Being made a victim

binI 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.

 

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12 thoughts on “Being made a victim

  1. FYI, in the USA we usually call it “Elementary School” (age 5-ish to 10 or 11), “Middle School” or in the old days, “Junior High”, from around 11 to 13/14, “High School” from 14 to 18, and after that ,it’s always “College” even if it’s officially called something like “Boston University” or “University of Maryland” – we don’t call that portion of schooling university.

    In The UK, Canada, Australia, and other English speaking countries, these distinctions are different. It’s not consistent across the board.

    In England, this is a pretty good explanation: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090124105950AAcUCsr They have more of the “high school” and “College” experience that you described. Something I can’t quite relate to, since I’m from the USA. But what you came up with for the names of the different schools still does make sense based on a UK model. 😉

    ~~~~

    I think the fact that your “high school” was ages 12 to 16 is very interesting and effects what your “experience of being bullied” was probably like. I think it’s a very different age group thing than what those of us in the USA experience, and bullies are different in every age group.

    We are only 11 years old when we start “middle school” but the school only includes through people around age 13 when you start. Still, I’ve often heard people say “middle school” is the worst for when kids are cruel to other kids. Once you start the next stage of education – “USA high school” from age 14 to 18 – people have gotten a tiny bit more mature and realized torturing other people for fun is not a good thing to do? Except I, personally, think high schoolers can be more cruel in some cases. High school was where I first heard girls gossiping about a few other girls being “Sluts” in whispered voices, or in one case a girl was called the homophobic slur “Dyke”. I wasn’t privy to what boys were doing.

    I was very lucky. I went to American schools throughout my entire childhood where the type of bullying you experienced could NEVER have occurred. We had too much supervision by responsible adults. I think there were a lot of reasons for there to be LESS bullying and I feel somewhat confident that I was *not* simply oblivious to what was happening to the other kids. We were in a good town and the school was kind of small, and people just generally were the type to gossip about other people rather than be cruel to their faces, if they felt like being mean at all.

    When you said: “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” and then you proceeded to describe the abuse you suffered at the hands of your peers/classmates/bullies… um no. What you experienced is AWFUL and just as bad as what people in those American schools go through, from what I can tell. I’m so sorry you had to endure that. No one should have to deal with that kind of torture.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us here. 😉 I appreciate learning your point of view. I really do.

    • Funny how the education system across the world is so different in every place but still uses more or less the same terms to describe it.
      Since we speak Catalan here, we use completely different names (ie. escola, ESO, batxillerat, cicles, Universitat), but it’s nice to know how it is in the USA and England.

      In my experience, bullying was much more consistent between 12 to 16 year olds. The younger ones didn’t care much and the older ones were more mature, as you say. When I lived in New Zealand, I also went to a small town school where everyone knew each other and this bullying would never have happened if I’d stayed there. There would most likely only be bad talk behind one’s back.

      My view of American schools from movies is much worse than what I went through; I’m thinking extreme physical violence, sexual assault, “Bridge to Terabithia”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Of course it might not be a good idea to compare people’s bullying experiences, since it is always horrible. Nobody should be bullied, ever, in any degree.

      • I read Bridge to Terabithia as a reading assignment in 5th grade in Elementary School at age 10 or 11, and a few years ago saw the film, but I can’t recall the bullying. I guess my brain picks out only certain things to commit memory. 😛

        Yeah I mean there’s always gonna bullying that can be worse. (Except for the people who are driven, because of severe bullying, to actual homocide or a successful suicide. It can’t really get much worse than that.)

        I grew up with an abusive mother and it’s hard for me to not constantly think “obviously what I experienced could’ve been so much worse” – but at the end of the day, comparing and contrasting the different degrees/levels of abuse me vs. other people endured isn’t that important or useful. No one should have to grow up in any type abusive environment. And similarly, “nobody should be bullied, ever, in any degree”, just like you said.

        • The bullying in Bridge to Terabithia is very glossed over, mainly because the movie is supposed to be for kids (I haven’t read the book yet). But it is there and if you pay attention to it you can see how it’s very emotionally destroying to many different characters in different ways.
          I’m sorry to hear about your abusive mother 😦 . I guess we, as people, tend to always compare ourselves and our experiences to other people’s ones.

          • Well like I mentioned, my school had us reading the book when we were only 10-years-old. It’s meant for kids, but it is still a book that deals with very adult concepts. That death HURT to read, and that family situation the main character grew up in is complicated and real. I really should re-read the book now with fresh, adult, eyes. I think it was kind of amazing.

            I also saw the film of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I really do want to read the book, because the film didn’t delve into suicide or sexual abuse quite as much as I’d guess the book does, and I bet the book does it in a really well-done way, too, a way that makes me feel a lot of pain for the main character.

    • I didn’t think anybody around here would know Naruto! It’s ending this October, after going on for about 10 years and 70 volumes. I’m writing a letter to the author in Japanese to thank him for everything him and his series has done for me.

      • I admit, my husband could talk your ear off about him more than I could. I have spaced out on the thread of the story on occasion, but, yes, we are Naruto lovers in this house. That’s awesome that you’re writing the author! I love it.

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