Bullies, Misfits, Gays — and Me, Alpha Boy

As a kid, I couldn’t stand seeing other kids bullied. I was lucky (I see now) because I was an Alpha Boy. (Alpha Boy. How does that not scream Best Cartoon Ever?) I was athletic, handsomishy, and … generally functional. All my friends were Alpha Boys.

I loved Alpha Bits, too. But that’s a different story.

What I could never believe was how vulnerable were the kids who were most picked on. You give a kid thick glasses, and a dorky haircut, and make him small and skinny and shy, and you’ve got yourself one luring bully bait. Make him talk funny? He might as well be wearing a “kick me” sign. Give him something actually wrong with him—some variation of what we used to call retarded?

Then, for him, it’s on. Then he’s lucky if he doesn’t get killed. Except what fun would that be for the bullies? Better to keep him alive, like a cat does a mouse.

Right? So I always hated that. And it was very easy to make it stop. Bullies are the weakest humans on earth. You so much as suggest that bully might want to stop shaming himself as he does by picking on weaker people, and he fades away like a stain sprayed with that stuff you spray on stains.

I always became kind of intrigued with the boys I stopped other kids from bullying. I had no idea what it was like to exist so marginalized. I was popular; I had lots of friends; I was Joe Leader (because I was Joe Bored—but, again, another story). I didn’t know what it was to not even think that you might have someone to walk to or from school with. That anyone might ever actually want to hang around with you at recess. That after school you would ever have anyone to do anything fun with at all.

How does such a kid live? What does he do after school? What’s his home life like? What his whole life like?

How do the misfits live?

Inquiring minds needed to know. Besides, I already knew my friends. Nice guys! Funny. Smart. Exceptional athletes. All we did was play sports. That was our lives.

But I wanted more, man. I wanted me some geek life.

So I got some. I hung out with this misfit, this dork, this “loser.” I’m not proud to say it, but I kind of basically treated those kids like they were some kind of foreign life form I was studying. I’d just say, “Hey, can I come over to your house sometime?” And they’d be, like, “Um. Yes. But … why?”

I’d shrug. “I dunno. Just to get to know you a little.”

“Okay. I live this way.” And off we’d go.

The outcast boys always had (of course) much richer home lives than I had imagined. Especially the ones whose dorkiness was of the scientific bent. Those guys had stuff in their rooms. Models. Globes. Weird things under glass. Books. An actual desk where it looked like they must sometimes actually read.

We’re talking serious freakosity.

Sometimes I would say to such a kid, “You know, right now your life’s a little more difficult than some other kids’. That sucks. But it sure seems to me like we’re all going to grow up to become gas station attendants and used-furniture salesman. But guys like you are going to run the world.”

And sometimes they would answer, like, “Really? God, I hope so. That’s unimaginable. But thanks.” And other times they’d be, “Tell me something I don’t know. Isn’t there a rousing game of move that ball you’re supposed to be playing somewhere?”

I have no idea why I’m sharing any of this.

Well, I guess I do: because lately the word “bullying” keeps coming up, relative to this whole awful thing about gay kids committing suicide.

When I was in high school there was a boy whom I now understand was so flamingly gay I’m surprised he never just spontaneously combusted. He was a champion long distance runner. He did not register in my mind as a freak at all. I liked him. Being someone for whom being bored is like death means I tend to like flamboyant people. And this guy was definitely not boring. He made his own clothes, for goddsakes. I can’t sew on a button without being rushed to the hospital.

This guy giggled. When he laughed, he put his hand up to his mouth, and giggled. It always kind of made me want to giggle.

Not that I did, of course. I was, after all, in high school. My hormones were mainly telling me just to shut up and try not to get arrested for molesting a locker.

About four years after high school I learned that the giggling, clothes-designing, extremely disciplined long-distance runner—a kid that in high school I’d known a little, but not very much—had, maybe a year before, committed suicide.

The moment I was told he’d taken his own life, I had a memory of this boy.

When I was probably a junior in high school, I was in the kitchen of my house, washing dishes. I lived across the street from a public park. Along the edge of that park ran a packed dirt path leading away from the direction of my house. I saw the boy who later killed himself walking down that path, away from me. I was surprised to see him alone, because at school he was always surrounded by this very close-knit collection of girls, who clearly loved him dearly. And I thought how, duh, of course he spends a lot of time alone, because what else do long-distance runners do?

What struck me is how lonely he looked. And not just because he was alone. His whole body posture looked askew. I was used to seeing him confident, bold; he was good in his thin, muscular body; he very much used it as a means of animated expression. But here, I saw, he was walking with his head sort of down and to the side. He was clutching what I guessed were his school books tightly against his chest. His shoulders were hunched forward. And his usual loping, balanced gait was, now, a barely discernible, but nonetheless crooked, uneven movement.

Something was wrong. He was hurting. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, but his usual Happy Show was definitely on temporary hiatus.

And I stopped doing the dishes, and watched him make his way along the side of the park.

And I wondered what in the world could have made such a gregarious person so sad.

****

I’d love it if you’d join my Facebook fan page.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

    Wow.

    I don't think I've ever known anyone who's actually gone through with sucide, though I heard a girl I once knew in middle-grade had attempted it. Her primary difference was that she was fat. She was also pretty mean and, in turn, was one of the many people who'd bully me – sometimes I'd be part of a clique bullying her, someitmes, the clique would invite her "in" and bully me. We switched off being the victim and, in hindsight, I do not know *why* I wanted the approval of the clique – then again, that's the adult mind vs. the the mind of a child who desperately wanted approval and friends. I do regret my part in it.

    I do wish people would stop with the sterotype that the smart, geeky, talented, picked-on kids will someday rule the world or become rich. I was told that all through growing up – by my family, by teachers, by the occasional kind student. IT'S A LOAD OF BULL. The "problems reigning in my emotions" that got me picked on in the first place have been the problem that's kept me from keeping and holding a decent job for any length of time. I have the same kinds of social problems now I had in high school and grade school because the bullies were right – THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME AS A HUMAN – and I only got it diagnosed a few years ago, and even under treatment the "lack of social ability" pretty much keeps me down.

    Growing up, I was always told not to worry about the people making fun of me, becuase I could DRAW like nothing else, I was creative and intelligent, surely I'd be on top in the adult world. My artistic ablities were seen as something almost *magical.* Problem is, no one told me in the real world, art pretty much counts for nothing because everyone expects you to do it for free.

    I work part time mucking stables at a horse barn – a job I got via a service for people with disabilities. Now, I do *like* my current job, it's just not something I can make a living off of and I currently live with a man who's been unemployed for a year – we worry about rent, groceries and transportation. We borrow money from my *retired* parents to live some months. All those people who told me I was going to be rich? I want to smack them! Sometimes, no matter how intelligent and geeky you are, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference in the real world and you'll wind up in the same kinds of jobs as your bullies. Success, I've found, is largely a matter of luck and the connections that you have – if you have no connections and are just unlucky, it doesn't matter how smart you are. People need to know the truth about that.

    • Mindy

      Shadsie, you are such an eloquent writer – you've got places to go with that muck, other than the stables. I just know it. Don't give up. Times suck right now – I'm unemployed, working freelance, so I hear you loud and clear. Some weeks I have the work, others . . . nothing at all. Some weeks I have it in me to keep looking for full-time work, and some weeks if I have even think about it I simply dissolve.

      But it will get better. I wish I could say why I believe that. All I know is that I do. And reading John's work and the conversations he generates has made a real difference. You've been a big part of those conversations, and I hope you know your words matter.

    • Ace

      What they also don't tell you is that even though you can draw like nothing else, when you try to get into the only real public art school in the state (because your state lottery-funded scholarship won't cover tuition at a private university), there are 100+ other kids who can also draw like nothing else vying for the exact same spot in that school and you're pretty much shit out of luck so you might as well get a degree in underwater basket weaving and get on with your boring, crappy job.

      "Problem is, no one told me in the real world, art pretty much counts for nothing because everyone expects you to do it for free."

      Yea, that is so true. I work for a gov't job, and any time my boss wants some kind of graphic whatever done for our group (outreach items, webpage stuff, etc), instead of paying a professional graphic designer to do it, I get to do it at home on my own computer (because they're not giving me any graphics software, obviously), on my own time, for no extra compensation of any sort. Lord how I wish I had never left any of my lunchtime doodles laying out on my desk.

      Anyway I think people tell themselves that lie, and repeat it to the misfits, not so much to make the misfits feel better, but to make themselves feel better, because if they think the world is naturally just and fair, and that everything evens out eventually, then they don't have to do any actual work to make it that way in reality.

      I never had any friends in elementary school. I used to try to make friends with any "new kid" who showed up, but it usually only lasted a week or two before they realized being seen with me was social suicide and they quit talking to me.

      I had two friends in middle school, and there was a group I hung out on the fringes of in high school and I suppose a couple of them were genuine friends, but I've never actually had a social life. I really don't even know what that's like, to be honest. My best friend lately has fur and a tail, and even she bites me sometimes.

      I think there are just some people who are just fated to exist on the edges of society, and the people "inside" are rarely inclined to open a door. I mean, we just make them ever so slightly uncomfortable with our awkward social skills, or being a minority, or being disabled, or gay, and God forbid they should have to endure us.

