Friday, 23 November 2012

Bullying for me

There is a saying that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I suppose in my case at primary school it made me faster, that was my way to avoid the bullies that came after me every break time. If I could manage to avoid them for the 15 minutes I would avoid getting hit. Lunch time was somewhat easier as we tended to play football and the guys on my team didn't like it too much if one of their fastest players was distracted by two numpties chasing him down.

Because I was bullied at school I ran, I learnt to sidestep and probably would have been an effective rugby player if I hadn't been bullied while doing that by a member of staff and some of the team while doing that in first year of secondary school. So I carried on running.

When I got to the top end of secondary school I was spotted out running by one of the guys in the years above me. The athletics coach invited me to join the elite team running during games. We ended taking most of the first of the periods to climb from school to the road leading to Scrabo Golf Club and then back in along the main Comber-Newtownards Road. I got unto the cross country team I was that good a runner.

Then I earned the school honours tie for athletics because of the number of times I had run for and represented the school's senior team. In my sixth upper year I was the only boy in our school to wear a predominantly green tie (the girl's colour) as at that time it was the only sport taken by both sexes and there were his and her prefect's ties.

You'd have thought that would be the end of the bullying, but there is a knife mark in the back of tie where someone from school thought they could still bully me.

Today's marks the end of anti-bullying week, I have stopped running from the bullies. Indeed some years ago I was in town with friends when I ran into one of the guys who bullied me in school. I went up to them and simply said to them, "You were right", he looked confused and said "Huh!", I went on, "I am gay I just didn't know it when you thought it was fun to beat up the gay guy at school."

I'm lucky enough to still be around to confront my demons. Lucky enough to have gained the self confidence to be able to do that, confident in who I am and what that means, not just to me but to others. I suppose admitting that you are gay in a debate on national TV kind of means that you can't hide that particular fact. But for many it isn't that easy they still cower from the bullies in their daily life for whatever reason. It isn't all about sexuality some of from a different race, or have a disability or are different in some other way, whether they are smarter, musically gifted or whatever. Sometimes it is those with a talent who get bullied by those who don't even try or don't bother to develop what they might be able to achieve.

And it isn't always physical but often it is the words. The adage about sticks and stones is wrong, words can hurt, you just don't see the scars that words leave in the same way that a beating can. Someone can be hurt by the words but afraid to speak out and they can end up slowly beating themselves up, maybe self harming or contemplating suicide.

Be aware of those around you, if they are drawn in and reclusive there may be a reason you know nothing about, built them up with words and deeds. You never know you may be the anecdote to teh bullying they have suffered or are suffering, you may become someone that they can lean on when they need to.

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