Have you ever had a turning moment in life where there was a before and an after? Where you measure your existence as a pre and post. Where you think to yourself, If I could change that one moment in life, that one small thing, then things would be different now.
In science we call this chaos theory. In Hollywood, it’s called the butterfly effect. In reality, it’s called impact.
There are some moments in life that will always remain clear as the crispest Autumn sunny day. These are the moments that you look back on your life’s timeline and measure distance with. These are the bread crumbs your memory creates to help keep track of who you were, where you have been and what you will do next.
My moment was in Grade 6. I had just transferred to a new public school. The king of my domain at my old school, my mind, my experience and my attitude told me to be who I am. Everyone loved me for it, no one judged me for it and I was at my most happiest.
I remember sitting down when the book club orders arrived. At such a young age, I never understood why at the time, but I always loved to read some of my girl friends baby sitters club books. So I ordered them, worked for my small allowance and paid for them myself from the money I had saved for three months.
At recess break, I recall taking the books to my bag, hanging on a hook outside our classroom in the small storage space. I recall placing the books in my bag.
Then I lost my breathe. A sudden electrical fire radiated away from my right kidney. It seemed like a time stopped as the pain bounced and echoed off every internal organ within my small body. I collapsed. My books, tumbled to the floor. I was dazed and could not understand what had happened.
When I looked up, two of the bigger boys from my class were standing over me.
“Think you’re so good don’t you”
“Think you’re a girl, getting those gay books, huh?”
This is the moment my life changed. This is the event that set the next 15 years on a path that was not part of the plan. This is the point where I became the victim.
Never had I been bullied in my life, and not someone who was raised to fight, I did not know what to do. I lay there, looking up at their violent eyes and wondered to myself, adrenaline rushing, what I should do.
“If you tell anyone about this, we’re going to get you and your little brother and kill you” one of them said. “We are the strongest people in this school and we don’t like you, because of the way you are” he continued.
And just like that, they ended it and walked away.
I made a choice that day. I choose to live in fear for my safety and that of my brother, 2 years below me. I choose to keep my mouth shut and hope it would go away forever.
But it didn’t. It stayed. It stayed for years and years. It never stopped. It only got worse.
The bullying (by the same group of boys) continued. The demoralising and tearing at the fabric of the happy version of me, accumulated. Eventually, there was nothing left of me. A shell. A body.
These boys would walk up to our corner of the playground, and every one of us would become paralysed in fear. Whose turn was it today? Who would brunt the force of their blows, whilst the rest of the herd would scatter in fear? On most occasions, it was me.
After each bullying session, the only thing left behind was an embarrassed youth. Someone everyone considered weak. Someone everyone knew was a push over. Someone everyone knew this would happen to again tomorrow.
Then there was the name calling. The food scraps being thrown at me. One time, during gym class, they stole my school pants out of my bag, threw them in the toilet and urinated all over them. But still I continued to keep my mouth closed, because the fear that was seeded in my mind back in primary school only grew greater and greater. How I wish it would have stopped. How I wish I could somehow end it all.
Eventually, the bigger boys got involved in the world of heavy drugs, and dropped out of the higher school years. A few of them remained behind to keep claim over their territory. To keep the title of ‘School Alpha-Male’.
As they started to leave, things actually got a lot better for my day to day schooling. I started meeting more people. Started becoming more accepted. Started to belong to circles which never would have blinked an eye at me. The true me was coming back. But some scars never heal.
My life after school was liberating. All the names, all the attacks, all the bickering seems to have disappeared. I remember telling people at my first job that I was gay, over the microphone at karaoke, and being comforted with their support and firm friendships.
But deep down inside, there was still that little scared boy now in the wide and wonderful world. The bullying that I buried manifested itself as paranoia. It planted the thought in my head that I would never be a guy that would be big and strong like the other guys. It made me build up brick walls so thick, that they even protected me from some of the closest people around me. Only a select few ever knew the real me, and these select few is who I considered to be my real family.
Bullying is not just about being beaten or name called and then it’s all over. Bullying is about destroying the hopes and dreams of any person, and altering their future. Some people, like me, are lucky enough to survive it. Tragically, some of us, do not have the support to do so, and the only way out is suicide. Bullying scars never heal, and will almost in all cases, lead to some form of destruction of our soul.