      • Tim

        Hi Ace-

        I guess I should thank my loving God and Savior from the moment I wake until the instant I drop off to sleep. I am an artist who actually wound up in careers that let me use my gifts to earn a paycheck. Architectural drafts…person, architectural signage and graphics, electrical and neon signage, advertising, and now i work in the media and publishing department of a large San Diego church.

        I floundered in high school. I was artsy, skinny, and shy…If it hadn't been for my penchant for pornographic cartoons, I probably would have been on the list of bullied kids. My teachers said I should learn a useful trade. I would never make a living at art. Except one teacher. She directed me to a regional occupational program that was looking for a trainee at an architectural drafting business. It all to off from there.

        In high school, my lack of physical size and strength wasn't a problem. A large, very muscular chap, Chap was actually his name, was a misfit in his own rite. All the various athletics coaches wanted him because he was an amazing wrestler, football player, baseball player, runner….he was a freaking Olympic class athlete. But he was a twisted lover of my hilarious brand of pornographic cartoons. He was also a binge drinker and pothead. As a sophomore, Chap had made a few significant entries in the health records of a couple star high school line backers without breaking a sweat. His strength and rage against bullies was legendary. It got him kicked out of school a couple times…but he was a friend…thank God. I tend to think I never got hassled even being sort of a skinny stoner nerd, because Chap always had my back. Too bad that there aren't more kids like John and Chap willing to step up heroically for the bullied dork-weeds, thespians, and artsy dweebs. It could be said I'm just a lucky person. Now I don't feel so lucky post divorce raising two teens on my own. But life ebbs and flows. Even in the mud, I feel God's grip on my life.

        • StraightGrandmother

          Cracked me up, belly laughs this, "If it hadn’t been for my penchant for pornographic cartoons, I probably would have been on the list of bullied kids." I'm so glad you had Chap.

        • Ace

          Honestly I think if even one person had seriously stood up and said, "Back off" when the cliques of Mean Girls(tm) and popular boys at my schools was using me as their personal emotional latrine and occasionally as a convenient punching bag, it would have stopped.

          Bullying persists because most kids are too apathetic or cowardly to intervene. Even if teachers and other adults step in – especially if adults step in – it doesn't get better and often gets worse.

          I am fully convinced that it's the bullies' peer groups that needs to take a stand collectively to end a bad bullying situation in any particular school or group of kids, but that just doesn't seem to happen that often. The bullies themselves work hard to keep the normal-but-quiet kids quiet, by either implying or stating outright that anyone caught socializing or protecting the "misfits" is going to end up as one of them, they control who is and isn't allowed to sit at the popular kids' lunch table (metaphorically and literally).

          For whatever reason, parents don't teach their kids to stand up for other kids. I remember my own parents telling me in no uncertain terms to never get involved in conflicts at school and to stay out of trouble and to mind my own business. Not that I was in any position to stand up for anyone else, given that I was generally flat on my own ass in the dirt, even though I did try from time to time (never worked out well).

          If you ever see Chap again, give him a big bear hug, he deserves it.

          • Don Whitt

            It's everyone who needs to stand up. Everyone. And we all need to fight viewing ourselves as victims, too. No matter how shitty it gets. Things will get better if you believe and you fight for it – don't ever, ever give up. That sounds trite and cliche, but there's a reason why- it's true. Just as we shouldn't let assholes kidnap God, we should not let them crush our spirits either.

            John, thank you. You wrote something that made me understand part of myself because a lot of my friends have been – how shall I say it? – on the fringe. But they were NEVER boring. E.g., Ken Young, a kid whose AM paper route bordered mine, and with whom I attended 7th grade science club on Saturdays, ground his own mirrors for his telescopes and wore the same pair of pants everyday for about 5 years in jr high and high school, patching them when needed with packing twine. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met. But the bullies called him "Poindexter" and treated him like a dog. I did photography for the jr high newspaper and I took the iconic poster of Peter Fonda on his Easy Rider chopper and grafted a headshot of Ken onto it and then rephotographed it. It was perfect. When I posted in the school paper, kids asked me how I got "Poindexter" to pose on the motorcycle. It was my joke with and for Ken. He was an astrophysics professor at Harvard, last time I looked. So, some of those geeks and freaks do okay. The thing is to find subversive ways to poke fun at all the jerks who mistreat people. Not to hurt them, but to prove to yourself that they're just as vulnerable and human as you. Oh, and to have some good fun at their expense.

            I've had dark times. Diseased, broke, rejected – taken to court and lied about. Lost everything I'd saved and built. It crushed me. I'm still dealing with some of it.

            As SG states below – it can get worse. And it might, but don't ever give up. That's exactly what the bastards expect and want. But we can't let the assholes win.

            As a brilliant man once said, "Fuck 'em".

          • Tim

            It's been a long time. I hope he exorcized the demons his father left with him. Betcha twenty bucks his dad was abused as a kid as well (addendum to Chap's story below). Bullying is generational. Kids learn it from their parents and older siblings, who learned from their parents. Talk about the sins of the father being visited on the son.

            In some cases it takes a lifetime to understand how generational abuse works. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Ace…as well as others here.

          • denver

            As I said on another thread somewhere, I once did try standing up for the guy that was always bullied at my school; problem was I was a tiny freshman girl. So he got mad at me, because, well, it doesn't help you being picked on for being effeminate when a GIRL is the one that stands up for you. I, of course, didn't realize that at the time and wondered why he got mad at me for standing up for him. The jocks that were picking on him, after he yelled at me and stormed off, shrugged and laughed and looked at me as if to say, "See? Isn't he weird?" They didn't threaten me at all. I imagine this was because they had no beef with me, but perhaps they knew I was friends with the star quarterback of the football team (who was NOT one of the bullies) and so that's why they didn't bother me for trying to stop them from picking on the other kid. I don't really know.

            And in case you're wondering how a tiny freshman girl became friends with the senior quarterback, we were playing supposed-to-be-touch-football-but-we-were-really-tackling-each-other football in gym class, and I totally sacked the guy, who was about twice my size. So thereafter, he'd kid around with me and point me out in the hall to his friends as "that's the little freshman girl who sacked me!" So maybe they did know who I was and that's why I didn't get duct taped to the top of a locker or anything. ;)

          • StraightGrandmother

            Good story Denver, you know you are one of my favs, right?

          • denver

            Aw shucks, thanks, StraightGrandmother, I like you too. :)

          • A'isha

            "For whatever reason, parents don’t teach their kids to stand up for other kids."

            Ace, I actually teach my kids the opposite. We talk about what to do if someone bullies them or one of their friends. Lately we've been talking about it a lot because they read about the kids who have committed suicide in the past month as a result of bullying. It bothered them a lot that. I'm glad I have boys that are growing up to be sensitive to others.

            I saw a show recently (Dateline maybe??) that had a groups of kids in a room with hidden cameras. There were actors who were to either bully someone, be bullied, or be a friend of the bully. It was really interesting to see how the other kids reacted, but most of them did respond. It's a start, at least the message is getting out there that bullying does lots of damage and can't be tolerated.

          • Ace

            I'm glad things are changing, and thank you for teaching your children to be compassionate people.

          • denver

            Unfortunately, some of the "zero tolerance" rules that schools have now work against standing up to bullies: if a kid is being beat up and hits back, or if someone else intervenes physically to save them, then BOTH parties can get suspended or expelled, even if it was self defense. Which I think is rediculous… basically you're telling kids to let themselves be punching bags, and they will be punished for defending themselves. :(

          • Ace

            I hate zero tolerance policies myself. Zero brains is more like it.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Shadsie, although your writing a sad story I do see positives. Hey you got somebody you love (you better if you are living together) and you have a diagnosis of what your challenge is. I had a really great babysitter for my kids when they were young a very good Christian woman and she had a phrase I'll share, Sharon always used to say, "It could be worse"

      If you think about your life, really it could be worse, right? This always kind of gave me to suck up and get through the bad thing that happened because after all it could be worse. Don't knwo why thinking it could be worse makes you feel better but it worked for me.

      • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

        Oh, I know I have good things in my life.

        It's just that I'm a tad bitter at all those people who said I'd somehow get my "revenge" at the high school reunion by being successful because I'm smart and talented. It's a myth that our society loves – and is just that, a myth.

        Sometimes the people who are different always stay on the outskirts. It's the way the world is.

        • StraightGrandmother

          Shadsie, if you don't wish to answer I understand, but I was wondering how old you are?

          • Don Whitt

            Shadsie, To paraphrase an old Jewish saying, loving life is the best revenge.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            I'm 31. Apologies if I sound younger – I've been told I have a youthful spirit. Also, I whine a lot.

    • Don Rappe

      Shadsie, It's good to hear your story. My daughter has informally diagnosed me as lacking social ability (as well as herself and one very peculiar guy in her swing-dancing group). I have decided to consider you and most of John's band as cyber-friends. Thanks for being here.

  • cat

    How do the misfits live? Precariously. Worriedly. Wonderingly. Jealously, especially of all those Alpha people who just seem to have it all without any effort.

