I guess you could say that I’m not your standard bullying victim. I’ve never been physically assaulted. I’ve been called names, but ‘fortunately’ that had nothing to do with my sexual preferences. As far as bullying goes, I’ve been lucky.
I wasn’t attacked. I was invisible.
I had a few friends growing up in elementary and middle school that I could spend time with. In high school I discovered the music department, and made friends with some of the other ‘music geeks’, though at times it seemed they were just tolerating my presence because they felt sorry for me. I later switched to another high school, where I was an outcast because I was quiet, shy, and a good student. I spent my lunch breaks sitting on a bench in the sun, wearing sunglasses and pretending to be asleep because it was better than being rejected, than admitting that I was lonely.
Most bullying is acknowledged as physical and verbal abuse. But often people forget the emotional bullying, which leads to mental abuse. No, I wasn’t attacked. But the isolation, the loneliness, began to make me think that there was something wrong with me. That something about who I was, was simply unlikeable. My confidence and self-esteem plummeted, and I stayed shy and quiet, trying to stay out of the way of people who were more important than me. Because clearly, I wasn’t someone worth knowing. It was better for me to stand back and let the people who were right, and strong, and good take the spotlight.
That wasn’t to say I was always miserable. I was happy with the few friends I had, to the point of being clingy. When I was happy, I threw myself into the feeling, desperate to hold on to it. Which made the days when I was lonely, sad, and miserable, even worse.
As I hit my mid-teens, things started to get complicated. My friends and family began to make comments about my sexual preferences, hinting that they thought I was gay. I wasn’t very feminine as a teenager, because I didn’t know how to be. And something about that made the people who were important to me, as well as the people who weren’t, believe that I was hiding my interests.
At fifteen years old, I was actually homophobic.
I can’t remember exactly how I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was wrong. I grew up in a small town, with a small town atmosphere, so it may have been that. It may have been comments my mother has made that come across as being homophobic, even when that wasn’t her intention. It may have been sheer stubbornness, because everyone seemed to be assuming I was a lesbian. And I wasn’t. I wasn’t.
And then came the big change, the change that started it all. A friend of mine (one of the ones I was so sure only let me hang around because she felt sorry for me) invited me to her Halloween party. And while I was there, another friend of ours came out to me.
I remember standing there, blinking at him as he waited my judgment. I remember her standing just behind him, watching me with an expression that said if I hurt him at all, she’d throw me out in a heartbeat. I remember opening my mouth, and saying ‘So?’ because it was all I could think to say.
Because I could not look my friend in the eyes, and tell him he was wrong.
We talked a lot that night. Got to know each other better than we ever had, and became honestly good friends. I don’t know if he’s even aware that he had such an impact on my life, but I’m not sure if it would matter now. Because while we lost touch for a few years, we’ve since found each other and reconnected again. He’s still a dear friend, and as far as I’m concerned, he always will be.
Even so, his coming out didn’t magically fix everything for me. While I supported him, because I felt I could do no less, I was still uncomfortable with homosexuality. I said I was okay with it, but I tried to avoid it whenever possible. I didn’t want to be confronted with it.
That’s where the magic of the internet comes in.
I love to read. Always have. So when I discovered the wonder of fanfiction, where fans write their own stories about the shows/movies/books they like, I was in heaven. I would – and still do – spend hours at a time sitting at the computer, reading. And one day, while I was reading fanfiction for one of my favorite Japanese anime shows, I found a beautiful, loving, romantic story that was heart-melting and made me want to snuggle something.
Then I got to the end, and realized it was about two men.
It was mind-blowing to me. I remember trying to pretend briefly that it wasn’t a big deal, that it wasn’t that impressive. That I hadn’t been affected by it at all. It was just a story.
But it wasn’t just a story. It was the first time I’d ever been presented with the idea that homosexuality wasn’t just about sex. That there were emotions tied into being gay. That just because it was someone of the same gender, didn’t lesson the fact that there could be love between them. That there *was* love between them.
It’s hard, at fifteen, sixteen years old, trying to force yourself to accept that your views are changing. That what you believed was wrong. That the beliefs of others around you were wrong. Even then, when I came to slowly respect, even admire men who were gay, I could not accept the concept of women in love with other women. I was uncomfortable with it, I didn’t want to think about it. It was okay if you were gay. You just couldn’t be a lesbian.
But again, the magic of anime and the internet proved me wrong. It taught me that love is love, no matter what form you find it in. And slowly, I started to be okay with that.
But I wasn’t gay myself, of course. I could support the people who were. I could enjoy looking at pictures of couples who were gay, read stories about them. I was just admiring love in it’s purest form. I wasn’t gay.
