Spirit day got me thinking about bullying. Many of us suffered from it as kids. But some of us were bullies. Bullying is alive and well in our schools, businesses, political organizations, and even social groups.
As we explore bullying in this article, consider your experience on the receiving end, then ask yourself “Have I ever been a bully?”
Here are a couple of definitions to get us started: A cruel, brutal person; A hired thug; To discourage or frighten with threats or domineering manner; To intimidate.
It doesn’t take much to see why bullies are successful. In environments where aggressive behaviour, and conformity, are valued brute force is applauded. Particularly if someone small, or weak, dares to challenge the status quo.
Queer kids are much more likely to get bullied. They are also much more likely to self-harm, and even commit suicide. There is a strong correlation between relentless bullying and desperate acts by the victims. Some kids are even bullied because of their sibling’s orientation.
It started for me my final year of primary school. I was small, quiet, wore glasses, and played with girls. At first it was limited to name calling, fag, and homo. When I got to my large, inner-city, Catholic, high school, I became a choice target, the mild threats started.
Then I came out. Word spread quickly. I faced full blown hatred. I was urinated on in a washroom stall. I had rocks thrown at me. I fought back but didn’t share my experiences until I joined a gay youth group. With peers and support I continued to fight. I may not have survived without them.
Bullying is not restricted to the schoolyard. It is epidemic in corporations, governments, and social groups. In her book Daring Greatly Brené Brown states “it is the culture of shame that has created an epidemic of bullying. Blaming, gossip, favoritism, name-calling and harassment …”. We see these behaviours everywhere.
Yes, we should know better, but gay men bully. Last summer I attend a large out door dance event. I had an encounter with a group of men who attempted to literally push me out of the way so that they could cut in on a drink line. The intimidation didn’t work but it still triggered my teen memories.
Spousal abuse often starts with bullying. Even in friendships threats, and coercion, can be used to control. We’re still playing the same old games. They still cause damage. But now we’re engage in the behaviour knowing the impact it will have.
The solution is to take a hard look at yourself. Get clear on where you’re using bullying in your life, then deal with your issues.
Here are some questions you can use as a guide.
Do you sometimes project an air of superiority in order to feel better about yourself?
Do you use threats to get your way with people?
Do you use your physical size to intimidate others?
Do you belong to a group that ostracizes people who aren’t like you?
Do you engage in, or tolerate, making fun of people because of their physical attributes?
Are you “harmlessly” bitchy and pretend that it’s not meant to be hurtful?
Do you make comments like, you’re so old, you’re so short, you’re so skinny, you’re so fat, etc.?
If you engage in even one of these behaviours you are bullying. Perhaps many of us do it. That doesn’t make it less hurtful and it’s no excuse. Think about the pain you’ve experienced before you victimize someone else.
My experience with bullying is negligible, both receiving and giving. I was the son of a well-respected teacher, which gave me large doses of comfort. The few times anyone tried, it was nipped in the proverbial bud.I’ve never made any efforts to bully others. In my life as a gay man, I have not suffered bullying, other than the occasional shout of a bigot. My gay life is predominantly private, which provides a shield against those who might attempt to harass.
Thanks for sharing George. It’s been interesting how many people have spoken of a mainly bullying free life as gay men. It gives me hope.