Being a teenager was tough. Like most kids, I struggled with figuring out who I was and where I belonged. I tried my hardest to fit n, but I often failed. I was super insecure and only really felt at peace when I was at home in my bedroom – specifically, a little nook in my closet that I liked to hide in with my favorite book.
I’ll never forget what happened one summer when I was out with my brother and one of his friends. The three of us were in his car heading downtown to play at the mall near Temple Square. I was stuck in the back of the car doing my own thing while they were having boring conversations of their own. I decided to entertain myself by making faces at the cars that were next to me. I looked out the window to my right and saw a 30-something woman who was waiting for the light to change. She must have felt me staring because she looked over in my direction. I blew here a kiss, batted my eyes, and licked my lips. She laughed, blew me a kiss back, and drove away once the light turned green. This seemed like a lot of fun, so I kept on with it. I hopped over to the other side of the car and started blowing kisses and winking at the boy in the passenger seat next to us. He didn’t look amused, but I continued flirting anyway. It went on for a minute or so and then I realized that I knew who he was…It was a kid that I went to school with. He glared at me with hateful eyes, my heart stopped, and I hid myself by lying down in the back seat. God, I wish I could turn back time – I would have never done something so stupid.
The summer dwindled and it was time to go back to school. The first day of school started out great. I had some awesome new jeans, a fun t-shirt, and some new shoes. I spent my first two periods in yearbook – yep, I was totally a yearbook nerd. My next class was choir which happened to be on the opposite end of the school. The bell rang and I made a bee-line towards the choir room so I wouldn’t be late. I was half-way there when I saw him walking towards me. He must have remembered that I had blown kisses in his direction that summer because he greeted me with a “fuck you, faggot,” while punching me in the gut. I dropped my books and fell to the ground. He started kicking me and a crowd began to huddle around us. He went on for a minute or so and then just walked away. I couldn’t cry because I couldn’t breathe. I held my stomach until I was able to catch my breath and that’s when the tears started flowing. I grabbed my books and hobbled into the nearest bathroom. I locked myself in one of the stalls and started bawling. The only thought that went through my head was “I deserve this.”
I saw him nearly every day that school year. I looked forward to the days where he simply flipped me off or call me a faggot. The days that he pushed me into lockers, or down the stairs, or punched me in the gut were the worst. I remember him punching me so hard one time that I had a huge bruise going around my waist and I bled into the toilet when I went to the bathroom. Several people would see him picking on me, but no one ever stepped up to do anything or to see if I was ok. I didn’t dare tell any adults, because I was sure they’d find out that I was gay. Can you imagine what people would have done to me if they found out I was gay? So I suffered through the beatings and verbal assault. Needless to say, I hated high school.
17 years ago, I was 17. Fast forward 17 years.
Ya know, he was totally right about me. I am gay (which is something I’ve grown to love) – I’m also fabulous, and I’m surrounded by people who genuinely love me. I’m happier now than I have ever been. Thank you for helping mold me in to who I am today. It is because of you that I have become sympathetic, empathetic even, towards anyone who is being bullied. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the worst years of my life so that I can contrast and compare them to the most amazing years of my life. I appreciate life so much more now because I can compare it to the Hell that you gave me as a teenager. Thank you for giving me the desire to help others who are going through what I went through. I hope that one day I can help someone who is feeling as suicidal as I was. I hope that I can lend them my hand and let them know that life gets better.