    Misfits want friends like everyone else; only, there's no one to show them how to make friends.

    Misfits want to fit in, but because we are different, we never will.

    High school for me was like living in hell. Kids gossiped, excluded, pushed, teased. My parents didn't have the desire to help any of their children fit in. They were alcoholics and would spend every waking hour (and sometimes their dreaming hours) trying to figure out how to stay drunk. The other kids would meet after school for social activities and my siblings and I were not invited, ever. The only time there was relief from the constant harassment and boredom was summer, when tourist would come to town. Then I could "re-make" myself, become anyone I wanted to be, hang out with some kids who didn't have preconceived ideas of who or what I should be. (Also, it kept me out of the house all day.) I left that place at 18 years old and never went back.

    Kids who don't fit in during high school sometimes find out that they "grow into themselves." They can become whatever they want to be, they can be comfortable with their differences. I've learned a lot of things since I left there, and I relish my differences now.

    • Don Rappe

      Getting comfortable with my differences has been pretty important for me.

  • Mindy

    I remember once, in 6th grade, saying something mean to an overweight girl in my class. I don't remember what I said. I only remember how I felt afterward – like my insides were on fire. I wanted to apologize but I couldn't, because other girls had heard me and laughed at her because of my words. And I hated myself for caring more about them than her.

    To this day, I wish I'd said something nice to her. I wish I'd taken it back. To this day, 40 years later, I remember how awful I felt for what I'd said that made her feel awful. I wasn't particular popular, but I wasn't so dorky as to be a bully magnet, either. That was the one and only time I ever tried to be one of the "cool" kids by belittling someone else.

    I don't know where she is, or what happened to her. I just know that when I read about the unbelievable cruelty perpetuated by bullies, I feel that all over again. I wonder at the power of "groupthink" in teens, and I hope that at least some of them feel some semblance of the fire I felt burning me from the inside. I wonder how deeply they loathe themselves to pull off that level of cruelty on a regular basis. To look in the eyes of another human who is doing you no harm and spit on their very soul. What part of us allows that? And how to do we – the cultural we – quash that impulse in kids before it runs amok?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Mindy: With the quality of work you've done championing underdogs just here on this blog, there's no way you haven't more than made up, karma-wise, for whatever passing difficulty you caused that girl. Everybody says hurtful stuff to others. It's only the assholes who don't regret it once they have.

    • StraightGrandmother

      I also remember the one cruel thing I ever did to another kid. Judy Boxer, I will never forget her name and I am still ashamed of it. She was such a nice girl to, but shy. She wasn’t what you would call “heavy” but she had a lttle pudgyness to her and she had breasts and I didn’t. I was playing on this playground equipment, it was like a ladder in the air horizontal and you swung from rung to rung hand over hand to get to the other side.

      You could go two at a time, one starting from one end and one from the other and when you met in the middle you have to maneuver around each other. Well Judy Boxer was on it headed towards me and I was a skinny but athletic kid and I started on the other. And when I got to Judy Boxer I swung my body and arched it and took my feet and swung up and smashed Judy Boxer’s breasts, real hard. She cried out in pain and dropped down and simply walked away.

      She was such a nice quiet shy girl and I hurt her for no reason at all. I felt about 10 seconds of, I don’t know bravado I suppose, and then I felt horrible. I could never look her in the eyes again. I still feel really really bad about it, I wish I could find Judy Boxer and apologize, I really do.

      I never ever picked on anybody and with my big mouth I stuck up for some kids. I also was kind of a middle of the road, not a popular girl but not one that got picked on a lot. Although one time in 8th grade this real B*tch girl one of the most popular cheated on a test and I saw her and reported her cheating to the teacher, she was always cheeting and it drove me nuts. After school she had a big group of girls waiting for me to beat me up. Ha-ha none of them could catch me I was always a good runner. I ran up that big hill as fast as I could and no one was even close to me. Instead of taking the bus home that day I had to walk (after my sprint upt he hill) but it was only a couple of miles not that big of a deal. I did learn my lesson though about reporting cheaters.

      My junior year of high school my parents moved and I went to a new high school. It seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to fit in especially in my homeroom. Mary Ehlan, I don’t know why he was so popular he had a face full of pimples, he started picking on me but I never cowered, I snapped back at him with equal insults. It was kind of escallating but then I lucked out big time! Wait until you hear this story it is a good one. I was taking a speech class so I came up with a project whereby I would give the morning announcements. I hated the woman in the office who gave the announcements every morning, she had a terrible voice. So I goes and asks the prinicipal as part of my speech project could I give the announcements for a week. SURE he says, so now I had the power of the microphone that the WHOLE school heard. I am starting to remember this even gets better.

      Part of giving the announcements was reading a list of students who had to report to the Assistant Prinicpal for detentions and I dont’ know some kind of punishment. I always saved it for the end, it went something like this, “Will the following students please see Mr Anderson in his office immeditatly,” then I read a list of names. Now the real A-Holes in the school the people who who thought they were so great I would ham it up when I read their name, like this “Sara Smithson and then I’s say a quiet little “ohhhh” and move onto the next name. Yeah I jsut kind of would pause and get her name out there real obvious and then move on to the next kid on the list. I was very subltle and never got repremanded by the principal I don’t think he noticed at all but the kids they noticed. It was an efficient way to get all the kids to report for punishment without having to go to all these different home rooms and go get them and it had the added value of public humiliation. Now if you were my friend, what I would do is not read your name, and when I left the office after making the announcements I would go over to your homeroom and just tell you. I had the power to spare you that public humiliation :) SWEET :) :)

      Back to Marty Ehland. So Marty wasn’t giving up on me, he was still trying to to put me down and whatever, then I told him if he didn’t stop I was going to announce over the loudspeaker that if any girl wanted a date for the Sadie Hawkins (this is where the girls ask the boys) danse to meet Marty Ehlan outside of homeroom 202 (I still remember the room number 30 years later). Oh yeah Marty pushed me with his big mouth and the next day I did it. I just said it matter of factly like it was any other announcement, “If any girl wants a date for the Sadie Hawkins danse please see Marty Ehlan outside of homeroom 202.” After announcements then i also had to go to my homeroom and when I opened the door the whole class was cracking up. They said Marty turned bright red! Ha! Marty Ehland never bothered me again and I had him in homeroom for 2 years because the homerooms were alphabetical based on your last name. Yup the dude never said another word to me again and I was fine with that.

      Well lucky me, because after my one week speech project was over the prinicipal asked me to stay on, he liked the way I did the announcements. And as a matter of fact poor Marty Ehlan had to listen to me make the announcements for 2 years, my whole Junior year and then the prinicipal asked to just keep going and I did it for my whole Senior year also. Now that I think about it I think the power of that microphone gave me a lot, I think I could have been somebody who was picked on, being new in the school and all, but I wasn’t, I had the power of the microphone, ha-ha take that sucker!

      I was never one of the popular ones but I never really strived for that, I did not fit in that group and I didn’t really want to be in that group. I had a good group of friends and that was fine. If kids got picked on I don’t remember it much, this high school was only for Juniors and Seniors so maybe that had something to do with it, no little freshmen to pick on.

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

    We lived by forming our own little groups, retreating into fantasy and science fiction worlds, and all sorts of other things.

    In my escape worlds, whether I was reading about them, writing about them, or playing Dungeons and Dragons (or any of several other RPG's) in them, people were amazed at what I could do, wanting my talents and my company.

    I don't rule the world now, but I set my sights a lot lower than that as time went on.

    Anyway … that was me, being bullied for being of the intellectual stripe and not remotely athletic. And, frankly, because I lived in those fantasy worlds. I suppose that my lisp and my tendency to wear cowboy boots (even after moving to NH) didn't help.

    I can't imagine being bullied in today's world, nor for something like homosexuality. Being a science geek and fantasy geek presents its own escapes. I don't see that for homosexuality. Maybe you imagine a world where gay folk rule, but I don't see it being quite as satisfying as imagining yourself the arch-wizard who kills dragons.

    Then, of course, there's the relentless nature of today's bullying. I could always retreat to home. I was alone with Gygax, Tolkien, et. al.. I didn't live with Facebook torment, and no one could hand out my cell phone number so that I could receive text messages all night.

    I'm wandering … sorry. But not all who wander are lost.

    Even as our society seems to be moving toward acceptance of homosexuality, teenagers still target anyone who's different. NH has recently passed a new anti-bullying law that includes cyberbullying and the like. Seriously, we need things like this in every state. There are kids who need help.

    • StraightGrandmother

      I wonder if I might ask you to change one word. I think it would be nice if you could change from using the word homosexual to, GLBT, or same sex orientation. 99 times out of 100 when the word homosexual is used it is to denigrae.

      It also bugs the heck out of me when our own John Snow used the word retarded, which i have now seen in 2 of his topics. The prefered term is cognitively disabled. My daughter is a special ed teacher and she also taught me this (my kids teach me a LOT); You don't say, "Autistic children" you say, "children with autism." If you say "autistic children" you are putting the disease first, you should always put the person first and the disease second. They are a person with autism, first and foremost they are a person.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        I assume that by John Snow, you mean me. I'm extremely sensitive to the word "retarded"; that's why I made sure to use the phrase, "…what we used to call retarded." It's fair of me to say that, because that is, in point of fact, what we used to call it. And if you'd point out to me the other place you felt I insensitively used that word, I'll definitely take a look at it. Thanks.

