Kick My Ass, Please!
It may be hard to believe but I was bullied in school.
You’re probably struggling with that confession. After all, who would bully the loud mouthed, four eyed, red headed, chubby teacher’s pet/drama geek? To top it all off, I had a lisp. These days we refer to this speech impediment as a “sibilant S”, which is ironically comical considering those diagnosed with a “sibilant S” cannot properly pronounce “sibilant S”. For these crimes against junior and high school societal expectations, I was bullied.
I was the kid who couldn’t climb the rope, the kid with the dog that ate her gym shorts. The “teacher, teacher, I know the answer” hand flailing in the air with the “I’m so much smarter than the rest of you” smug look on her face kid. The Value Village clad when everyone else was wearing Bootlegger jeans geek who sat at the front of the class and picked the spit balls out of her waist length, mangy, carrot orange hair at the end of the school day. I danced like Elaine from Seinfeld, read Margaret Atwood while the other girls read “The Sweetheart Romance Series” and marched for Nuclear Disarmament on the weekends. I was the kid you beat up by the bike racks at 3:15pm. On the dot. In fact, I had “daily ass kicking” pencilled in my precisely kept “must get done today” schedule insert in my perfectly organized binder.
Growing up in a small, west coast farming community in the 1980’s era of “head bangers” and “punk rockers” wasn’t exactly a joyride for a devout, tea totaler religious girl who dressed like a cast member of “Sister Wives”. We didn’t have Facebook back in those days. We had “slam books”, year books and the bathroom stall wall. We didn’t have Twitter, we had the lunchroom, gym class and sock hops. And I was the kid “most likely to be ridiculed” in every one of those settings.
My sharing of this with you isn’t a desperate cry for pity. In all honesty, when I look back on the kid I was I think of a line from a recent Eagles hit: “If I could find your inner child, I’d kick its little ass.” I would have seriously kicked my own ass. You can take comfort in knowing I had my ass kicked literally and figuratively a lot in those days. And I mean a lot.
A “good” school day was making it to my driveway without being shoved into a locker or physically threatened by a girl with a roach clip feather in her hair and “Bon Jovi 4-Ever” scrawled in permanent ink on her Adidas bag. A “good” day was getting home without a rip in my out of date, high waisted polyester pants as a result of getting into a fight behind the math portable in the soccer field.
A “bad” day isn’t something I want to share. In the end the “bad” days didn’t count for anymore than the “good” days. I survived them all, as did every other geek, misfit, nerd, devoutly religious, fat, “different” kid I went to school with. We got up every morning. We put on our “flood” pants, grabbed our pocket protecters and our perfectly organized binders and we walked to school hoping we could at least make it to the front entry before anyone came at us. We faced the barbs, hid out in audio visual club and the drama room at lunch hour and walked as close to the lockers as we possibly could when we made our way down the hall. We dealt with everyday of those years without being pacified, placated, protected or comforted. Teachers didn’t listen to our complaining in those days. Guidance counsellors would drag us into small, dank offices that reeked of burnt coffee and cigarette smoke (teachers could still smoke in the staff room back then) and tell us to get over it. Or to look at our own behavior. Or to just ignore it.
We survived it without “anti bullying” initiatives.
There were no “anti bullying” policies. And unless blood was drawn or teeth were lost on school property, school administrators turned their heads. Our fathers told us to learn how to fight back. Our mothers told us to “try to play nice with the other children.” Through it all the adults in our lives maintained the same mantra:
“Kids will be kids”.
Since the days of my high school experience we’ve been witness to Columbine in the United States of America and to the nightmare that happened in our own backyard, the Taber school shootings. These events were terrifying. As a parent of young children when both events occurred I can tell you I lost plenty of sleep and peace of mind during those dark days. Like many parents I worried not only about what could happen to my children but also the possibility of one of my own “misfit” boys being one of “those” children. The children who are bullied and eventually crack. The children who don trench coats and semi-automatic weapons on a Monday morning and gun down their classmates.
What I didn’t realize at that time was that my fears, nightmares and loss of sleep were not caused entirely by those isolated events but were fed by a media that refused to move on from those events in an attempt to hang on to the ratings the horror of school shooting stories brought them. In reality, those events were anomalies. Abhorrent, yes. Worthy of our attention, yes. The “norm” – absolutely not. The result of our terror and discomfort was the “anti bullying” initiatives that sprung up in the wake of these media fed anomalies. Rather than examine the true root of the cause, we handed everything over to the school boards, pointed our collective finger in their direction and told them to make us feel “okay” when we dropped our kids off at the front doors every morning. “Fix it!”, we said. And they answered back with pointless initiatives that addressed a somewhat non existent issue.
In more recent years the glare of the media spotlight has been repositioned to shine on “gay teen suicides” and as a result these stories have become the new cause for “anti bullying” initiatives. Just as in the case of the Columbine and Taber school shootings the media has focused on a few, tragic suicides of gay teens and bombarded us with the heart wrenching stories of these bullied, emotionally tortured lives lost before their time. These stories sadden us. They pull at our heart strings. These stories make us stop in front of our TV’s, put down the dirty plates from our table and shake our heads. These stories make us watch the six o’ clock news. But what the media doesn’t tell us while the leftover roast beef congeals on the dining room table is this:
On a per capita basis, gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a 44 year old straight man with a wife and a family.
Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a widower in his late 80‘s.
Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a 24 year old first nations male living on a Canadian reservation.
Gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than a member of the RCMP.
In fact, on a per capita basis in this country, gay teens are less likely to commit suicide than their straight peers.
Don’t believe me? I suggest you read this Statistics Canada link
Surprised? Of course you are. Because the mass market media has convinced you that gay teen suicide is an epidemic in this country. We willingly accept the outcome of these stories, the “anti gay bullying” initiative brought forward by the Edmonton Public School Board because supporting this initiative satisfies us. We placate ourselves in the face of these tragic tales by saying “we are making a difference! We are protecting these kids!”
“We support the gays!”
In truth, by supporting these initiatives, by placating ourselves with the “protect those bullied, weak, gay teens” outcry we are insulting, segregating, objectifying the very same people we profess so proudly to be protecting. We are showing ourselves to be exactly what we say we are not; a society of homophobes. Our protective initiatives do little more than perpetuate the image of the LGBT community as victims. It’s an insult to them. It’s an insult to ourselves. It’s an insult to any young person, gay, straight or “different” that has survived the barbs of high school and come out stronger for it. How dare we consider them so weak, so victimized?
How dare we deny their strength?
In a recent interview, Scott Thompson, openly gay comedian of “The Kids in the Hall” had the following to say when asked of “gay bullying” initiatives:
At first read Mr. Thompson’s comments may seem inflammatory and Perez Hilton had plenty to say about it on his website. But if Scott Thompson’s comments are disturbing to us it is most likely because we are conditioned to see gay men as victims. We are conditioned to see gay men as effeminate, weak, incapable of fighting back, incapable of defending themselves and entirely reliant on the protection of self professed liberals and self interested politicians. We couldn’t be more wrong in these assumptions.
Case in point:
Had I been on the bus when my friend Matthew stood up to protect himself, I would have organized a parade in his honor. A fabulous, well coordinated parade.
My closest circle of friends includes more than a few “gays”. Their sexual orientation means nothing to me until I’m confronted by a media that tells me I must understand them. I must recognize that they are “different” and need me to stand up for them, to fight for them, to ensure none of my straight friends judge them or bully them. I must ensure, without them ever verbalizing the request, that I am willing to go to battle for them against any homophobe that crosses their path. I never think of them as “gay” until such time as the media reminds me that they are gay and I owe them something because of that.
If I were to attempt to stand in front of one of my friends when some ignorant homophobe chose (unwisely) to “get up in their face” about their sexual orientation, my friend would kick my ass out of the way so he or she could kick the ass of the ignorant loser who got up in their face.
Equality means no special exceptions. No initiatives that protect one faction of society from another. Fat, gay, transexual, transvestite, straight, geek, genius, pretty, ugly – EQUAL. When we legislate in order to protect “those gays” we deny them their equality.
Ignorance cannot be legislated. There will always be homophobes. There will always be people who are uneducated, insecure, wounded in their own world who find some faction of society to lash out at. There will always be victims who will cry and request special treatment because they believe they are at the mercy of the ignorant. By legislating how the ignorant can behave, what they can say, we not only cause them to be more angry and defiant, we strip those we have defined as in need of our protection of the right and the motivation to stand up for themselves. We pacify those who choose to be victims, enrage the ignorant and shine a light on the anomaly as opposed to the norm.
In the end we who so proudly announce ourselves as “protectors” are the very people who victimize those we profess to protect.
My comment on Matthew’s status update was as follows:
Matthew didn’t need me or anyone else to stand in his way, but he appreciated our applauding his willingness to stand up for himself.
Do Matthew a favor. Stop creating initiatives based on what you perceive to be his weakness. Because if you don’t stop treating him like he is a victim, he might be forced to kick your ass.
Following my post it was requested by many that I cite my sources for the broad statements I made with regard to those demographics more likely to commit suicide than gay teens. The sources I used are as follows. Many of these sources contain more information than just the simple table provided by Stats Canada.
With regard to the rate of suicide amongst police officers, it is difficult to find precise numbers for RCMP members however many sources site inadequacy in those numbers that are published due to an unwillingness of police forces to be transparent when disclosing suicide amongst law enforcement members to the public. Many of the sources I used for this information clearly state that the suicide rate amongst law enforcement members is actually quite higher than the general public is made privy to due to a unwillingness of police forces to be open about that rate. I’ve done my best to weed through the information available on those rates.
All of that having been said, if you view only one of my “sources” for this post, please make it this video by Cornell’s Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams wherein he describes the fallacy of “gay teen suicide” rates: http://www.cornell.edu/video/?VideoID=988
I also highly recommend this series in Psychology Today by Izzy Kilman who suggests “anti bullying” policies of any type do far more harm than good and suggests alternative courses of action to deal with school “bullying”.
Stats Can Information on Suicides and Suicide Rates
Demographics most at risk for suicide in Canada:
Suicide rates amongst law enforcement source information:
Suicide rates amongst aboriginals source information:
Suicide rates amongst elderly males source information: