Disclaimer: This is a bit of a random stream of consciousness, and I’ve gone back through it a few times in hopes I’ve tied my thoughts together appropriately, but there is always a chance I haven’t and something has been said that was inappropriate. Do not be afraid to tell me if that is the case, so that I may remove or change it.
Trigger warning for rape apologism, et al.

I know that some people find it difficult to understand how bullying as young as 5 or 6 years old can have consequences, and find my fears either unfounded or uncomfortable. That’s fair: most (white, middle class, cis) people haven’t ever experienced bullying that way, and probably won’t ever. Their kids probably won’t ever. The worst you may have experienced is “Gimmie your lunch money, you prick” and honestly that’s probably not going to be that big a deal. What’s going on with Xan may turn out to be easily forgotten in his growth and development as he moves on to bigger and better places. What’s going on with him is far, far less than what kids of colour receive on a daily basis pretty much their entire lives. And I get that. But that doesn’t mean my child’s pain isn’t unimportant to me, or that it’s meaningless drivel. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it isn’t important. Bullying doesn’t just hurt, it kills.
Here’s a 14 year old girl who killed herself following intense bullying.
This 15 year old threw herself in front of a city bus after contemplating suicide for years following bullying.
This 13 year old hung herself.
This 15 year old hung herself after bullying that included repeated sexual assault.
And a 12 year old boy hung himself after being bullied in two separate schools.
Here’s a bullied 11 year old girl who committed suicide.
Here’s a 7 year old who committed suicide after repeated bullying wasn’t stopped.
I was also 7 the first time I tried to commit suicide. Mine was not due to bullying, though I was being bullied at school, mine was due to severe depression and other mental health issues. This led to my being institutionalized the first time at nine.
Here’s one of a grown up – a mother – who was a struggling alcoholic and made a horrible mistake. She went to bed drunk on the couch, cuddling her baby, and accidentally rolled on him. He died. She was very publicly bullied by a news anchor and later set herself on fire to escape.

When we pass off bullying as “kids will be kids” we create a culture where it becomes not only okay to torment another human being… but normal. These kids who killed themselves viewed their treatment as normal. So normal that they saw no end to it in their future, and believed the only way to escape was to take their own lives.
These bullies fearlessly tormented their peers to death because they viewed what they did as normal; it’s expected of them. Those kids were different, or they “deserved” it, or their parents told them these kids were pussies and wimps and [slur directed at PoCs or trans* folk] and therefore they need to be bullied. They should be bullied. They were expected to be bullied, and that’s all there is to it. And so they were, and then they died.
These aren’t even isolated cases: there are hundreds more. This has become such an epidemic that laws are being changed or created around us to help protect more children from the same fate.

These kids were being bullied about everything from their family members, their income, their weight, their clothing, the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation. Some of these things may be changed on the outside – like clothing – and some cannot. The reality is that a child who is being bullied isn’t going to be able to stop it by changing out of one pair of pants and putting on another. Anyone who was seriously bullied will tell you that it doesn’t work that way. More importantly, telling your child that in order to be happy or accepted by society (and in turn by you, as their parent) they must change who they are to become more like the bullies who torment them sends a very clear message about how much they mean to you.
Quite simply, in Xan’s case, I would be saying: you deserve to be hurt, humiliated or tortured because you have a favourite colour that those kids don’t.

Self expression is a vital part of psychological development. Is how we learn to identify ourselves and set ourselves apart from peers and family. It is how we learn about who we are, and who we want to be. Our self expression is fluid as children (and sometimes even as adults), and changes often; sometimes in big, huge ways as we grow and learn to understand our identities better. Without the freedom to let those changes happen, children suffer. And this isn’t just me talking out my ass, this is a well documented reality of child development. By giving my son the freedom to be who he is and show him that being tormented is wrong, I help teach him that that tormenting other people for being different from him is also wrong.
I can give him the tools to deal with bullies, rather than turning my back on him. I can choose to either choose to actively parent him by guiding him through this, or leave him to either grow cold, homophobic or even dead. I can choose to actively fight bullying, or tell him that it’s okay to treat other people that way and grow up to become an adult who continues to treat people that way. Like his spouse, or his children, or strangers.

Deciding what is acceptable to bully over and what isn’t is a slippery slope, and children are always listening and learning by your example. They aren’t born hateful, homophobic assholes. They are taught to become them through neglectful parenting (a lack of conversation on the topic, allowing loud/hateful peers to dictate what’s appropriate and not), or hateful parenting (actively promoting these views in your home or around your children).
So, someone who owns a penis wears a pink colour, and that’s an acceptable reason to bully them. Okay, we’ve got that. What if a girl wears a blue colour? Well, that one’s fine. Most people agree she probably doesn’t deserve to be bullied.
But I’ve already sent a few messages in this simple idea:
– Girls may “dress up”, but boys may not “dress down”.
– It is weird, strange or scary to see a boy “dressing down” because being feminine is lesser, weaker and wrong.
– Boys who have qualities that I, or my friends, view as “female” (lesser) are in turn lesser as people. They are not real men, they do not count, and they deserve to have those traits very literally beaten out of them.
– It is okay to beat those traits out of other people too.
– It is okay to be uncomfortable, hateful or resentful of men (or penis-owners) who openly embrace those things.
– People who are different from my parents’ worldview are not okay and do not belong.

Where does it stop? Does the east Asian boy with a name that “sounds funny” deserve to be teased because you do not understand his culture and the importance of his title? Does the girl wearing a hijab deserve public humiliation and sexual harassment because you wrongly believe she is oppressed or dangerous? Does the gay man in your high school deserve death threats because he has the indecency to be out and proud instead of hiding what makes you uncomfortable? What culture is the right one? What’s the right world?
These things may seem small to you, but these small attitudes snowball as they grow, and actively contribute to a larger culture that makes racism, sexism, homophobia, trans*phobia, Islamophobia and other painful types of discrimination not only okay… but encouraged. This culture loses jobs, homes and families. It injures and it kills. It contributes to a rape culture that teaches victims that they are responsible for the monsters who commit acts of rape against them, rather than making the rapists responsible for their own actions. It’s this culture that tells us the bodies of PoC do not belong to them, or that trans*folk are fundamentally wrong for merely daring to exist at all. It starts small, and these horrible realities grow in the tiny nooks of hate and intolerance that we overlook every day because they don’t seem like that big a deal to us, or we view them as normal.

She should have expected to get raped when she wore that short skirt.
With a last name like “Chin” he has to expect he’ll get ‘ch**g-ch**ged’ by the kids at school, they can’t help it.
If he didn’t want to lose his job, he should have just kept dressing like a man instead of being a freak.
She deserved to get hit when she disobeyed me.
Cyberbullying and doxing doesn’t really hurt anyone, you have to expect it when you put yourself out there.

Don’t worry, I’m not comparing: these are merely examples of different types of intolerance, bigotry, prejudice and bullying that go unchecked (and often encouraged) every single day by various forms of privilege.

I’d rather take an active role in my son’s life and help him learn that it isn’t right to discriminate based on shit that is not hurting anyone, and may be not only important to someone’s identity, but vital to their survival. I want to teach my son to not be blind to differences and pretend that people of different races, cultures and creeds from him are unimportant enough to be ignored and homogenized. I want to teach I’m to respect, listen and learn – and I want him to know that his differences deserve respect as well.
His freedom to simply have a favourite colour may be small and unimportant by comparison to the issues above, but he’s a five year old cis white kid, and this is one of the first and easiest steps to take in the long and careful process of teaching tolerance. This is a minuscule example of a larger, more serious picture of understanding and respecting differences… and it is a good teaching opportunity. This is something personal and meaningful to him, and it is a way to help him begin to understand a complicated idea. I could take the lazy way out and do nothing, or I could take the more difficult path and do my part to help him become a caring human being.

The bottom line in his situation is that having a favourite colour doesn’t mean anything except that he has a favourite colour.
I have no intention of teaching him he’s fundamentally fucked in this world for no other reason than that. Those who don’t understand or sympathize with that are welcome to think that way, but I’m just as welcome to press charges against their homophobic children when they pick up a 2×4 one day and go after someone with it because they thought that person was a “pussy”, too.

I don’t know who Xan will be when he grows up; right now all I know is that he identifies as a boy, loves being one, and he has an incredible amount of personality that he’s just bursting to share. It’s my job as his parent to not only give him the tools to deal with life, but to also show him that I love him and support him regardless of his personal choices, his self-expression, or something as relatively meaningless as whether or not he wore a pink shirt on Monday, and a blue shirt on Tuesday. And I don’t think its too far out of line to say I wish more people felt the same about raising their kids.
Being homophobic, racist, hateful or “un-PC” isn’t new. It isn’t interesting or shocking… it’s lazy. It’s being a tolerant and aware human being that takes effort.




  • Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to give you a big cyber hug & send good vibes to Xan. I personally think it’s awesome you’re allowing him to express himself in whatever method he desires.

    Bullying is such an insidious cancer in our society & operates on so many levels. It’s truly horrible. My 5 year old is extremely social (almost to the point of inappropriateness) & is currently being assessed as he has problems dealing appropriately with emotional stimuli (among other things). He recently got glasses for longsightedness. I wear glasses…so to him, glasses are nothing unusual & he liked his new glasses. But two little ***s at kindergarten just went on & on at him, telling him he looked like Harry Potter & made fun of him. It just broke his little heart because not only was he desperate to be friends with these kids (the social aspect coming out, even though he kind of knew it was best to not play with them if they were teasing him, he just couldn’t help himself) & he couldn’t handle the emotional side of it, so went into total meltdown all the time & acted out in other, inappropriate ways. And then, of course, got blamed for his behaviour while the kids teasing him got away with it. Now, I know it’s not in the same league as many bullying stories we hear…but what does it say about society that 4 & 5 year olds can be so merciless about a difference like wearing glasses…that isn’t particularly unusual (heck, there are 2 other kids in his class with glasses & he doesn’t even wear them all the time)…& be allowed to get away with it? I pity those kids in the future…

    As an aside, in many Western countries, pink used to be a boy’s colour & up till 1900 or just after, it was the norm for both boys & girls to have long hair & wear dresses. Xan might find it interesting seeing some old photos with Victorian boys in them.

    -Amy in Australia

  • Anonymous says:

    Would you mind if I posted this on my facebook? While I haven’t been bullied (just obnoxious picking) I hate seeing or hearing about how much it happens, and I would really love for more people to be able to see this. I agree with you 100% and it makes me so happy knowing Xan has parents like you and Curtis. My gay friend had a rough time coming out because he was raised in a religion that basically told him he was a monster, and being himself was immoral. and his parents didn’t really provide much support because they thought the same thing. It hurts me to think about this amazing person, (who I think is probably the sweetest person I’ve ever met) being told by his so called ‘friends'(and some family) that what he is is an abomination and immoral, and he should stop.

  • genbean says:

    Great post!
    I’m near tears as I write this.
    As the mother of an 11 year old male who is brilliant, fascinated by anything mechanical, want to be an engineer and specialize in green energy, whose favorite color is purple, favorite animals, cats, and a HUGE my little pony fan (the Friendship is Magic series) please please please keep fighting! It makes me furious, and even my younger kids will ask, “why do people act like that?, it’s just a color?”
    there’s more to say, but it’s so emotional for me, I have a hard time.
    Thank you for writing this.

    • chem_nerd says:

      Tell your son that a HUGE portion of MLP:FiM fans are 18-35 year old soldiers and marines;-P Anyone can like a show with good plot, gorgeous animation, and healthy interpersonal (interequine?) relationships.

  • This is a great post. Thank you.

    I was bullied from grades 3-8 and severely bulled through grade 7, when I vomited every day before school and cried for hours when I got home each day. It altered my life path, created an anxiety disorder that has never gone away, and effects me to this day. It’s a big, big deal.

    My brother had it even worse, and he hasn’t yet recovered.

  • bicrim says:

    I was bullied horribly in middle school, and sexually harassed at high school. I also had a teacher repeatedly try to molest me in middle school. My mother was less than useless at protecting me, and the school either never noticed or didn’t care. I was bulimic by the end of middle school, and I still struggle with that daily today, more than 20 years later. People who haven’t been bullied just don’t understand what it’s like to be unsafe at school like that.

    My older son has a facial difference and partial Deafness, and he goes to an alternative private school that doesn’t have an anti-bullying policy, it has a peace policy. They go beyond 0-tolerance to actually actively teach kids to resolve their problems with help from staff and older students. It is so cool, and he feels safe there. It is worth the 2 hours drive every day and the money for that safety.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that you are doing it right, and I’m so glad that so many of our generation that were bullied are not repressing it, but are brave enough to remember our abuse and not let it repeat in our kids.

  • Anonymous says:

    Long time lurker, never comment…
    “Being homophobic, racist, hateful or “un-PC” isn’t new. It isn’t interesting or shocking… it’s lazy. It’s being a tolerant and aware human being that takes effort.”
    THAT is a huge statement. Great post!

  • Anonymous says:

    I work with a queer organization in your city (although I’m not in the city right now). If you’re interested, I’m sure we would be MORE than happy to write a letter to the school about our disapproval of how this was handled and the importance of fostering safe environments for all children. Of course, only if you’d find it helpful, and agree to share your and Xan’s story.
    Let me know!

  • The article about that seven-yr-old has me feeling shaky, and Nancy Fucking Grace makes me want to stab her in the eyes with a fork. What a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE person. She made fun of a guy with a stutter once and I didn’t like her before that, but I really hated her after. And I reserve my hate for very few people because I think it’s a real character flaw to have hate towards any person at all.

    I’ve been so angry lately. Fucking GEORGE TAKEI, the People’s anti-bullying CHAMPION, made fun of fat people recently, then friggin’ Daniel Tosh wishes a gang rape on a woman in a closed theatre full of people laughing at her, and then Patton Oswalt who I LOVED sticks up for Tosh and everyone licks his balls over it like “go you for speaking your mind!”… everyone is disgusting lately. I can’t even handle it.

    • admin says:

      I heard briefly about the Takei thing, but never saw it… can you tell me what happened? That’s really upsetting. 🙁

      I did read about the Tosh thing, though it seems like he does that regularly and NEVER gets called on it. :-/

      • Best explanation I can give is here. Short version: one of his recent funny photo posts on FB was a fat-phobic reference to the “irony” of the US having an obesity epidemic and a skinny jeans fad, with him adding “And not everyone should wear skinny jeans, I might add.” He was called out pretty vocally in the comments but didn’t address it, and eventually he just took down the picture and never said a word about it.

        REALLY disappointing, because he does SO MUCH advocacy against bullying, especially for queer youth, and here he is making fun of fat people and providing a forum for some really hateful things to be said. And he does see what people post, because in another post made in the past few days some homophobic stuff came up and he shut it down right away.

        I was really hoping if he saw that people were upset and that he was, effectively, being a bully and enabling bullying, he would have felt badly and said something to that effect– after all, we all make mistakes. But he didn’t, just paved over it with some lolcats and moved on. Bummer.

        Tosh was infuriating. He does say and do offensive and stupid shit all the time, but this was so, so different. This was tantamount to a threat. He put a woman in a situation in which a small, enclosed room full of people were all endorsing the idea of her being raped by five guys right then and there. She hightailed it out of there in fear. Just… what.

        • admin says:

          That really sucks. I really, really hope he publicly address this and apologizes… I find a lot of what he does very admirable, and I’d like to think that he’s at the very least trying to formulate a proper reply rather than just hoping it’ll go away. 🙁 Disappointing.

          re: Tosh – by NO MEANS did I mean to say that just because he does it often, it means it should be dismissed. Rather, I’m disappointed and infuriated that he DOES do this kind of shit often and no one seems to have a problem with it. >:-/

  • Anonymous says:

    I applaud what you have done for your son & all you are saying about bullying. In the last entry you made a distinction with your husband between getting teased for being overweight vs. being teased for sexual orientation. I got the impression you were saying being bullied for weight was not as big a deal as opposed to “who you are.”

    I think everything you’ve said here is right except for that…you are definitely coming from a place of thin privilege and don’t understand what it’s like to be tortured for your fat body (I was physically assaulted by my peers on a regular basis – my fat was grabbed, slapped, punched, etc). My fat IS part of who I am and NOT something I want to/should have to/CAN change. I am also a POC and a lesbian, but the torture for those things came later. Not to undermine those at all – because it was brutal! But I’m just asking you not to undermine the abuse fat people take, and to realize that saying you can “change” fat or to imply that the torture is less is very thin-privilige based and kind of fatphobic (I heard plenty from my abusers that I wouldnt’ have been tortured if I was just normal, or lost weight).

    • admin says:

      That’s totally not what I intended to say, but I understand how it came across that way. What I was saying to my husband is not that weight can be easily changed, or that teasing for it didn’t count, but that it’s a different animal entirely than being teased for your race or your gender identity (being gay, et al). His attitude about his own fat shaming cannot apply to being teased for your sexuality or gender because it’s not something he can relate with.
      Also, I was overweight for a period in high school and was teased for that as well. I don’t understand what it’s like to experience it life long, by any means, but I do not underestimate it. I developed an eating disorder as a direct result of it, that I still struggle with today.

      • Anonymous says:

        “it’s a different animal entirely than being teased for your race or your gender identity (being gay, et al).”

        No. No, its not.

        • admin says:

          Each privilege, oppression and -ism is a different experience. We do not compare them to rank which is worse, but someone who is PoC, someone who is gay, someone who is fat, are experiencing different types of oppression. Being teased over being fat is hugely different than being called a racial slur, for instance.

          • Anonymous says:

            I just don’t think I can agree with you on this one. Bullying is bullying. It might be over different things, but in the end, its all bullying. Yes. Being gay, a POC, someone who is fat: those are different experiences, sure. But don’t confuse those things being different experiences with the bullying somehow being different between those three. Because its just not, IME.