        • StraightGrandmother

          Yeah, LOL John I did mean you. I was poking around your website getting my feet wet and I think you used the word ret***ed in that book you are writing. I think I read about 3 or 4 topics there and I am pretty sure that is where I saw it. The word jumped out at me. It might have been in an earlier topic I jsut don't remember which one but I know the word was used.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I promise you: as I used it sensitively here, I did there, too.

      • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

        Sorry … my only real experience is with homosexuals (mostly male and a couple females that I know), and so I tend not to think of the other targeted groups. Correction noted, and I'll promise to try.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        @ Straight Grandmother: I am grateful for the sentiment, but I am a really, really, really big opponent of this, what can I call it, apologetic regress? Call a spade a goddamn shovel, please.

        I'm queer. I'm a homo. I'm a fag. A fudge-packer. I hail from the other shore. I'm a friend of Dorothy. I'm all of that. I am NOT a raw egg, nor am I unaware of what I am, so that I need peeps whisper in embarrassed euphemisms around me, so they don't accidentally confornt me with this horrid truth.

        Seriously, I am happy when peeps try to be considerate, but this isn't helping.

        When I was little, teachs and other grown-ups tried to use the word "homosexual" inoffensively, and politically correct, but you could hear by the way their voices got softer and by this teeny-tiny pause before they said it, that for all their good will, it remained a four-letter-word in their minds. And that doesn't change, if you reduce it to a series of bland initials. The phobia is in their minds. We'll never get past that with linguistics. So, we might as well stay with the old terms.

        Because whenever you invent a new, less offensive word, you imply that there is something to be offended about. I know you mean the bullies, but I'm not even willing to give them that much ground. I refuse to recognize that ANY word describing the fact that I prefer snogging boys to snogging girls is by itself harmful. I am not proud of the truth. That would be as silly as being ashamed by it. But no wordplay in the world will change it, and any pretense just weakens me.

        It is the intent with which a word is spoken. And in this case, it was clearly spoken without any ill will. (As for LGBT being more inclusive, yeah, I can kinda live with that. Of course, in my personal vocabulary queer covers the same ground (and even all the freakish shades inbetween and all around), but than, that may not be so for everybody.)

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        @ Straight Grandmother: I am grateful for the sentiment, but I am a really, really, really big opponent of this, what can I call it, apologetic regress? Call a spade a goddamn shovel, please.

        I'm queer. I'm a homo. I'm a fag. A fudge-packer. I hail from the other shore. I'm a friend of Dorothy. I'm all of that. I am NOT a raw egg, nor am I unaware of what I am, so that I need peeps whisper in embarrassed euphemisms around me, so they don't accidentally confornt me with this horrid truth.

        Seriously, I am happy when peeps try to be considerate, but this isn't helping.

        When I was little, teachs and other grown-ups tried to use the word "homosexual" inoffensively, and politically correct, but you could hear by the way their voices got softer and there was usually this teeny-tiny pause before they said it, that for all their good will, it remained a four-letter-word in their minds. And that doesn't change, if you reduce it to a series of bland initials. The phobia is in their minds. We'll never get past that with linguistics. So, we might as well stay with the old terms.

        Because whenever you invent a new, less offensive word, you imply that there is something to be offended about. I know you mean the bullies, but I'm not even willing to give them that much ground. I refuse to recognize that ANY word describing the fact that I prefer snogging boys to snogging girls is by itself harmful. I am not "proud" of the truth. That would be as silly as being ashamed by it. But no wordplay in the world will change it, and any pretense just weakens me.

        It is the intent with which a word is spoken. And in this case, it was clearly spoken without any ill will. (As for LGBT – or GLBT, but I'm a sexist gentlemanly pig there – being more inclusive, yeah, I can live with that. Of course, in my personal vocabulary queer covers the same ground (and even all the freakish shades inbetween and all around), but than, that may not be so for everybody.)

  • Tim

    I related a story to Ace about a bully-beater friend I had in high school. Later on, after high school, I found out that Chap got arrested for spousal abuse. He was the victim of domestic abuse when he was a kid. His father beat him mercilessly and drove him to be a spectacular athlete. When he rebelled in high school by not going out for any sport, his dad beat him all the more. I imagine his protecting arm at school for skinny dorks like me, were the result of his frustration of not being able to stop his dad at home. Physically he could've put his dad in the hospital…easily…at any time. But it was his DAD. He did what kids are expected to do. Take it and shut up.

    I'm not a fan of John Meyer, but that song he wrote about sons and daughters growing up to be fathers and mothers got me. So much of what we become is related to how we were treated as kids. Still no training in parenting or child development are required to have children….here or seemingly anywhere else.

    • StraightGrandmother

      So true, however I think a big reason we are able to change is who we marry. I have seen that happen over the years a good spouce can really bring a person up. But then there is also the reverse.

      There were some things that my mother did that I hated (not bad things like abuse but stupid bad habits) and I vowed I would never ever do that and I don't. In most ways I am like my mother but in some ways I saw her faults and am completely different. I know my adult children do the same thing relative to me LOL. I think each generation in my family gets better and a lot of that is them deciding they are never going to do what I do LOL. You know certain things, but not over all.

  • John

    I've never been very social, Always very shy. Never did have a lot of friends. Was bullied a lot. Came out to my family at fourteen and most of them rejected me. Very religious. The few friends I did have found out and didnt want anything to do with me. Bullied a lot sometimes by people that were friends. I can remeber one of school security telling me it was my fault for choosing to be gay. Tried to kill myself at fifteen and failed so I simply withdrew. I would play videogames or watch movies for hours at a time so I didnt have to think about anything at all. My depression and withdrawing eventually turned into agoraphobia. I havent had someone I could call a friend for a decade. I can go sometimes a week or two without seeing or speaking to another person. My days are now spent just trying to fill my head with anything to keep from being miserable or worse.

    • Tim

      John, You have friends here. Depression and agoraphobia can be overcome. You have a purpose. You are not a mistake. While none of us are perfect, all of us are uniquely useful regardless of those imperfections to help each other along. In that, I believe we can be the arms and hand of a God who infinitely loves you…no matter what religious people have done in your past.

      • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ erika

        this.

    • StraightGrandmother

      John, your story is so sad. You gotta get out, you just gotta do it. I know one thing if you want a friend you have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself in situations when you can meet and get to know people that you might like. I'll tell you something my dad did for years, he voluntered with the Senior services and he called on older people who were shut ins and he just visited them. Once in a while he would take them out, just for a drive around town they would go vist where the elderly person used to live, jsut drive by their owl home and see the neighborhood. Or it seems wierd to say, but old people like to go visit the cemetary. My dad would take them to the cemetary. But again this was mostly just about my dad going over and listening and talking with them. Why couldn't you do that?

      See I am a practical person, a woman of action, you tell me a story like yours I am going to offer a solution, can't help myself, just trying to help is all. It's like my mother always says, "You just put one foot in front of the other, and then do it again"

    • cat rennolds

      John,

      It's hard where you are, but it's even harder to get out. It's scary out there. I know! I'm really glad you posted. There are lots of people who would love to have a chance to get to know you.

      But here comes the tough love….nobody can do it for you. You have to start by loving YOU enough to take one tiny step. Just one. don't do too much at once. Go to the library and smile at ONE person in your favorite section. that's all, just smile. Get a book, go home.

      Posting this was a great tiny step:)

      Then go home and start looking at what there is about you to love. I promise you faithfully it is there. Not allowed to down on yourself here. You're already good at that. What you want is some change for the better. So start where you are.

      Throw out all the bad things that were thrown at you. I'm sure you have some faults because everybody does, but I bet they're not the ones you were told they are. Pretend you are trying to rescue someone really beautiful and sad who would make a great friend if you could just get them to believe in themselves. Write them a love letter. THEN READ IT. It's all true.

      You know already we are going to tell you to get the help that is out there for you to get. More savvy posters than I can probably tell you where to start. But, one more time, you have to take a chance on yourself. You have to try it if it is going to change.

      Trust me, though, it can. you can. Love, always love.

      • Chellee

        That was beautiful, Cat. Well said. And I agree.

    • Robert Meek

      I know what it's like, only I didn't come out until I got found out at age 30. It resulted in my mother confronting me at work, shrieking at me at the top of her lungs that *I* was "not being discreet" as she summarily was telling everyone what they hitherto had not known. I had to immediately go on the defensive, to survive, and pointed out that she was doing a good job of telling everyone herself, and if she did not leave, I would call the police and have her removed – that she could not do this there, in public. She realized I was right, and left instantly. It was quite some time before we ever were civil again.

      But the years of being bullied in school from first grade through high school took their own toll. To this day, I can feel the pain if I'm in a scenario that "seems" like back then. When I became disabled, on oxygen, and weakened by a heart attack, and took to the electric carts in Walmart, I found people either stared at me as if I were a freak, or acted like I was invisible. Both left me angry and hurt. Defensive.

      Then one day I realized that I had to apply even then, what I had already learned: I could either let these things run my life, the pain rule me, or I could run my life, instead, and I had to make a choice.

      It wasn't easy at all. I faltered a lot, but I kept at it. I cannot say that I have "arrived" that I am not without pain. I don't know if that ever happens.

      But I do know I am stronger.

      When I we vulnerable to the stares in Walmart, I chose to turn the tables, to speak to them, greet them, make them uncomfortable, make them face that I was not invisible. I forced myself to smile and be sociable, and found that although I might not have changed them, I lessened my pain, by giving them less power over me.

      I can only speak from my own life. Just like an alcoholic or smokers or overeaters or whatever…anonymous program – you take what you want, what you need of it, what we share, and leave the rest.

      I hope that something from my life, just a sliver maybe, brings you a sense of peace and strength, and the realization that you can be stronger.

      • Robert Meek

        Oops.

        "When I we vulnerable to the stares in Walmart…" should read "When I was vulnerable to the stares in Walmart…" – sorry.

        • Don Whitt

          Mommy dearest. Crap. You're a cool person Robert. I'm glad you're here.

          • Mindy

            What Don said.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        @ Robert: Yay! Power to you! Love the speak-to-them-make-them-uncomfortable approach! ^_^

    • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ erika

      john,

      i am so glad you posted, reaching out is scary and hard to do and i for one am really proud of you. , you will find here in "johns band" a really really welcoming, open and affirming, supportive, loving group of people. we like, the different and the other. most of us in one way or another have "been there done that" if you are on facebook, please friend me. leave a comment on my website. i will friend you.

      btw, i will friend anyone, just tell me you are in johns band.

    • Freda

      Hi, John,

      Please, please know, that the foolish, hurtful, downright hateful things people do in the name of God and/or religion cannot change who God is, and must not be allowed to hide God's outstretched arms. God loves you and is reaching for you always.

      I recently heard of a resource called the Trevor Project, which provides support to LGBTQ youth, including a helpline. While they focus on teens, I have no doubt you will find their website helpful, and that if you ever needed to call their helpline, they would be willing and able to support you.

      http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

      Hugs and hope that you'll stick around Mr. Shore's blog. I don't post often, but I'm encouraged by many people on here who do.

      • Don Whitt

        YES!

      • cat

        Like….actually love your reply, Freda.

    • Ace

      Where are you?

    • DR

      Hi John,

      I read this – particularly your last sentence – and wanted to let you know that I've been in that isolated, "let me fill the hours with noise and internet and movies and TV so I don't have to face the fear of being alone and unloved" too. Those moments when you can't figure out one good thing – they are truly, some of the scariest, emptiest moments there are. But too, in those moments you kind of know where the edges of the bottom are. And the edges are where we start climbing up, and onward and through. It's hard to just start *moving* when we get so used to numbing ourselves. You'll do it, small bits of courage and clarity at a time.

      DR

    • Jon

      You just found a bunch of friends…. maybe not perfect, or what you can call 'best friends' at the moment…. but people who care more about your wellbeing than labels. If you ever want someone to send an email to who will not judge you in the ways that you testify…. please send me a note. The proprietor of this venerable blog can likely connect us at your request.

    • Mindy

      John – I wish I had all the answers for you. All I can say to you at this point is that YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. Truly, you are not. Cat is right – you have to be the one to do the work – but you have taken a first step. You have shown yourself here, vulnerable, and in need. But we are only one community – you have to find the one outside your house that will help you take the next steps.

      In the meantime, until you are ready, stay with us here, talk through it. Talk through the fear and the desperation. Talk through the terror at exposing your real self to the outside world. You will find the strength, because you are part of this human family that will not let you down. I swear, John, we won't.

      I wish you peace, and the strength to take the next step.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      Hugs, John! v_v Every story is different, of course, but I know what it's like to have been ready to eliminate yourself cuz you think you just cannot stant the world anymore, or worse, yourself in it. And even now I don't have any useful advice, except: Accept the pain. It's there. It's not going to go away. But it's not ALL there is. The world is vast and between the darkness and the cruelty it is unimaginably beautiful. If you look close enough and don't fight feeling the pain you can find beauty almost everywhere. It's not much, I know, but at least for me it made life worth my time, every single second I've got. We can wait for the peace of oblivion a little bit longer.

      Fear is the mind-killer.

      Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

      I will face my fear.

      I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

      And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

      Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

      Only I will remain.

      (Litany against Fear, from Dune, by Frank Herbert)

    • Susan

      John,

      Are you still out there? I hope you come back and let us know how you're doing.

      I understand what you are going through…there is hope. I even have a group other than us here in John's band that can provide you with wonderful support, virtually or live.

      Susan
      Hope

      • John

        I am still here. I am no different. I dont have much to say. I appreciate everyones words.

      • John

        I’m here. No different. Appreciate the kind words.

  • Xandrea

    John, I want to be your friend. Dead serious.

  • Jeannie

    I would be willing to be your friend.

    Depression and agoraphobia are terrible things. I have suffered from depression myself. I have a dear loved one who suffered from agoraphobia. Both can be helped now, thank God. I encourage you to look for local resources to find that help. If you just can't find the inertia to look yourself, I would be willing to help you.

    What you have suffered truly breaks my heart.

    I hope for a happier future for you.

  • SlyOne

    I'm a misfit. Always have been. Decades have passed since high school, and although I'd like to think that's behind me I remember some of the stuff people did like it was yesterday. I was already introverted and awkward, and being fodder for other people's cruelty just crushed me. (think "Ally Sheedy/Breakfast Club") To this day I walk into new situations expecting the emotional blows, with a sign on my head that says "weird", not being able to look folks in the eyes because of years of being treated like I had no right to exist. Once a girl at school came up and smacked me in the face as I walked alone in the quad. I didn't know her. I had my stuff ruined, was physically and emotionally assaulted over and over. Now I'm single (my ex remarried someone far less quirky than I, but I luckily raised a kid who is gregarious and smart and still introspective) and you know, how do you find a partner when you exude "I must suck, I mean, look how they treated me!"?

    I wasn't really a dork. I just had a soul riding on my sleeve and was surrounded by kids who didn't want anyone near theirs. So they bullied and sneered with bravado, shored up by their friends – almost none of them would have been bullies on their own. It was a way of protecting themselves. I saw some of them at a reunion – they were real, then, at least most of them. Relatively.

    But one of the worst cases of bullying came from a cousin who went to school with me. Horrible hazing in front of tons of kids. To this day he says something sarcastic and embarrassing to me at every family gathering. Last time it was at a funeral. I don't even think he means to hurt me anymore. But he does, like a reflex.

    How misfits live? I can't answer for anyone else but it's like riding the fence between "they just don't get me because their lives are so shallow" and "I'm total sh*t, why don't I fit in?", you know? I want to believe I'm lonely because I'm special, not because I'm strange. Or that "strange" just means I'm more intelligent or creative or some other nice adjective that doesn't apply to "normal" people. Some days I believe that, and I tell myself that Van Gogh was regarded with disdain. But other days it's "like everybody's on a stage and it seems like I'm the only person sitting in the audience".

    In the end the real answer doesn't matter because isolation, feeling different and alone, is a killer, and sometimes literally. Let's treat each other well, people, and teach our kids to do the same. The world can be a harsh place, and everyone needs somewhere to go where they are loved and safe and allowed to be who they are without judgment.

    The "strangest" among us have brought the most beauty to the world.

    • StraightGrandmother

      What an apt forum name you!

    • cat rennolds

      One of the things it took me a long, long time to learn was how much of my younger self's isolation was self-imposed, or at least self-sustaining. the horrible thing is that it turns into a feedback loop. When you're isolated from outside, you internalize it, mostly sooner rather than later. Even when you've moved into new circumstances, when the power is yours, you don't know how to use it and you're afraid to try.

      You have to know that it's your choice. There are people out there LOOKING for you. Not just willing to tolerate you, far more than ignoring you politely. Wondering where the heck you are and when you are going to show up. You know they're there….because there you are, waiting for them. But maybe they are sitting at home waiting for YOU to find THEM. Start looking!

    • Ace

      Ugh, that reminds me of one time in high school when I said something in class when the other kids were talking amongst themselves and this one boy just turns around and says, loudly, with everyone staring at me like I just pissed on their shoes by daring to speak, "Why do you even talk? Nobody likes you."

      Nobody bothered to contradict him, anyway, not even the teacher (one of the coaches, actually, he taught a history class, and hated anyone who wasn't athletic).

      I hated that boy. His name was jacob and he and his friends were really, really mean, but everybody else seemed to like them anyway.

    • Jutta

      SlyOne, John, et al.

      I wonder how many of us who have been labeled 'strange' or 'weird' or just 'shy' are HSP (highly sensitive persons). http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm

      I discovered only recently that I am HSP and it was a huge eye-opener. According to Dr. Elaine Aron being introvert and shy is often seen as 'abnormal' in American culture and therefore not acceptable and needs to be fixed. I have not seen this to such an extreme in Europe. Nevertheless, if you are HSP like me, it will be helpful to discover what is normal for HSPs and learn to discover what kind of environment you need to thrive. It meant the world to me, even though it still took some time to learn not to feel guilty about me being different.

      I also keep wondering if the studies of teen suicide took this factor into account. At least, it would not surprise me if a high percentage of these were HSP and therefore found the bullying even more unbearable than others who were also bullied.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Maybe, but I would like to think not. I read an article where the grandparents were interviewed from the boy who hung himself in California. The way they described thier grandson he did not come across to me as Highly Sensitive.

        But it is interesting that you mention this as I had a very good friend in high school who was very shy. I remember having this conversation with her in her home, she invited me over, or if the truth be told, I probably invited myself. She was very pretty and very smart also. I remember talking to her about it and asking her, "Is it that you are just shy?" And she responded positively, I remember her telling me, "I am just a very shy person" after that I understood where she was coming from and I was always always sensitive to that. We were pretty good friends.

        • Jutta

          I was never described as highly sensitive, more to the contrary – I was the "elephant in the china shop" – So it came as a huge surprise to me. After only reading 2 chapters of the Aron book, I had a list of 20+ things that I knew about myself that suddenly made sense. Aron also says that shyness most often develops in reaction to an environment. that does not value sensitivity. HSP is an inherent trait but shyness is not.

    • DR

      "I just had a soul riding on my sleeve and was surrounded by kids who didn’t want anyone near theirs."

      What a tragic and beautiful insight.

  • Joe

    There's a lot of bigots out there. I grew up in Mississippi. 90% of my parent's income from their small business was from black customers. As a white kid, I learned early on a lot about stereotypes and assumptions. And hate. I learned to respect the differences. Yes, there are a lot of people who don't get you. Be strong. They are wrong. Find love and hang onto it. Grow friends that "get:" you. Acknowledge those who let you be. Know that life at it's best is all about love. Yes, sex it wonderful no matter your partner preference. Love is so much more awesome.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Nice post Joe

      • Don Whitt

        @Joe – that's a great tip. I think, sometimes, we hang-on to acquaintances who benefit from our own self-esteem issues. They're people who keep us down so they feel better.

        Find people who like you – really like you – and let go of the relationships that are like anchors weighing you down.

  • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

    I was hardly popular, but I wasn't the butt of everyone's jokes either. What I was, was a skinny kid, with thick glasses who was a bit shy and who's family followed this weird religion. I was teased, and considered odd, but I think I was so non-nondescript that I was essentially ignored. what teasing I did endure was I am sure quite mild in comparison. I don't think I could have withstood anything physical.

    I never fit in in school lacking the social skills to know exactly what to do. I had no athletic ability so sports were out. Only music and drama kept me in school at all. They were the only things I felt that I was any good at. I saw teasing and bullying but never felt the need to participate in anyway. I was too busy trying to decide if I wanted to be left alone, or for someone other then my very small circle of friends to notice me.

    I felt I couldn't please my parents, who didn't understand me, and I didn't have a clue what to tell them. Their faith, was restrictive and legalistic and it took me years to walk away from that form of religious discipline.

    I was also in mourning for the loss of my mother who had passed away when I was six. Back then they didn't tell kids how to deal with stuff like that. It was assumed I wouldn't remember. 40 years later, I still do.

    Somehow, I managed to overcome a lot. I am no longer shy. In fact people who know me now would likely not recognize my former self. Yet I still am a bit of an emotional loner, yet crave acceptance. Its strange how I want to be alone, afraid to let people get too close, yet want people to want to be with me. I still can't figure out that stupid balance.

    John, your story, although nothing like mine struck a chord. You show, so eloquently how the things we do or say to others "in fun" can be so amazingly damaging. I wrote about this recently, and it is interesting how this type of thing keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. It must be because this is something we need to really be trying to combat so that there are no stories like that of your friend.

  • Jutta

    Now, was that telepathy or did you happen to read this blog post of a bullied kid?
    http://www.danoah.com/2010/10/memoirs-of-bullied-

    I think it is very insightful and encouraging how he managed to overcome it, expressing compassion for those how are or were bullies. It is so true – hurt people hurt people.

    Bullying is a hug problem. I myself was often on the receiving end. These and other humiliations at home led me to build thick walls around my heart. Over the last 10 years Jesus brought healing to these places and is slowly teaching me how to be vulnerable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PembertonD David Pemberton

    John,

    I know you must be feeling alone, and depressed. I know that is an ugly place and like a pit. We were not made to want that, and for too long we as a people have allowed the lonely, and depressed to continue to be that way. So with all the love in the world, and with all the companionship I can offer I extend to you my hand in friendship.

    Because your pain is my pain. Your depression is mine as well. Every loving soul on this planet is sustained by another. Every love is anothers love….

    So today, lets begin fresh and new. Lets begin by looking at ourselves in the mirror. Try to see what God sees for a moment. All the sin, all the transgression… yes he sees those things just as clearly as you can… but one more thing. He cant help but to love you. You are his perfect creation! He has tried endlessly to show you that love. He does it even now, through all the kind words, and the loving embrace of this online family you have here. Now say, "I love you"…. be silly, let it all just go. You might cry a little. (I know I did!) Then when you leave your apartment, take that silly mind with you. Say with a bright smile, (that initially feels like your faking it but you know what they say) "Good morning!!!" to everyone you see, whether they return it or not. When you need a lift find a mirror and start the process over. If you need a reminder, just come to me. I know you are loved! I love you!

    John, no you are not alone, nor could you ever be. I hope my love, the love I know is from God has reached you. I hope that you can believe again, that you are loved. Practice love, and I assure you, the bright shining smile of the Most High will find you! :) It found me!

    You couldnt have chosen this path, however the choice is yours to love, and to be loved. Choose this path with all the wisdom in your heart. God does love you! I love you, and these people love you as well. Welcome home! We sure missed you! :)

    Dave!

    • StraightGrandmother

      David Pemberton and everyone here who is reaching out to John, I'm speechless. Just speechless. Your love and compassion, I jsut can't put it into words but thank you, because you not only touched John you touched me as well.

      • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ erika

        (hug, grandma)

      • http://www.facebook.com/PembertonD David Pemberton

        Love can, and should touch everyone… REGARDLESS of faith! Doctrine is nothing without faith, and it is that faith that sustains our love! Mr. Shore you are just a beautiful as any other soul! Even the bullies, even the bullied.

        Lets not forget, the bully is hurting too. The judgmental are judged by their faith in fear. They are just as much in a pit, as the one who believes he is alone. You can find this out when you unplug from their hate. Once you stop giving them fear, and you give them love. They either fade into the past, or become a beautiful future.

        Loving what is more powerful than you, the presence of a God of love, means loving all things he has a hand in creating.

        Let this holy day, this sabbath be a day of praise and love! Amen!

  • Recovering Goth

    I see a couple of mentions of teasing overweight girls here. Such teasing hurt us 30 years ago, and I suspect it's worse now. I'm not sure if, or how. one could compare gay youth suicide to youth anorexia/bulimia statistics; but I'm betting we'd see disturbing increases in both issues.

    Until I was 14 or so, the school bus ride was a nightmare. Taunts of "thunder thighs," "big butt," "four eyes," and just plan "YOU'RE FAT!" were hurled at me the whole way to school. No one ever made the bullying stop. Thanks to great grades, enough musical talent to become a band geek, contact lenses, and an amazing church youth group, I made it through high school fairly well. I cannot say I know what it's like for a gay teen, but I can say I know how it hurts to be bullied. I'm guessing most fat girls (especially those with glasses) would understand how it feels. We're told from a very early age that we're unacceptable as we are; we must become normal (i.e., skinny) to be accepted. I'm sure a lot of people think that being fat isn't the same as being gay, and you are correct. They're not the same thing. Fat can be managed, to some degree. But fat is not usually a purposeful choice. It can't often be "fixed" to the level that's considered acceptable. And in the age of airbrushed advertising, the acceptable level of thinness is unattainable by about 98% of the female population. To all the parents on this board, thank you for your unconditional love of your kids. Here's hoping they're not being bullied. And here's hoping they are learning your examples of acceptance for all those "different" kids among their peers – no matter what the differences may be.. :-)

    • Jutta

      I had glasses too but I was not fat – actually part of my problem was that I was no 'fat enough' – in the right places. Some called me BMW (Board with warts). The self-made dresses of my mother were definitely not fashionable. Lacking social skills and self-confidence did not help either.

      I think the reasons for kids to start bullying someone are endless. Sometimes it is a matter of who is better (or faster) at covering up their own imperfections by pointing out the faults of others.

      • Ace

        In my experience both bullies and their targets are just kids who lack confidence in themselves. The bullies make up for it by tearing down others to build up their own egos and self-worth, and they are generally extroverts. Their targets tend to be introverts on the other hand, and are more likely to turn inward on themselves than to lash outward.

        The source of that lack of confidence can be a whole lot of things, whether because of a disability, bad home life, poor socialization, and others. Sometimes it's not any one thing either.

        There's no easy answer.

        • Jutta

          Exactly.

