I've made no secret of my dislike for prejudice. I've previously blogged about gender double standards in particular. Today I'd like to talk a bit more about bullying and similar forms of abuse.
Like a lot of kids, I suffered from bullying throughout my time in school. Some of it was brought on by others taking issue with decisions that made me stand out from the crowd; I had long hair, didn't wear the same clothes as other children, didn't like the same music, and was generally quite withdrawn. Some of it was just because the people in question wanted someone to target and would pick on anything from the way I walked to the way I spoke - I just happened to be an available target. Some of it was worse. Some of it was an attempt to let me into a particular circle and let it appear as thought I was welcome when in fact I wasn't and wouldn't realise what was actually going on for a long time.
I had my share of emotional, verbal and physical abuse in school. I've had my sexuality taken into question in the most vulgar ways. I've been threatened and physically attacked. I've listened to my spiritual beliefs be ridiculed. I hardened myself to it. Told myself everything would be better once I was done with school. What I wasn't prepared for was for that abuse to continue in college. It was by no means as frequent and, unlike school, it never resulted in violence. However when the people responsible are older, I believe there's a higher level of intentional cruelty present. The thing about it, in this case, was that I hung around it far longer than I should have because the people responsible were popular members of the college drama society.
I love theatre. I grew up around theatre and music and was part of a youth drama group during my teens. I was never able to be part of any of the cliques, though, and this inability followed me to college. The college drama society had some pretty bad ones while I was there. I let some of them treat me badly, never standing up for myself because I was so afraid of not being part of the in-crowd, when in truth I was never a part of it.
The last mistreatment I allowed was when some of the in-crowd sat in the front row of a one-act play I had written, while it was being performed, and laughed at it. It wasn't the best thing I'd ever written and it could have used some more rehearsal time, but there was no call for that. One of them did come to me to apologise after the last performance. I told her I didn't appreciate their behaviour. It was the last time I spoke to them. Thereafter I associated less and less with the drama society, spending more time with the games society, which became my second home. That was where I started to find myself, with the help of my friends.
Looking back, I know that those people made the drama society a cruel, toxic place. I should have left long before I did, but I was afraid. I'm not afraid anymore.
If anyone is reading this who has found themselves trying to please others while suffering their behaviour, staying for fear of what might happen if you're not accepted into their world, don't be afraid. You wouldn't want to be one of them even if they wanted you. You're better than that. Bullies never change. They're all made strong by people who suck up to them and people who fear them. You don't have to fear them. You can just walk away and find something better, because you are amazing, even if you don't realise it, and the right people will love you for just being you. Once you turn your back on those kinds of people, you'll be surprised who you find waiting to accept you.