I came out to some of my physical family in my mid-twenties. The others, I didn’t bother. Coming from a Middle Eastern background, and growing up in South West Sydney, some of these family members are too bigoted to understand the normality of homosexuality. Some of them will read this, and this will be my coming out. They will judge me. They will call and abuse me. They will bully me. Even today.
But that is ok. Because now, I no longer accept it. I no longer tolerate any form of bullying from family, friend or foe.
Whilst my life after school got a lot better, the pressures that bullying created did manifest itself in other ways. In my mid-twenties, it all got too much, and I tried to take my own life. An accumulation of family pressures, drugs, alcohol, debts and most importantly insecurities – led me to the most destructive I have ever been in my life. Wanting to end your life is what we see as the only way out sometimes. We see this because there have been people in our lives in the past, who have bullied us into this point in time. It’s not because we are weak. It’s not because we are different. It’s not because we are worthless. It’s because someone didn’t accept you for who you are. It’s because someone else made you feel alienated and isolated. It’s because someone destroyed the last remaining shred of humanity within you.
But here is where most of us are wrong. Here is where I went wrong. If I had told someone, a teacher, my parents, an adult what happened to me that day in the year 6 storage room, it would have stopped. If I had accepted who I am and not cared about the threats, it would have stopped. If I had known that I could be whatever I wanted, and not cared about their words, it would have stopped.
Now I’m doing something about it. Now I’ve got a wonderful network of friends who support me. I’ve got family members who know I am gay and accept me for who I am. In fact, they encourage and inspire me, with their levels of acceptance.
I decided that we no longer live in a world where bullying ‘is a part of growing up’. This notion is not acceptable. We now live in a world where the bullying has become mainstream with the introduction of technology such as Social Networks and blogs.
Reports also clearly show that these statistics are higher and more dominant amongst Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI Youths). This awful fact is one that rings home deeply to me. The playground may have been traded for the Facebook wall, but the bullying hasn’t stopped. Alarming reports that 1 in 12 youths are bullied online, and 9 out of 10 youths witness online bullying are shocking. Even more tragic are the statistics around youth suicide because of bullying.
After my suicide attempt, I woke up in the hospital bed with my family worried outside. Mum was a wreck and has never recovered from the experience. It was at this moment in time, that I said to myself – when I am stronger, when I am mentally, physically, financially stronger – I am going to change the world. I don’t want anyone to go through this. I need to stop the bullying, and I need to stop the suicides. It has become an epidemic of global proportions. It is rapidly adapting to new technology and using this as a weapon against our youths.
It’s time to make that change.
I have now started a foundation to help eradicate online bullying and youth suicide. I am focusing on the demographics that need it most, LGBTI Youths, because life can be tough growing up different, even when there is no bullying.
I am now stronger mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. I am now going to change the world.
Our foundation works by lots of people who have the same thinking as me. They want this to end. They have volunteered their time and services to help make our mission a success. They have invested their beliefs that when we stand together we can make a difference.
So if you are a youth and you are reading this, know that we are here. Know that we have similar experiences and can understand what is happening. Know that you can talk to someone and you never have to live in fear again. Know that fixing the problem now will help you over the long term. And most importantly know that suicide is not an option. It’s a disease. One that we have a cure for.
If you are an adult and are you are reading this – I’m reaching out for help. I didn’t ask any adults to help me when I was bullied when I was young. I’m asking for your help now. I am going in to fight against online bullying and youth suicide. But I cannot do it alone. I ask that you stand by me and we fix this once and for all.
Help me change the world. Help me build a time where acceptance and toleration for the LGBTI community is here, now and onwards. Help me let your kids, your nieces and nephews, your best friends children know that online bullying is not accepted.
Help me save as many lives from the epidemic of suicide.
We have a chance to fix this now. We have a chance to make it better.
It all comes down to your choice.
Thank you for hearing my story, my reasons and my direction. You can find out more info about (and join) the foundation at http://on.fb.me/LetsMakeItBetter