            I was bullied for being fat. I was bullied because, as a female, I had a lower voice than my other female peers. I was bullied for being more like a boy than a girl. I was bullied for liking girls. I was bullied for so. much. shit. And you know what? At the end of the day, it all felt horrible. It all felt like soul-rending bullshit that I STILL can’t seem to escape, 20+ years after it happened. There was no difference in the effect it had on me, between the different types of bullying being done by different other kids – it all fucking hurt.

            So, in my experience, and I think the experience of others, no. Just because Curtis was bullied only about his weight (I refuse to use the word “teased” – how petty and dismissive it sounds of what happens) but not about his masculinity or the lack thereof, or his sexuality, doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t understand the gravity of what was going on with Xan. At all. And to continue saying “teased” in reference to being bullied about weight is just insulting to the experience that people experience every single day of being bullied and harassed for their weight. Because that is what it is: bullying and harassment.

            I respect you a lot, but on this one, I’m unable to see the logic of what you’re saying. Maybe my viewpoint is too colored by my own experiences, but the things you’re saying, and how its coming across as so flippant about Curtis’ experiences, just really bothers the crap out of me. And of course, opinions/assholes, and so on.

            • admin says:

              Firstly, you’re very right about the word teasing. While I was using the words interchangeably, it does sound dismissive when I read it over, so I’ll watch that in the future. I’m sorry.

              I think we’re debating two different points. I’m not saying bullying isn’t bullying isnt’ bullying. I’m saying that the experiences of being bullied for being fat, or gay, are different than being bullied for being black (for instance). I will never, ever claim that I can comprehend what it feels like to be bullied for being trans*, and I feel it’s really wrong to compare them. When I say “different”, you’re hearing “intensity”, and that’s not what I’m saying. I really am saying different. Apples to oranges. Comparing oppression in scale is a huge, huge no-no in anti-racism circles and if I’ve learned anything from them, it’s the absolute importance of not pretending like you understand what it’s like to be tormented or bullied for something that you have privilege in, or cannot *ever* experience.

              My commentary was directly caused *by* Curtis’ dismissive attitude, not because I believe he inherently doesn’t “get” bullying due to his experiences being overweight. He legitimately was being dismissive, he legitimately was not understanding the gravity, so I told him he couldn’t possibly understand that it may not just “go away” the way his bullying did. While he spent a significant portion of his life bullied rather mercilessly for being morbidly obese, he lost all the weight when he moved in with me and developed this sort of weird attitude about it that has taken a REALLY LONG TIME to undo. He has specifically asked me to call him on it. He was also not bullied in a way that caused life-long consequences and PTSD, like you or me, his bullying actually was quite transient in his experience/perception… and that’s coloured his idea of the effects of bullying. And that’s what I was trying to counteract.

              It was a poor choice of words to publish, however, because very few readers would know that. Which is why I’ve gone back and left a clarifying note (rather than deleting it and forgetting about it, as I think that would be the wrong thing to do after people have called me on it). With that in mind, I’m really sorry that it hurt you and that it sounded extremely dismissive of the impact of fatphobia. I’ll be more careful what I write next time.

              • whitsun says:

                THIS is why I respect you so damn much and look for new entries all the time. I don’t see many people who can address a criticism, explain themselves, and apologize without sounding like “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt”. You’re a class act, and I try to learn from you. (btw the other blogger I’ve been learning a lot from is Ragen Chastain, in case you want to check her out).

                • admin says:

                  I’d like to think I’m better at dealing with criticism/call outs now than I was before, so thanks for the validation. 🙂 Years and years of extremely poor self-confidence led to lots of mis-speaking, and then freaking out over the idea that I’ve hurt someone, and going way WAY crazy overboard to defend myself (thereby making it all about me, and my feelings) without actually, calmly, being able to apologize and understand that even unintentional hurts are still hurts. I’m still working on not getting paranoid. I have this knee jerk reaction to hurt/anger in people that makes me want to lay down and placate for hours, and it’s… not helpful. O_o

                  I will definitely check her blog out! Thanks!

              • Anonymous says:

                Oh, ok. I think I missed a critical part of that situation, specifically w/Curtis. Thank you for clarifying and explaining!

                Yeah, no, I agree with you: the bullying isn’t likely to go away. Hell, I’m still bullied through snide and underhanded comments, but I’m finally learning that my self-worth isn’t tied to the views and commentary of assholes. Finally, as a 27 year old woman who is fat. But back then, I actually dropped out of middle school because of it all, because I knew that I wouldn’t survive otherwise.

