Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bullying has to stop.

If you haven't seen this video yet, it is a beautiful, very sad video made by a 13-year-old boy who has been bullied. In this very moving video, he expresses the way being bullied has made him feel and how awful it has been. This video made me cry, because no child should ever be made to feel this way. No child should be treated this way. It also reminded me of my own experience with bullying as a child.

Bullying was considered perfectly fine back when I was a kid. At least it seemed like it was, because the teachers and parents either did nothing and just let it happen, or sometimes even joined in. It sounds like it hasn't gotten a whole lot better, but schools and parents are starting to be forced to take notice and begin to work to prevent bullying, after many children have committed suicide due to being bullied.

I was relentlessly picked on, insulted and made fun of from 3rd to 6th grade. I was occasionally shoved or punched on the playground. Why? I was different. First, I changed schools in 3rd grade, so I was the "new kid." To add to that, I came from a family that was not originally from the area, my father being from the south and my mother having grown up in Europe. This meant that I didn't speak with the "right" or "normal" accent. My father was also a university professor and my mother had a Master's degree in French, so being academics, my parents spoke like dictionaries. Learning to talk from them, this meant that so did I.

My parents being academics, they didn't care about or pay attention to the latest fashion, so I didn't have the right haircut or the right shoes. I went to a Catholic school that had uniforms, so at least most of the time the class bullies couldn't make fun of me for my clothes, but I was relentlessly made fun of for having unfashionable shoes and hair.

I was also intelligent and had a natural rebellious streak, which meant that I got in a lot of trouble in the very strict environment in that school. I was not academically challenged, so I got bored and acted up.

Different accent, different way of speaking, unfashionable clothes, unfashionable hair, frequently in the principal's office. That's what made me different. These are subtle differences. They aren't earth-shattering. But they made me different enough that I was a constant target of insults and rejection. I hated school with a passion and dreaded going there every day. If having a few subtle differences makes school this hellish for a kid, I can't imagine what it's like for gay children.

Somehow in 6th grade, my parents let me get fashionable shoes and a trendy, asymmetrical 80's haircut and this was enough to get the bullies to leave me alone for the most part. I still wasn't popular, but I got to be good friends with a few of the other "rejects" and they made the rest of gradeschool a lot more pleasant.

I am very encouraged to see things like the It Gets Better Project and to see schools and parents begin to take bullying seriously and begin to try in earnest to stop it. I think we're only beginning to realize how damaging and how serious bullying really is, though, and we're only starting to get rid of the idea that "it's just kids being kids." I worry that my children will be bullied for talking like dictionaries, the way my husband and I do, or for having offbeat senses of humor, also thanks to my husband and me. I already know that if either of my children are bullied and the school does not resolve the problem immediately and to my satisfaction, I will not let them suffer, I will yank them right out of that school.

I hope kids that are being bullied will see Jonah Mowry's video and not feel so alone. I hope that his video will continue to raise awareness of how serious a problem bullying is. And Jonah, if at such a young age, you can respond to being bullied in such a creative and beautiful way, I am confident that you will grow up to be not just fine, but better than fine. If you can handle the pain of bullying in such a healthy way already, I bet you'll grow up to be successful and happy.
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