Yes, it gets better
I was bullied in high school. Because I figured out I was gay the summer before grade nine, even though I didn’t in any way ‘come out’, when you know yourself it becomes that much more obvious.
There was one young man in particular who harassed me in class, mostly by saying things under his breath. It was physchologically, if not physically, threatening. As it often is for us little queer boys, gym class was the hardest and I remember another guy stopping in the middle of a floor hockey game to matter-of-factly tell me I was a “gay faggot”. That day, as I was wont to do, I wandered out of gym class early. No one noticed.
I informed at least two teachers of the bullying. I remember one of them trying to do something about it, but it didn’t calm me down. One lunch hour I went home and my Dad couldn’t stop me from crying. He recently told me he feels guilty he didn’t do more.
I don’t think I ever felt I was in real danger, just that I would never feel comfortable at that school. My only recourse was to keep going and by grade 12 I had a healthy number of friends and the incidents basically stopped. And in university I was completely accepted, eventually making my first gay guy friends and meeting my first boyfriend.
Things got so much better, thanks to good friends and an accepting family, that I sort of forgot my bullying experience, which is why I took awhile to relate to the growing ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, spearheaded by gay sex columnist Dan Savage. Once you’re out of the situation, and years have past and it’s gotten better, you don’t want to think about it anymore. You survived and you’re happy.
But that’s wrong.
Not everyone survives their bullying , as a spat of recent queer suicides reminds us. We are winning the legal battles in North America, and are doing even better on the cultural front. But we can’t get complacent and think that TV shows and movies with queer characters are going to do all the work to make this world an accepting place. Watching Kurt on ‘Glee’ can help a gay teen only so much, especially as not all of us can burst out into cathartic show tunes.
I survived. It does get better.
But we have to remember where we came from.