                • admin says:

                  No problem, thanks for calling me on it so I had the chance to clarify. I would never wish to tell someone that their experience being overweight and bullied didn’t count somehow, especially since it continues throughout life. 🙁

                  I dropped out due to my bullying as well, same thing: I knew I wouldn’t survive. My mom knew it too (thankfully). I’m grateful that she was understanding and didn’t push me to continue attending. My experiences colour how I view Xan’s experiences… so even though his may be small by comparison, I can’t help but fear that they’ll grow as huge as mine were and have the same effects. It’s hard to separate that. Curtis seems to have an amazing amount of self-confidence now, as an adult, and pretty much nothing really gets to him. I really envy that.

  • Anonymous says:

    You are absolutely right, it should start at home. Sadly, people can’t see their own kids becoming monsters. “It’s to be expected.” – not because kids deserve it, but because more adults don’t try to make a change.

    My best friend (now in her 30s) has an extremely rare genetic disorder, for which the most obvious features are low weight/high metabolism & malformed long bones. Her appearance can be startling, she’s about 5’3″ tall and weighs about 80lbs regardless of eating habits or exercise. Recently at a family gathering, her bro-in-law said she shouldn’t be there because it made people uncomfortable to look at her. Her 10yro nephew proceeded to fire a slew of hateful, bullying comments about her appearance at her right there in front of his dad. The dad actually laughed when the boy said, “People barf in their mouth when they see you!” My friend, understandably, left. 10 min later her mother called to beg her to come back. “Why are you leaving? He’s just being a kid. Kids will be kids.” My friend was like “F*** that! They’re both bullies and it’s bad enough to bully another kid but an adult!? Forget it!” Not to mention this man shamed my friend for having had medically required breast implants (small ones!) because she was obviously a whore and a stripper – and in front of his wife (her sister) and their kids. This man barks loudly at any person wearing a collar, ie “goth”, among other bullying – in front of his kids. And the real kicker? HE’S A YOUTH MINISTER. So not only have I personally had horrible bullying from which I’m still recovering, I’ve had to watch my friend for 23 years be emotionally tortured from childhood. For her physical existence, in a body which gives her enough trouble already.

    Parents like you give me hope. You should never feel wrong for protecting your kids from any level of bullying, or for expecting parents to teach kids to be decent people. Even if Xan grows into a person who doesn’t love pink or dresses, or presents no other target for bullies, he will have at his core an understanding of being a decent human being. I hope it works out for you guys!

  • I hate, hate, hate when people in authority put the blame on the victims and not on the bullies themselves.

    My middle school had a “no tolerance” policy but apparently that only applied when they saw fit. I used to be teased mercilessly for a number of things. One time, the hairdresser screwed up my hair cut and cut it too short and the kids all called me by my last name (which is a popular male name) because I “looked like a boy so you get a boy name”. For the majority of my three years at that school, they teased the shit out of me for liking the band Hanson. One casual dress down day, I wore shorts and a Hanson tshirt and ALL day long, people whispered about me wearing the shirt and would go so far as to come into my classroom to look at me, point at my shirt, laugh, and walk away.

    Whenever I complained about being teased and how much it hurt, the principal told me that it was my own fault and that if I didn’t want to be bullied, I should stop listening to their music and wanting to be a public fan of theirs. Oh, okay, so I should change what I’m doing and what makes ME happy because the other kids are assholes? Great. This was also a “Christian” school, by the way, and the used to tease me for not “having my soul saved and accepting Jesus into my heart” even though at the time, I was Catholic and had been baptized. That didn’t count, though, because I was a baby and didn’t make the decision myself. I finally “accepted” Jesus into my heart just to get them to stop bullying me about it.

    When we had our ten year middle school reunion in 2009, we were sitting at the dinner table and one of the kids goes “OMG do you remember when we used to tease Caitie about Hanson? How funny was that? Do you remember that, Caitie?” and I remember looking at all of them and I just simply said “Oh, I remember. I remember getting teased about Hanson and about not accepting Jesus and about a slew of other things. That teasing was actually some pretty hardcore bullying and I started cutting myself to escape the pain of it. I used to cry about how terrible school was every night over dinner” and everyone was just dead silent and stared at me, like they couldn’t decide if I was joking or not. Once of the kids was finally like “Oh, you always were dramatic!”

