When I first came to college, I thought to myself, “Finally, a new start.”
I didn’t have this optimism in the transition from middle school to high school.
At that time, I did not feel any sort of change in teenage politics. Boys were important in the social circle of high school life, but being as awkward as I was, I didn’t have the heart to go up to the cute guy in my class.
For this, people would say I was a lesbian and would shun me from their social circles. I kept thinking to myself how wrong they were — not only was I as straight as an arrow, shunning someone for their sexuality, or perceived sexuality, is entirely wrong.
Sure, lots of people are accepting, but there are still the high school bullies who call you terrible names if you’re too shy to go up to that certain someone.
In a contribution to the Opinionator section of the New York Times, author Jesse Bering recalls his high school experience in the ’90s: “When nearly every minute of your teenage years is spent scheming and deceiving in a tireless effort to keep others from finding out who you really are, then you become an absent nonentity.”
Bering goes on to discuss his struggles with trying to conceal his sexuality — dating girls and fearing “being friendless … slashed tires and keyed cars … stares, whispers and epithets potent enough to kill me.”
It’s hard to imagine that happened 20 years ago. Since then, schools have improved and establishing anti-bullying rules and forming gay-straight alliance clubs has helped a little.
However, it still has not eliminated this hatred that some members of younger generations have toward this community.
Cyberbullying is a new outlet for those young people to pick on each other with vulgar, offensive comments in an anonymous way. For some people, the solution is easy: Just block them and get on with your day. But for others, the bullies come each and every day, whether online or in person.
News articles recently have focused on stories like those of Rebecca Sedgwick, a Florida 12-year-old who killed herself after bullying from peers or Daisy Coleman, a Missouri teenager who faced incessant bullying from peers after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a popular classmate. They’re just two of the 43 percent of teens nationwide who have reported being cyberbullied, according to the nonprofit organization DoSomething.org.
When bullies are some of the “popular kids,” getting rid of them becomes all the more difficult. I still remember one day on the bus in middle school, a girl wanted to see the music on my iPod. She then called me a “weirdo” for having the song “Brain Stew” by Green Day, from one of their earlier albums. But that was only the first of many brushes with the “popular” kind.
It seemed like a short period of time in middle school, but high school was so much worse.
One rumor spread like wildfire, and soon the whole grade thought I was a lesbian. The fact that anyone felt it was something worth taunting, regardless of the truth, was disheartening.
It wasn’t until my senior year that the rumors finally fell behind me. I could concentrate on my work, and finally start applying for college. I finally feel free of my past and the people who judged me for something that I really wasn’t, but I still feel bad for those who could not find anyone to support them when the world wasn’t on their side.
I consider myself one of the lucky people that found friends eventually and got out of the “popular” radar.
It was hard, but now we are here at a place where we can truly be ourselves.
I hope that we no longer to look at college as the only place in the world where people can be unequivocally accepted, and that even in lower grades and beyond, any person can feel accepted for who they really are.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com.