Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Handling Bullies

I want to talk about tolerance today.  Specifically, I want to share a personal opinion about tolerance.  This morning via a Gay Star News link on twitter, I read about a male college student in Florida who desired to check out a laptop from the school library to do work on.  The young man had a voice that sounded female to the librarian and he had his hair pulled back in a pony tail.  After checking his ID the librarian refused to let the young man check out the computer because she believed it was not his ID and in fact he was not a boy but a girl.  It took several librarians checking out the ID card before one finally allowed the young man to get his laptop.
The reason this story struck a chord with me so deeply is because I was once that young man.  I will share with you a story I have never made public before.  Some of you are familiar with the published story of my childhood entitled "The Boy Who Talked Like a Girl" (and if you're not simply google the title and the story will pop up), so you know I only whispered until age twenty.  It wasn't a complete whisper, it sort of sounded like a raspy sore throat sort of sound.  One day during my senior year of high school, I needed to get one of parent's permission to go on a field trip as I had forgotten a permission slip at home.  It was a small school and they knew me well, so I just needed to get oral confirmation.  I called home but my mother was out.  My father had just started a new job, so I called the number on the business card he gave me and a woman answered the phone.  I asked to speak with my father and told the woman I was his son.  The woman hesitated, and asked me to clarify "Your his son!? You mean his daughter? Excuse me, is this some sort of joke!?"  At this point my heart was racing, I was confused and didn't know what to do, apparently my voice sounded like a female on the phone.  I insisted I was his son and she started laughing.  She then said, "Sorry Honey, he's at a meeting, good-bye."
I didn't get to go on that field trip.  When I got home that day I went to my room.  I started working on a homework assignment and all of a sudden I stopped and just burst into tears.  I just cried, and not like weeping but I was crying like you see people do in movies after someone has died.  I didn't know how to handle it, all the embarrassment, all the shame, I just sat there and cried it all out, ruining the paper I had started to write on.  I go up from my desk and lied down.  I fell asleep.  When I woke up the sun had gone down and my face was lying in a pool of tears.
The thing is, I'm sharing this story with you because this and the college student's story bring up a good point: be careful with how you treat others because you'll never know how you'll affect them. Those librarians and the woman on the other end of that phone call were bullies.  They were people who were probably having a bad day and decided to take it out on the first victim they could find, or maybe simply they themselves had lived lives where others weren't very nice to them, and so they had to express what they had been taught, that hazing leads to some level of satisfaction.  I often note when I now encounter a bully simply this: every bully is somebody else's victim, and most victims if they do not learn to cope with how they've been treated eventually become bullies themselves.  We can cope with our bullies, and we can prevent ourselves from becoming bullies if we remember this.  As always if we're ever unsure of how to act or respond in a situation, we just need to turn it around, try to figure out what is a rational way to justify bad behavior: the realization that that person was hurt by someone else and he or she is just acting that hurt out.
Although we're evolving as a society, there are still going to be people out there who feel the need to judge, who feel the need to say a man isn't a man if he talks like a girl or looks a certain way.  In time though, as long as we stick to educating our youth, people like this will fade away from society, and we will live in a much more tolerant world.  Until then, do your homework, work on you, work on your own tolerance and understand if you can overcome how a bully affects you, you will grow to be a better, stronger person, and then you can help other people become stronger too.  Forgive your bullies because they were in pain.  You may not be able to forgive right away, but in time, trust me, forgiveness is the most beneficial thing you can do for your well being.

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