    • Oh, okay. So be teased mercilessly day in and day out, having the girls be friends with me one day and then turning on me with no warning the next day and pretending like I didn’t exist or that there was something wrong with me, and being made to generally feel like the piece of shit on someone’s shoe was just me being dramatic. My parents even came in several times to discuss this issue with the principal because me going to her and talking about it wasn’t solving anything. They basically got the “Well, these girls are 12 and 13 years old. There’s a lot of hormones going around. None of them really mean it, don’t take it personally” speech.

      I was even bullied by the teachers because I was an enthusiastic student and often raised my hand to give the answers. They started telling me to stop raising my hand, they weren’t going to call on me anymore because I was taking attention away from the other students. I asked one teacher “How is raising my hand along with everyone else taking attention away? I’m not expecting you to call on me every time, but you asked a question and asked us to raise our hands if we knew the answer. I know the answer, I’m raising my hand. I don’t expect you to call on my every time and I’m also not complaining or causing a scene when you don’t. How is this taking attention away?” and after a long minute, she finally said to me “Listen, God doesn’t like show offs and neither do I. You’re not that smart and I doubt you always know the answer. You’re just doing it for attention.”

      High school was marginally better, but middle school was terrible. I’m so glad that Xan has the opportunity to go to a school that’s going to accept him and embrace him and even help foster his uniqueness. I wish we’d had that option. I don’t blame my parents for not being able to take me out of that school, I know they did everything they could, our options were just severely limited because our town’s public school system was terrible and my parents were honestly worried about the bullying being even worse there, where there was more kids and more of an opportunity for it to happen.

      (sorry for the two parter! I broke LJ’s comment box length restrictions haha)

        • It was strangely cathartic to let all that out, so thank you for giving me that avenue. I sincerely hope that Xan goes back to loving the things he used to love without the fear he currently feels.

          • admin says:

            That’s some horrible shit. I feel like I want to say, “I can’t imagine” at the ‘dramatic’ comments, but I can, because literally the same thing happened to me (not with family, but with friends). And I just… yeah. I was torn apart. Even in that moment of vulnerability I was still being humiliated and used for laughs. I get it in the worst way. :-/

            • This is a BIG part of why we want to homeschool. I think there are plenty of healthy environments in which to interact with same-age peers without having to go to the largely unregulated social environment of a school.

      • Wow. I was bullied more frequently by teachers than by peers so I felt massively indignant at reading what that teacher said to you.

        I do have to wonder what makes a person get in the teaching profession if they’re just going to treat their students like that. Of course I realize that they justify this to themselves but, yeah, it has a huge lasting impact.

        Truly sorry you had to go through all that.

      • Oh man, is that “pretend to be friends and then be mean the next day” thing common? That happened to me in seventh grade. I’m really aloof and gullible and I didn’t get the joke so it went on for a while 🙁 I’m sorry that happened to you.

      • yolen says:

        What a bunch of assholes. I’m sorry :/.

    • A friend of mine at a private school was depressed and wore black band t-shirts, like Rob Zombie, things like that. The school made him tape over the lyrics on the shirts. Then he self-injured and had visible X-shaped scars on the underside of both forearms, and they kicked him out of the school because they felt he was “bringing down” the school environment for the other students. He ended up at an alternative school that was a WAY better fit for him, but man. It was bad. He was only 16 when this all went down. I can’t wait for them to call me looking for money so I can tell them why they won’t get any.

  • twirlgrrl says:

    I haven’t caught up on any previous posts about what’s going on with Xan yet, but thanks for writing this. It’s very timely for us, and lots of food for thought. My 7-year-old son has just started to get teased for wearing nail polish and I’m just starting to feel my way through what to do about it.

  • smellykaka says:

    15 or so months at age 11-12 pretty much ruined my life. 27 years later and I’m still struggling to cope with the fallout.

    • admin says:

      Same here, though my worst was between 14 and 16 or so. :-/

      • smellykaka says:

        Does your story feature oblivious parents?

        • admin says:

          No, actually, my mom was really proactive about it… but for a long time I didn’t tell her. I’m not entirely sure why; I think I just felt very ashamed. By the time she became aware and involved, the bullying had left the schools and reached harassment in the streets, outside my home… I’d received concussions and sexual harassment, rape threats, death threats. I became so severely agoraphobic that I wouldn’t leave my house, and didn’t for months. She pulled me out of school and homeschooled me initially, but I didn’t enjoy it (or learn from it) and instead she enrolled me in an alternative school, which completely changed my life.
          Mine started off pretty “innocently” with sing-songs and public humiliation for being depressed, or weird, or having no breasts (at that time in my life, at least) or being short and looking like I was eight years old. It grew pretty fast when left unchecked, and spread far. To this day I have anxiety attacks when walking through/near crowds of teenage girls. It’s at a point where I no longer go to great lengths to avoid them, but it still bothers me deeply.