        • Recovering Goth

          @Jutta, your comments remind me of what most people would see as a cheesy teen angst film – have you ever seen the movie "Angus?" It wasn't a brilliant work of writing, directing, acting, or cinema in general, but I loved the message of that film. Look around you – who is "normal?" No one! Some of us are fat, some of us are thin, some have glasses or birthmarks or ears that stick out. And if being normal means being like you (non-John-Shore-like alpha boys and girls), then thank God I'm NOT normal. I do thank God that He brought a group of young kids together my church who fit in well with each other, partially because none of us really fit in anywhere.

          @Ace, the lack of self-confidence is a factor on both sides, I'd agree. As an awkward fat kid, I can tell you part of it came from my 'abnormalities,' but most of it came from a general gut feeling that I'm just not normal. I never will be normal. I don't like socializing, though I've learned to fake my way through it fairly well. Anyway, I learned to accept that I didn't have to be normal, or even close to normal, to be confident in who I am. God made me this way, God loves me this way, that's all I need. Looking back, I find it amazing how once I accepted my weirdness, I've been blessed to find other people in life who feel the same way. Knowing those one or two people who "get it" makes it a whole lot easier to love, forgive, and get along with all those people who don't.

          • Ace

            "Anyway, I learned to accept that I didn’t have to be normal, or even close to normal, to be confident in who I am. "

            I've learned that as an adult as well, but your average 12 year old muddling through puberty and middle school doesn't have the advantage of hindsight, especially if he or she is getting little or no support at home.

            I really think confidence is something that many children have to be taught at a fairly young age, because while it comes natural to certain personality types, it isn't to all, and it comes from the home environment and from how their parents and other adults treat them as toddlers.

            That is when children learn, on a fundamental level, whether or not they can trust others, trust themselves, and trust the world in general. If their upbringing was grounded in harsh parental criticism or in fear, it's hard to undo that damage – the world will forever be a landscape of shifting sands and unseen stones ready to trip them up or drag them under. It's hard for children brought up poorly to feel like they are standing on firm ground.

            And once children get to grade school, it's harder for them to learn confidence in such an environment, especially if the school staff and the parents aren't interested in taking an active role in students' social interactions (as it is in many schools, especially public schools, unfortunately).

  • StraightGrandmother

    I have this almost uncontrollable urge to run out on Monday and volunteer to be a hall monitor at the middle school. Is anyone else feeling that?

    • cat rennolds

      Grandma, DO IT. It would be wonderful. I went to grade school in Spain, and every day, there was a parent monitor on each school bus. Every parent had to take a turn. Unlike coming back to the US, where I was regularly tormented and occasionally had the crap beat out of me on the bus. And the bus driver basically had to pretend he didn't see it, because he was a black man and there was no way he could afford to interfere between white kids.

      So anybody that has the time or the will, get in there and slog. There will be kids AND teachers who bless you for it. Is there somewhere we can spread this meme?

      • Jeannie

        Me too. Using my walker and all. I was a bullied kid and I would love to be a part of making it stop for today's kids.

      • StraightGrandmother

        It is a nice idea but not feasible for me as I don't live in the United States any more. But still i do have that urge to jump on a plane and be a hall monitor.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Maybe we can write to Dan Savage he has a high visibility right now, or PFLAG.

    • Mindy

      I AM doing that, SG – or something like that – I have a kid who just entered middle school at a brand-new school, and some of us parents are working hard to help a establish the culture at this school. Embracing diversity is absolutely key – and as for the bullying, it isn't about "zero tolerance" so much as about changing the landscape- no, it won't be tolerated, but it will be ADVOCATED AGAINST. Instead of just "not doing it," our kids are going to learn how to rally around a victim and STOP the torment. Period. Teaching bullies how to be different.

      Or at least we're going to try.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Why am I not at all surprised.

        • Mindy

          LOL – well, I have to stay busy, ya know? Being underemployed stinks, but I'm trying to see the blessing in it of being able to do stuff like this for my kiddo and her peers. You are just kind of person we need in the schools – I'm thinking you'd be welcomed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    In the 3.5 years I've been writing this blog, I've never seen so many truly touching comments. This is just amazing.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Well, see what happens when you invite GLBT people and their supporters to the table?

      When you provide them with a room that is non judgemental, you will find wonderful caring people who drop in and decide to stick around. One of the best protest signs I saw was this,

      "People of Quality don't fear Equality"

      That is what you have here John, people of quality. For a Christian based website it is interesting how many non Christians post here and feel that their voice is equal. When you block the MarkF's of the world and say that you are not welcome here, the nice people stick around.

    • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

      What you write about is what I feel has been missing from Christianity, at least in my experience. That of course is not to say that what you say and how you have interacted with others is unique within the faith, but it is becoming less common, and that I find disturbing.

      We need more people who are willing to stand up, say "To God everyone matters, and if they matter to God, then they matter to me." I am pretty sure that God sure doesn't like everything that we do, or to get right down to it, everything that I do, but We/I still matter very much.

      I have always thought that the church was supposed to be a "place" where people in pain, in need, in search, could come and be comforted, be given and be educated, so that they could go and do the same to others . It is quite possible, John, that what you have been gifted with, is just one small example of what we should be doing as the church.

      • StraightGrandmother

        Nope the churches are NOT that for GLBT people Sylvie, at 99% of the American churches. While you can turn away from drugs and alchohol, and change your behaviour to stop beating your wife, GLBT people cannot change who they are attracted to. They are welcomed into churches only as damaged people, people who need fixing and repenting, repenting for simply being who they are and all of science tells us that no amount of repenting will work, they will ALWAYS be GLBT. They are NOT welcomed in as being equal to the others in the congregation, not by a long shot. There are very few mainstream churches who do accept GLBT people as they are. It is getting better but we are far far far from being loving Christian churches.

        • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

          I know SG. And I suspect that it will take a while before we get to the point where we are closer to what Christ meant when he taught about loving our brother. I still see a lot of racism, bigotry, and judgmental attitudes all the time. It is very hard to counter because those concepts are so deeply entrenched having been taught and passed down.

          I also find myself once again at a crossroads when it comes to my personal walk with Christ. I grew up in a highly legalistic church, moved to more traditional style, then to a more expansive congregation but with many of the elements of orthodox southern baptists leanings. I feel myself shifting away from some of that mindset, simply because I feel that while my congregation is much more inclusive then many, I simply hesitate to invite my gay friends considering some of what I have heard preached. And I was directly asked by a friend who is looking for a church home closer to where her and her partner live.

          I feel the pull to a new direction, one of the reasons I returned to school at age 47 (there are other more practical reasons, health and finances being primary) I want to be a better voice for the people in my community who need it. And there is quite a list of people who's voices are kept silence because they feel raising them does no good, or are lambasted if they do, or simply have no means of speaking for themselves. Is that God's pulling at me, or is that just simple frustration and lunacy? I don't know, but I can't ignore it.

  • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

    As do I John, as do I.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Now that I mispoke your last name John, I'll tell you that you were mentioned (correctly) in a blog post over at http://blackchristiannews.com/bloggers/ and refered to as a *gasp* Liberal Christian and this was said in a non complimentary way. I read a bunch of those blogs so I don't remember which one it was but it was there.

    This Black Christian News Bloggers website has been a gold mine to me, I just found them yesterday. Oh my gosh I was so happy, all these Christian leaders who are influencing millions, literally millions of Christians, primarily but not exclusively African American Christians here, they are all gathered up in one nice tidy website, YEAH!

    I have been commenting over there since yesterday but the only comments that get posted are the ones that are automatically posted, not first moderated and approved. My comments that must get through moderation so far have not gotten posted. If this keeps up I am going to complain to the Website owners. I did get in a good one, here-

    http://blackchristiannews.com/news/2009/06/the-bl

    I have to go back and look at their archives more but as I read somewhere what we can expet from the conservative Christians on the GLBT youth who are killing themselves is mainly going to be silence. A review of these thought leaders over at BlackChristiannews.com proves this to be true.

    It is awful, just awful they do write a little bit about Bishop Eddie Long in Atlanta but not once single sentence about the poor youth who were groomed and abused by him, not a peep about the victims. Not a word.

    Another one of the "Big" pastors as I call them, is that Bishop T.D. Jakes out of Texas. Another preacher who condems gay people for simply being who they are, yeah his oldest son was arrested in a park as he was trying to attract 2 undercover male police officers with his penis hanging out. Okay well what do you say now Bishop? Did you not raise your own son right? I guess this blows that theory of the reason people are GLBT is because they experienced a traumatic youth. It is not any of those things, it is simply that some people, and we don't know why, (like can someone please tell me why I am hetrosexual?) just are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. They just "are", just like we just "are" hetrosexual (for those of us who are).

    I look at this website, The Black Christian News Network as the enemy. And here they are all gathered up in one place, I don't have to go hunt them down one by one. Even if my comments never get posted on their individual blogs at least I know that they, or someone in their organization has read them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PembertonD David Pemberton

    I want to once more extend my heart and ears to anyone who needs a loving soul. Please, do not believe you are alone!

    I don't care what God you worship, as long as the rule is to love your God before yourself, then love your neighbor as yourself.

    I don't care what personality, or sex, or color you are attracted to, as long as you yearn for unconditional love.

    I don't care about age, or status, or disability (I hate that word, lets say specialty!!) as long as you know there is more!

    I only care that you are loved, and that you feel that love. Please never feel alone!

    • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

      Oh so so agree! We all yearn for unconditional love, it is in the giving of, that we all struggle. If we at least desire to do so, work to become so recognize that God will help us all the way in showing us how, then just imagine the potential.

    • http://www.facebook.com/PembertonD David Pemberton

      Oh and btw Im in tears… these comments are so much love its almost too much to stand. Anyone who comes here must feel this.

  • Don Whitt

    Clemson University's Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life has designed and implemented an anti-bullying program (conventional and cyber) for schools:

    http://www.olweus.org/public/index.page

    This includes their "Lifelines" youth suicide prevention program:

    http://www.olweus.org/public/lifelines.page

    I found the site re. the programs very informative and interesting. This could be a great program to "bake" into school curriculum.

  • peet

    I feel so at home here.

  • http://www.youtube.com/epistomolus Dennis Dawson

    One thing that I think is missing here, is that, the truth is, when we're teenagers, pretty much everyone feels awkward and misunderstood. There are the more obvious people, like me, who are fat and obnoxious and otherwise not in the "in" crowd. But the people in the "in" crowd, when I had a chance to talk to them, had their own pressures to conform to something other than themselves. I( had a chance to talk to cool kid John Shore about that when we were in high school, in fact.)

    The first lesson that must be learned, and I try to get this message out there to all the kids in my drawing classes, etc., is that everything that seems important up through high school is meaningless the day after graduation.

    I think Tina Fey hit this right on in the movie "Mean Girls," and a generation ago it was "Can't Buy Me Love." I like the MTV show that's on now called "If You Really Knew Me…" or something like that. If everyone's honest with themselves and others, the whole social structure of schools is a quagmire. We have to remember, too, that this is a fairly new phenomenon: we didn't isolate children by age, separate from their parents, other grown-ups, until the beginning of the previous century. It's unnatural, and results in some pretty bizarre social behavior.

    I think I was in my 30s when I finally graduated from middle school, emotionally. Anybody who tries to carry forward the idea of the cool kids, cliques, etc. after high school just doesn't get it. Whether you were on the giving or receiving end, it's something that needs to be left behind. As adults, we can find a community where we'll be accepted, and the discussion here is proof of that. ;-)

    ~D

    • Don Rappe

      I believe you hit on something systemically important in noticing the "bizarre" nature of modern school systems.

      • Ace

        Even worse are the buses. I used to be able to get through whole days at school without getting caught up by the bullies, sometimes, but I pretty much never got through a whole bus ride without getting some kind of crap from one of them.

        Cram 30+ kids in a small space with ZERO supervision (I'm sorry, the bus drivers do not and largely cannot intervene) and it's Lord of the Flies time.

        The last couple years of high school I took to walking to my grandmother's house and waiting on her porch until my mother got off work a couple hours later and could pick me up, it got so bad. I mean 16, 17, 18 year-old girls pulling my hair, throwing things at me like grade schoolers, and that was the tamer days. After the second pair of broken glasses, I gave up on it. The school would do nothing to intervene, at all.

        Most of the time I was the one who ended up sitting in suspension, because the girls who liked to gang up on me would tell the administrators that I had been the one doing nasty stuff to them, rather than the other way around, and I was outnumbered (that's democracy for you), plus the principal disliked both my brother and me, because we while we both had some of the best test scores in the school, we weren't jocks. There's a lot of favoritism and prejudice among teachers and staff as well that plays into such dynamics.

  • http://www.youtube.com/epistomolus Dennis Dawson

    Ooh – sorry about the punctuation errors I introduced in revision!

  • Don Rappe

    I have known personally as friends two people who took their own lives. Both were married or divorced straight adults over 40. I believe suicide is best seen as a symptom of a disease.

    • textjunkie

      Yeah, I've had a couple of friends commit suicide too, from depression or bipolar disorder. But what drives people without a mental disorder to suicide was kind of the point of the post on bullying.

  • http://secretbroadcastcave.wordpress.com Don_C

    Reading John’s story is almost like looking into a mirror.

    I was the fat, “four-eyed”, shy kid, who was much more interested in the arts and sciences than chasing a ball down the field. I was a prime target from 3rd grade (when I started gaining weight) through the end of high school. I’d have my books knocked out of my hands, my glasses taken away, and get taunted because I was fat. Add that to emotional abuse from some of my relatives (who disdained anything to do with “booklearnin’”), and you got a kid who would rather not interact with anyone. Why should I, when all I got was pain?

    Then the family moved to Texas, where high school football was king. I became a prime target of much of the football team. Rumors about my orientation was one of their favorite tactics, since I seemed uninterested in girls. The truth was I was much too shy to ask any girl out on a date (and didn’t think any of them wanted to be seen with me anyhow). One of the happiest days of my life was when I got my diploma, and realized I didn’t have to see any of my tormentors again.

    The thing is, when you’re told constantly that you’re strange, weird, or stupid, you tend to start believing it. I’ve dealt with it my entire life, and I still do. The difference is…finally, after all these years…what makes me “different” according to the cultural norms isn’t bad. It makes me unique. And God still loved me through it all, even when I was so angry at him for all the junk I’ve had to deal with (divorce, heart problems, diabetes, major depression).

    As you can see, John, you’re not alone. I care. So many others here do. And most importantly, God loves you, even when you feel like the most unlovable person in the world.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Don_C-

      Just THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

    • Recovering Goth

      Don-C, right on! This particular quote is gold: "what makes me “different” according to the cultural norms isn’t bad. It makes me unique." God made you as you are because He loves you as you are. That's the truth for all of us, I really believe that. True joy is only realized when we embrace who we are, and continuously seek who God wants us to be. :)

  • Mindy

    And another gay teen has died. This time, the bullying as school was the foundation, the “norm” of his life. This time, he was bullied to death by grown-ups. This time, a room full of bigoted, hate-filled, ignorant adults waged verbal war on the entire LGBT community in their town.

    This is crushingly sad.

    http://www.wegiveadamn.org/2010/10/norman-oklahom

    • Jes

      “One man said he moved to Norman because he thought it was the kind of place that would never accept the GLBT community with open arms."

      That has got to be the single worst recommendation for a place to move to that I've ever heard.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I don't know about you but all the comments have disappeared in all the topics.
    In this topic I only show Mindy's (1) comment. What a shame I remember that there were over 700 comments on gluing wings on a pig and now they are all gone.

    Yes Mindy I saw the same article. Of course it is not important enough to make the mainstream media, just another "broken" gay. He had to stand there as others took their turn at the podium quoting from the Bible. He had to hear that he was an "abomonation". I hope John Snow creates a special topic so that Zach Harrington will not be forgotten. Yeah really truly Zach Harrington is a "Man Down" and he will never get up.

    • StraightGrandmother

      I contacted the local reporter to get the minutes of the meeting and also inquired if a voice recording was made of the council meeting. In my old city all the meetings were recorded with a voice recorder so that they could be accuratly transcribed into the minutes of the meeting later.

    • Mindy

      Exactly, SG. Now, you have to stop calling John "john snow." He's John SHORE. Because you can't pass him on with the wrong name!!! ;->

  • Stuart

    Pretty neat to have this church hanging out on John's blog. A church that I feel is more about what Jesus had in mind rather than the church institutions we tend to create when left to our own devices.

    I really don't have much to add to the bullying issue, because I really don't have much to add, except that John, and possibly one or two others might have wondered about the obsession I have with buses.

    Well the answer is that something that started as a normal curiosity became the refuge as I trudged through 4 years of high school bullying. It was a hobby/interest that provided relief and I will forever be thankful for that. I would be the first to admit that it didn't really help me develop the people skills that I need, but it did provide a career for a time.

    Long may this blog be a haven for the persecuted to find rest.

  • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

    What the hell is wrong with people? I cannot begin to understand why such a horrible thing is even allowed. It makes me so angry that people think it is perfectly ok to publicly and repeatedly verbally abuse anyone all in the name of God. If crap like this isn't taking the Lord's name in vain, then I don't know what is, because I seriously doubt that He signed "OK, I like this, you got my permission and approval" on that sort of hateful, bigoted mentality or activity.

  • Mindy

    And I imagine you guys have all seen Carl Paladino's latest rant of idiocy on the news . . .
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/10/carl-pal

    Oh yes, THAT'S who we need in charge of New York . . . Good Lord help us all.

  • Mindy

    On the other side of the coin – a young gay man with enormous inner strength stands up to his homophobic father – in public.

  • Mindy
  • StraightGrandmother

    ha ha ha, I just have that darned thing caught in my head. "John Snow" once in there is hard for me to evict, but i'll try. Sucks to get older…

  • StraightGrandmother

    Thanks for the link Mindy, I would call that righteous retribution for the father. Maybe there is a God after all.

  • Lee Walker

    Another stunning story, John. The humor and then punch in the gut. Your skill is in making me almost think that was a memory of my own.

  • Mindy

    I tried to subscribe to new comments, both here and on the newest post, but so far, nothing is showing up. You just don't like me, do you, you big meanie?


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