CFN – Bullying.
l-ee] noun, plural -lies,verb, -lied, -ly·ing, adjective, interjectionnoun1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habituallybadgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
I could have been Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi or any of the other teens that recently ended their young, precious lives. I grew up in the 1970s when being gay was still considered to be a mental illness by some. I would go to sleep hoping not to wake up, simply because I liked men. While much has changed over the last 30 years, feelings of isolation remain, much of it brought on by peers.
Like those boys and so many others, I was bullied in school. I guess my locker had some pheromone that attracted people that hated people that were somewhat different, because in the first week of 7th grade a kid scraped the word “fag” on my locker with something sharp like a pocket knife or a nail. Even though I could only see that word when I fumbled with the combination, the sadness and loneliness that the word made me feel lingered in the back of my mind every day of those horrific three years, a feeling that continued until I finally came out publicly on television in 1993. This one act and other daily forms of abuse by my classmates changed my life and my ability to learn and participate in friendships and relationships. The fear that I had because I was different was so strong it convinced me not to attend college; I was not prepared for what the repercussions might be if people knew I was gay.
When I was in my 30s and starting to act, I was completely guarded with my secret, convinced I had to suppress it and pretend it was non-existent. It was so detrimental to me that I only wanted to be with other “professional” actors, where I felt safe. Where I knew that as long as I was in this box of mine, life was going to be safer. “Just DON’T be yourself.” That’s what I believed and in doing so, I missed so many potential experiences and relationships that I will never know what could have been.
I regret not having the experience of going though the same things at the same time as my peers. Folks often say, “You can go to college now.” Of course, it wouldn’t be the same. I often travel to universities to do stand-up or lecture, and I learn so much just being around students, faculty and members of gay-straight alliances. Recently, after a performance, I had a good cry when I was back in my hotel because I had been in the presence of these students who are not afraid of being out and accepting who they are. It impressed me immensely.
When I was 21, I made a call to a suicide prevention lifeline because I realized I needed help. I was starting to have thoughts of suicide and I needed someone to stop me, to save my life. I began seeing a counselor after that, who I knew kept everything confidential, but even with my back to her chair, I sat there and lied that I was bi-sexual, uncomfortable to even speak the truth to a professional. It was too hard and I was afraid for my life.
Career-wise, I wanted to be an actor while some in the industry would say I was “too light in the loafers.” Memories of all these kids who beat me up and humiliated me all through school came back to me repeatedly in my early years of pursuing my career. Being afraid of people and re-learning how to trust them is a daily reminder of where and how far I have come.
Now I am an actor, a comedian and an advocate for equality. I have been able to get past my childhood and work in my chosen profession. I also have been able to give back to my community by being chair of the Screen Actors Guild National LGBT Actors Committee and a mentor for LifeWorks, which supports LGBTQ youth between the ages of 12-24. I have also produced and performed in a comedy benefit for the past five years to raise money for these kids and to show them there is hope out there.
Doing service for others and accepting the support of others has been my way of healing. I have been able to overcome my feelings of not being “enough.” I came to realize that the thoughts in my head are just that and can go out as easily as they entered those many years ago. I can create a new life story by which to live my life. It’s 2010 and I don’t have to be that kid in the 1970s who was abused and suicidal anymore. I often wish I could take that kid by the hand and show him the life I have now and tell him, “It will get better. I’m someone. Someone with a life and someone that matters. Just like you do.”
Jason Stuart – Los Angeles California
Of course there are all forms of Bullying and to me Bullying is the end result of many things; most of which stem from fear, aggression, and what many call “the wolfpack” or “gang” because Bullies themselves tend to have been the victims of bullying; and only gain strength from the support of their groups and of course the silence of victims and bystanders.
These Cliques have to be smashed. The only way to end the cycle of bullying prevalent in our society is to end it; and that won’t be easy.
There are many more sad stories out there. The names above are just a small portion of the victims from 2011. There are no easy solutions either; but we’re going to try and examine some.
It’s funny. When I shared that I was starting this series there was some interesting local reaction. A local photographer I’d asked to help and claimed he had no time decided to create his own Anti-Bullying project and another local paper did a front page spread!
It’s great to see how we can inspire others for a good and grave cause.
What we also will be doing is selling the t-shirts modeled by Ashley. Proceeds are being shared out to the artist; John Lister, and we are will also be donating $1.00 per shirt to the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters for this first one as they are Ashley’s Charity of Choice, and we may branch out to other charities with the next round.
They are available locally at Island Ink Jet – 8 3rd Street West in Cornwall Ontario – corner of Pitt Street across from the Royal Bank.
This first batch of shirts is available in XL in either black or white. We are securing another supplier and will be hoping to offer ladies shirts as well as other options. You can can also place your order at the Island Ink Jet store if you need other sizes.
If you purchase a shirt and would like to share about your own experiences with gangs and bullies we would be happy to shoot some video and share it with our views.
And also from Ashley:
Bullying does not only affect someone’s childhood, it can follow them all threw there lives. Ultimatley it can affect the outcome of there future. That does not tend to manifest threw our minds when making fun of, or bullying someone.
The guilt and regret that comes with bullying can eat at you and make you feel terrible about your actions.
Being bullied is a sad, confusing and almost an embarassing feeling. It can make you feel you feel so small and powerless.
Speaking up and reaching out to others about bullying does not show any weakness, it infact shows strength and courage.
If we can help one victim of bullying smile like Ashley as in the picture above then this series will be worth it. If you wish you can comment below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our hotline at 613 361 1755
Over the next month leading to February 23rd Anti-Bullying Day we will cover a lot of ground from what makes Bullies tick to how adults in business and politics bully each other and old habits percolate into our daily lives.
I know I’m learning a lot and I hope we can share our experiences with each other and help make our homes, towns, schools, and cities a better place.
You can also access some services out there.
Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News
Special thanks to Jeff Brunet of Alkaline Entertainment for sponsoring the first batch of shirts!