          • smellykaka says:

            I tried telling the olds, but mostly they didn’t seem to listen. The only thing they did that actually made a difference was not making me go to school the week before we moved towns, and I pretty much had to beg to get that.

            • admin says:

              I had those issues with my dad, at that time we weren’t that close and he wasn’t… I don’t know, as in tune with people as he is now. He went through some pretty severe depression and was under the impression that if he denied it loud enough, it wouldn’t happen to me, too. So he refused to hear me whenever I tried to talk about it, and it took a few years to get it through.

  • currents_ says:

    from a queer survivor of bullying (although for non-queer related issues): thank you for standing up for your child. For their self-expression and their physical, mental, and emotional safety.

  • mussare says:

    This is an excellent post.

    The only part I struggle with is the moving/changing schools… a friend is facing a similar issue with hir son; hir partner and hirself are deeply conflicted on whether the “right” thing to do is re-locate him to another school, or, in perhaps a different form of active parenting, to take the fight to the school, and the parents, and the news media (if neccessary). I’m currently hir sounding board, so have been thinking about it a great deal myself. Where/when does the line fall between “those kids will never change, we’re leaving” and “we have a responsibility to help those children (and staff) learn and grow, but not at the expense of my child” (and of course there is no “right” answer). For them, there has been a great deal of travel involved with their work, and their son, based on his own experiences and discussions of options, has now made an (erroneous) link between their relocations and his parents being bullied for their relationship. So there’s that thrown into the mix. It’s difficult no matter your situation and/or privilege.

    • admin says:

      I wish I had the right answer, this is just what feels right for us. We’re fortunate to have the ability to change schools: many parents don’t. Many parents don’t have the option of unschooling, or homeschooling, and they have no choice but to keep a child in a situation where it may be dangerous. 🙁 I feel for them.

      For us, the line was crossed when the school staff was clear that this kind of homophobia/bullying is not only normal, but passively encouraged. It isn’t so much about the kids, as I have no delusion that I can move my kids into a bubble where they’ll never hear anything negative ever (nor would I want to), it’s about the responsibility of the staff, teachers, the principal… those that preach a zero tolerance rule but do not seem to actually care about enforcing it if the bullying is outside their realm of what is “normal” and what is “Weird” (ie. boys dressing in pink is weird). When staff participate, it becomes a huge problem for us.

      • mussare says:

        Is this documented? (I don’t mean that doubtingly, I mean that in the “is there something in writing or on video that you can take to the school board, your MPP and your MP” there are all your past entries, of course… and I have media contacts that I would be more than happy to mobilise for you.) Your SD has also been the subject of parental complaints to the Ombudsman before regarding inaction/inappropriate action, if you want to use that route:

        Because this is crap, and staff who directly, tacitly or implicitly participate in bullying should be called on the carpet. They are either committing or abetting Charter violations (a particular bee in my bonnet given my line of work) and that is completely unacceptable.

        p.s. Xan might be a bit young yet, I don’t know (and maybe you’re already members!) but friends of mine in your area have had nothing but praise for their experiences here:

        • admin says:

          I have no idea if it’s documented, other than my complaints. I didn’t end up drafting/sending a letter, and after the very manipulative conversation in the hall I’m extremely hesitant to push further because I sort of feel like I know how this will go. It will be twisted as my fault for not doing “enough” or being under the (false) belief that it was being heard, handled, etc… every time I tried to say that I was under the impression this was happening, she kept bringing the conversation back around to why I didn’t call in and ask if it was happening. Well, if I think it is happening, why do I have to ask? I mean… argh. She’s good at what she does. I don’t know if I have the energy to get neck deep in it.

      • Anonymous says:

        does your school do PINK DAY? ours does, all boys loved wearing pink and some guys had pink in their hair and so forth. why is it so different in your school and we’re from the same city?

        If any teacher in my daughters’ schools said this to me, or assumed that being gay or a lesbian is wrong then I would go to the school board with this. It’s not right. A child’s safety comes first and I am glad you removed your son from that school.
        I just dropped a friend in real life because he wrote hate speech on my wall about how he ‘thinks there’s something wrong with them in their mental health. If he cannot support my family and our ways then I cannot support his hate. I will not tolerate hate speech. It was truly awful, and I am so sorry that you are going through that with your son as well.

        Kids learn those words not at school but at home. My kids don’t even know what the word Fag mean. Sad that those kids use such terrible language.

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