Posted on 29 January 2014.
Many thanks to Lois and Allen who have shared their personal bullying stories with us. We’re grateful for your contributions and hope that your sharing makes a difference in the lives of those dealing with bullying right now.
Lois, age 27
“I’ve sat down to write this many times over the past few weeks. I might get a sentence or two into the computer and then I give up. How do I put into words the way that a handful of people 15-20 years ago shaped my life?
I used to believe that the only definition of a bully was someone who beat you up on the playground for your lunch money. When I was in elementary school that was the common understanding: Bullies were boys who physically attacked weaker boys. And with that as my only definition, it took me a long time to put a name to my experience. But bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and their torment is not limited to physical attacks.
My bullies were my friends. And my worst bullies were my best friends. I was not popular in those awkward middle school years, but I had friends.
The phone rings. It’s for me. But it isn’t a friend on the other end of the phone. It’s a local hairdresser asking why I didn’t come to my appointment: my appointment that I didn’t make. The phone rings again and again and again. And finally one of the salons has an early version of caller ID. The woman reads a number back to me and I know immediately who placed the calls to book the dozens of appointments in my name. I have that phone number memorized because she’s one of my friends.
I had friends to sit with at lunchtime, but there were rules. I had to sit a certain distance away and at least once ended up with chocolate milk dumped on my head.
I met my friend at her locker after school one day, but she wasn’t there. Instead I was greeted by more than 20 girls threatening to gang beat me for talking to my friend’s boyfriend. Of course, they couldn’t take action without her present so things dissipated.
But most of my bullying wasn’t overt. It was a gesture, a sound, a word whispered in the hall, or a look passed behind a teacher’s back. It was based on silence rather than name-calling. It was freezing a person out of her own life.
I tried to speak up, but my experience didn’t match the definition of bullying my teachers had been taught and so no one called it bullying. No one was called to account for his or her behaviour. It was on my shoulders to leave my school and start over.
It’s been 15-20 years since this all happened, and I am so grateful for Pink Shirt Day and other movements that have redefined bullying and educated teachers on how to respond to it. My teachers didn’t know how to help me, despite their best intentions. Now there are so many more resources so that my experience doesn’t have to be repeated.
Years go by. Things get better. But the scars remain.”
Allen, age 22
“I spent years of my life as a victim of bullying, from when I was nine years old until I was seventeen. During those years, I was in the closet as a trans man, and it impacted my entire life. The way other people treated me made me live in a paralyzing fear of coming out- they treated me badly enough when I wasn’t even out yet- but galvanized my need to become who I am now, rather than live trapped in a constant cycle of torment.
Here’s the thing about my bullying. It was never the same kids twice. For those eight years, it was always a new person or group of people every school year. It was girls and guys alike, and I’d never know which class or what time of day they’d show up. I was constantly verbally harassed, though, and physically injured under the “safe” cover of gym class (which was miserable enough thanks to my condition).
I can’t say what ended the bullying. Maybe nobody was willing to pick a fight with a high school senior, or all the bullies had grown out of it. Maybe coming out to my personal friends gave me the confidence I needed to not be an easy target. But I’d never want to suffer through that again, and nobody else should.”
To share your personal bullying story, click here.