There was never anything in a bullying scenario at school that could be used in any positive way, as far as I’m concerned. It was a nightmare for me, as it was for many, and unfortunately, still is for some.
Many gay men were bullied as kids. There was something about a perceived weakness that inspired the tougher kids to act out whatever psychological issues they had, by picking on the queer kid. Maybe they had bullies for dads. Maybe they were secretly attracted to boys, and compensated for that by asserting their masculinity through might, or intimidation. Maybe they were angry, and the queer kid was just an easy target for letting that anger be expressed.
Who knows? What I do know, from years of horrible experiences with bullies at school, is that all it ever inspired in me was fear. To this day, I have a hard time looking back on those episodes and not feeling fear somewhere inside of me. Now. As an adult. That is not a good thing.
Even watching a movie about a school bully is hard for me. Participating in the political conversation about bulling is difficult. It hits too close to home, and there is nothing I can take from my history with bullies that I find useful. Not even in terms of overcoming challenges, which I was never able to do. I caved and cowered and lived in fear. Truly terrorized by the bullies, to the point where my school work was negatively impacted.
I wish that I could go back and revisit some of those experiences, in the safety of my imagination, or with the guidance of some John Bradshaw therapist. You know, talk to my younger self, and help him deal with something he found overwhelming. Tell him that he is stronger than he realizes, and that some day he will be able to rise above and conquer his fears.
It is a subject I find so unpleasant, that even in the context of two fictional characters in a story about a gay boy being bullied, I have a hard time keeping an emotional distance. The trauma was too real.
The worst episode went on for months, and today, would probably involve law enforcement. Or a law suit. It was harassment. There were death threats. He was bullying me to such an extent that his parents could have been held accountable.
He was a couple of years older, having been left back a grade or two. For a reason I will never understand, he developed a fixation on me, and tormented me daily. He and his toady sidekick. A weaselly short kid, just the kind who attached themselves to a bigger kid, for protection. The toady was named Timmy.
The actual bully’s name, I do not remember. No doubt that is not an accident. I’ve blocked it out. He was dark haired, and had dark eyes. Always wore tight jeans and tight tee shirts. To show off his muscle. He was tough. I was not. I posed no threat to him, whatsoever.
Unless it was a case that he was attracted to me. That would have been the biggest threat of all, and might explain why he had such a strong urge to target me the way he did.
I recall scenes after school, where this bully would corner me in a boy’s bathroom. He would make me stand still while he punched me. Never in my face, or my stomach. It wasn’t about hurting me. It was something else. More of a mental torture.
He would punch me in the arm. Over and over. Often as hard as he could. Trying to get me to flinch. Which I did not. I would stand as stoically as I could and let him do his worst, and not ever fight back.
That’s what he said he wanted. He wanted me to fight back.
“I’m not going to leave you alone until you kick my ass.”
That was the ultimate game. He was toying with me. He knew his advantage. He knew perfectly well that he was bigger and stronger than I was. That I couldn’t possibly take him down. So what was the point of this?
Here’s where I want to take over, now, as an adult. Here’s where I want to re-write the dialogue, and change the outcome. If he really was repressing gay urges. If I understood that then, and could use it to turn the tables.
“You’re going to have to kick my ass. Until you do that, I’ll keep doing this. Go ahead, hit me. I dare you.”
For this fantasy to work, we would have to be alone. Without Timmy there. If the bully was bested in front of a witness, he would never be able to live with that. If it was just the two of us, however…
“You know I’m smaller than you are. The only way I could kick your ass is if you made it easy.”
“All right. I’m giving you the chance right now. ”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes, I am. Come on. Let’s see you do it.”
“Oh, you want me to turn around, so you can kick my ass?”
“That’s what you want.”
“Okay. I dare you. Go ahead. Here, I’ll turn around.”
“Like this? Come on. I’ll give you five seconds.”
At the time, I was terrified, and probably would not have done anything, even if my fictional dialogue had taken place. Now, though, in my imagination, I’d wind up and give him a good swift kick. Plant my footprint on his rear end with enough force to send him sprawling on the tile. Then high tail it out of there, leaving him to deal with the humiliation in private.
If he was secretly gay, this might even have turned him on. That I had gotten the better of him. That I had gotten away with it. Taken his dare, manipulated him into a vulnerable position, then kicked his butt.
The next time we saw each other, would anything have changed? Would he still be violent towards me? Would the bullying have gotten worse, amped up by his outrage? Would he be forced to back off, not wanting anyone to find out about it? Or, would he have secretly enjoyed it?
Would I even have wanted him to enjoy it? It’s tempting to imagine a happy ending now, but for that to have taken place, I would have to change too much about who I was back then.