Needless to say, the day I found myself attracted to another woman was mind-boggling.
I had never been attracted to anyone, male or female. I just … wasn’t interested. And now I was admiring this bright, energetic friend who was so full of life and energy, I couldn’t help staring at her. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t gay. Why was I looking at my friend like that? What was *wrong* with me?!
I’d like to say that things got better after that. But they didn’t. They got worse.
I finally snapped one day, a little over a year later. I was confused, I was uncertain, and I had recently lost a job I adored. I was so shaken up by the world around me and the confusion in my head, I was starting to scare myself. I’d contemplated suicide when I was a teenager, because I was lonely and scared and I thought I would never have any friends. And now I was wondering why I was still here, why I was still fighting. It wasn’t okay. It wasn’t better. It wasn’t getting any better.
In my fear, I did the best and worst thing I could possibly have done at the time. I wrote down everything I was feeling, every single thought going through my mind. Every doubt, every concern, every fear, every anger over things in the past. And I posted it on the internet.
I wish I could say things immediately got better after that, but they didn’t.
My parents and I stopped speaking to each other for two years. They were hurt and angry for my outburst, and I felt betrayed that they hadn’t immediately stood by me. My post didn’t magically lead into a new job, or new understanding about who I was and what I wanted.
It *did* however, lead to other things. My friends who stood by me. My friends online, who sent me an overwhelming amount of support, encouragement, sympathy and love. It lead to the slow realization that no, life wasn’t perfect, and neither was I. And that was okay.
It *is* okay.
My life still isn’t perfect. I’m dealing with health problems and trying to find a new job. I still have days where I’m depressed, or lonely. Sometimes I get upset for what seems like no reason. I’m in the place I wanted to be, but not doing what I’d wanted to by the age I am now. And sometimes it’s hard, because that makes it seem like I failed.
But there are other days. Days with sunrises and sunsets, and a camera in my hand. Days goofing off with my best friend, just because we can. Days with beautiful flowers, light breezes, loud laughter, and love. Always love.
I am a twenty-seven-year-old bisexual woman. I love and admire the world around me, and I can appreciate a man’s firm muscles just as well as I can appreciate a woman’s soft curves. Or vice versa, as the case may be. As long as they have a warm smile and a great sense of humor.
And nice hair. I’ve got a thing for nice hair.
Life is a test, as much as it’s a gift. It’s a test to see how much we can survive, how much we can endure for the hope that there’s a better tomorrow at the end. But it’s also a gift. Because joy can still be found in pain. Even someone who is blind can appreciate the sound of music in their ears, a cool breeze upon their face. Even someone who is deaf can still watch the sunset, see a field of flowers.
Even someone who is both can still touch the softness of something warm and furry against their skin.
The world around you will insist on labels. You are gay, you are straight, you are female, you are male. You are White, you are Black, you are Hispanic, you are Asian. You are only successful, right, good, if you are this one way. They will make you feel horrible about yourself, because they can’t fit you into their little box. So they belittle you to make themselves feel better, because they refuse to change their views. Because that would make them *wrong*.
They’re not wrong. Two things they have to say are true, and completely right. First, that you do not fit into their little box they’ve created about what is ‘normal’, ‘right’, and ‘good’. No, you don’t. And second, they’re right: you are. Not gay, straight, female, male, white, black, or blue. You *are*. You exist. They acknowledge that, and in that, they are right.
Things are scary for you right now. You’re uncertain, and confused. Maybe you’re not uncertain and confused. Maybe you’re just afraid to be who you are. And that’s okay. You have every right to feel *however* you feel.
But remember, there are good things in the bad. There are people who love you. Maybe it’s not the kids at school. Maybe it’s not your friends. Maybe it isn’t even your family. But there are people who create The Trevor Project hotline. People who start the It Gets Better Project, or build websites like The We Got Your Back Project. We’re here. We’re listening. We love you, respect you, admire you. We want the chance to know you. You just have to hang in there long enough to give us that chance.
It’s not going to be easy. There are still people who claim you’re not oppressed. That you’re wrong. That there is something wrong with you. But don’t focus on those voices. Focus on the ones that are offering hope, and love, and support. Hold on to what’s good.
Life is a series of moments. Of gifts and tests. It’s hard, but it’s how we learn. How we improve. The fight is what makes the good parts even better. So fight. Hold on. Be. Remember: You are. We are. We *all* are.
Most of all, you are loved. As you are, right now. You don’t have to search, or change anything about yourself because it’s already happened.
You are loved.