. Rainbow rings, political T-shirts and political music were all a part of my quest to draw attention to myself and let others know I was into guys. I was establishing a new identity. I realize now that my excessive display was also a desparate plea to get the other kids to start abusing me again so I would stop abusing myself. And it worked. For the rest of my senior year I was kicked, shoved, spit at, pushed, tripped, sucker punched, had my car run off the road twice, berated and publicly (and privately) humiliated by some of my peers and strangers until I finally graduated and moved on to college.
Because he claimed to be from the suburbs of St. Paul, and his fashion sense indicated that he was from the ’90s, my mom asked me if I knew who he was.
Her question offended me at first, because what… all gay suburban kids are supposed to automatically know each other?!? But then I saw his photo, scrolled down to the byline, and my heart jumped into my throat. This guy went to my high school… he was a few years older than me. His family went to my church. His younger brother was a friend of mine from being involved in theater. The blog author played Tony in my high school’s production of West Side Story (which, sidebar, went on to become my favorite musical of all time), and was a guy I had always sort of looked up to.
I was a gay kid in that very same high school, just a few years behind him. And my experiences there couldn’t have been any more different.
I often brag about my high school experience, because I was never bullied (at least not for being gay), I went to the prom with a girl, and aside from a few social stigma problems at church, coming out at 16 didn’t affect me negatively at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure it disrupted the lives of my family much more than it did to me. My little sister told me about being teased, but if I was being teased, I don’t remember it. I was Teflon. Super smooth.
By the time I got to high school, it seemed like I had been transported to this alternate universe; where no one cared about the jocks, the captain of the math team was the most popular guy in school, the cheerleaders were the nerdiest girls in school, and I (a fat, butch, nerdy lesbian) graduated virtually unscathed. It was a magical place where my only out lesbian friend swaggered through the hallways with her shaved head and dozens of piercings and instead of ridicule, she was voted Winter Festival queen. No lie.
So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t know what happened in the three years between my time there and the time when Bryan (the author of the post) attended the same high school. I mean, at that age, it will always be much easier for girls. The deep-seeded homophobia present in guys manifests itself in a much more physical and violent way. Having gotten through the cattiness of junior high, high school girls were a breeze. And hey… by the time I got to high school, it was the ’90s. Combat boots, flannel shirts, and shaved heads were the style. k.d. Lang was on the cover of Rolling Stone posing sensually with Cindy Crawford, Ellen Degeneres came out of the closet, as did a handful of other celebrities. Lesbian chic was in fashion, and LUGs (“lesbians until graduation”) were a common hazard to a budding baby dyke on the dating scene.
It saddens me to see what kind of torture Bryan dealt with at the very same school that I felt lifted me up and praised me for being different. I’m sure people were talking and gossiping, but I never felt like I was in danger for being who I am.
I read this blog and I think about how lucky I was to have been born 3 years later than Bryan, and a girl. I read this blog and it puts a whole new ugly secret behind the Cinderella-like story I have been telling for years. I read this blog and think how thankful I am that Bryan survived high school, because he’s a really great guy, and it really does get better.