I haven’t been around much these past weeks, since I started a web design course. You’d think summer is a good time to do everything you don’t have time to do during the year, so I’m up and down all day long. Anyway, the classes are just about finished, so I’ll be back soon enough. To make it up for you I’ve written a long post today.
A few weeks ago my class was asked whether bullying in our school is a thing. Everyone immediately shook their heads; bullying? What were they talking about? Bullying doesn’t take place here! The worst part is that they actually believed these statements.
I’ve never talked about my bullying experiences before but, the truth is, I have been bullied my whole life. Well, compared to what you see in movies and the mental image I have of American schools, I can assure you nothing that bad has ever happened. I’m not sure how the education system works where you live, so I’ll assign age groups to what I’ll call school (until 12), high school (12-16), college (16-18) and University (18+).
I finished school as an innocent little kid. Too innocent, really. I still had swordfights with the other kids during playtime, ran around and climbed… whatever I could climb, which wasn’t much. Playgrounds in Catalonia could be better. I had screaming competitions with my friends and made chewing gum balls which I later froze. All of this was taken away from me when I came face to face with the high school kids.
I was very nervous during my first day of high school. I could nearly call it a success if only I hadn’t had a boy tell me I was very ugly when I was about to go home with an air of relief. The second day I was introduced to a new set of words I must use in order to be “cool”, all of which were swearwords and ruder versions of saying vagina. I had been educated to not swear, so you could say I earned my first badge from the victim team fairly soon. I didn’t realize then, but the first week of high school is when everyone is sorted out into those who laugh and those who will be laughed at. The teens from second year walked around making this classification. They did so with a great number of methods; judging your reaction when they told you to high-five them, when they called your name from the other side of the school, when they bumped into you, how you presented yourself, what your name was… I think I failed all these tests. But what wiped out my competition to the title of Loser was defending those who were being laughed at.
I remember my friends and I were talking to a girl who suddenly found herself up against a wall, surrounded by mean people insulting her, about to cry. I thought she was nice, so I stood next to her with my head high during the fifteen minutes their laughs lasted, only to realise that my friends had quietly left and were making signals to me, telling me to get out of there before they turned on me. They couldn’t possibly think I was just going to leave her there could they?
The first two years were hell. I was called any name you could think of: lesbian, ugly, marimacho (Spanish version of tomboy, but with negative connotations), giraffe (I’m tall), fake goth (I was trying to be emo, actually), ugly, bulimic/anorexic, pimple-face…
People came up to me and asked whether I wanted a sex change, if I could understand Spanish or if I was scared that I wouldn’t ever find somebody who loved me. They told me that I had to look prettier. I had people pour water onto my food. More than once they wrote my name on the blackboard and changed a few letters to make a rude word joke out of it. They threw basketballs and pinecones to my head if it occurred to me to go outside during lunchtime. Scratched on a table in any classroom you could find my name alongside another girl’s name with a heart around them. I couldn’t walk down the hall without being laughed at. I was locked in the bathroom by a boy who broke off the handle. They threw eggs to me from a window when I thought I was finally out of the danger zone. I am thankful I wasn’t assigned male at birth or they would’ve beaten me up.
The third year was ok enough if you don’t count the kid that pretended to fall in love with me and then humiliated me in front of everyone. It was my femme year after all. I had adopted the girliest position I have ever had and tied my hair back in a ponytail, drawing the attention of many boys (and girl(s), actually). I even dressed in female assigned clothes. They decided to leave me alone for a while.
The fourth and last year of high school started out rough and then progressed smoothly until I discovered the difference between sex and gender. Then I started fighting my inner battles.
After that I can’t really say much bullying happened to me. Apart from a bunch of fourteen year olds that thought it would be fun to criticise my gender expression but, you know, they were fourteen. I was over that.
My older sister was studying mediation as an extracurricular, so she helped me through the toughest situations. My father and younger sister were oblivious so, unfortunately, I can’t really say I could depend much on them during those times. They thought it would pass soon enough and that it wasn’t too serious (of course they didn’t know the details).
My mother told me a few things every now and then to try and keep me strong, mostly that they were jealous of me. The thing is they weren’t laughing at me because they were jealous. They were laughing at me because I was uncool, because they hated me, because making fun of me would increase their position on the social ladder. I was everything somebody wasn’t supposed to be, not at that age at least.
I thought once or twice about suicide, but I mostly just wished the bus would explode or something so that it would look like an accident. Sorry to the bus driver. You might be wondering what got me through all of this then. It was manga. Mostly Naruto. I’m not embarrassed to say that comics made me stronger, despite the laughs that that might provoke. I sometimes still picture one of my favourite ninjas standing back up after being defeated in a battle and telling the opposition that he will never give up, that this is the path he has to follow. For good and for bad, I’ve learnt a great amount of morals and attitudes from comics, which have shaped me into the person I am today.
Next year I’ll be starting University. I hope it’s not high school all over again.
I guess the moral of the story is “stay strong, ignore people and they’ll probably get over it”. Sometimes. At least I got something out of all of it; insults bounce right off me and I know a lot about manga.