The Bullying Culture

From the June 2012 PNL # 815

Phoenix Robertson

I have never been pushed down a flight of stairs. No one has ever spat at me and called me a dyke. I’ve never been beat up in the school yard or verbally harassed.

SPC has marched in the Syracuse Pride Parade for decades, expressing our commitment to the inextricable link between peace and social justice. Above Jessica Maxwell, Mike Pasquale, Wendy Yost and Jerry Lotierzo march with our rainbow> peace banner. ConsidSPC has marched in the Syracuse Pride Parade for decades, expressing our commitment to the inextricable link between peace and social justice. Above Jessica Maxwell, Mike Pasquale, Wendy Yost and Jerry Lotierzo march with our rainbow> peace banner. ConsidAnd yet I am a victim of homophobic bullying.

Let’s backtrack for a second here.

“Bullying.” It’s a very popular word amongst politicians and public figures right now. Good. It should be. With queer teens committing suicide at a rate up to five times greater than that of their straight and cisgender (when one’s gender identity matches the sex one is assigned at birth) classmates, it’s about time we sat up and paid attention.

But bullying doesn’t start and stop at the schoolhouse door. These kids abusing and dehumanizing their peers aren’t getting their sense of superiority out of thin air. Our culture is saturated with homophobia and transphobia, and those of us who don’t fit neatly in to the pretty little heteronormative (cultural bias favoring heterosexuality and clean-cut, binary gender) boxes face bullying everywhere we turn. It’s very easy to say that children—no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation—shouldn’t commit suicide. It takes a little more effort to examine the reasons so many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children are committing suicide.

In eighth grade, my Catholic school’s religious education teacher stood up in front of the class and explained to us—in the same tone of voice used by our earth science teacher to explain to us how air naturally moves from a high to low pressure system—that homosexuality is a mental disorder. I cried myself to sleep that night. That was bullying.

My dad stopped talking to me for a month when I came out to him. That was bullying.

A stranger once approached me at the state fair to tell me how my rainbow buttons made him sick. That was bullying.

New York, the state I live in, has yet to pass a law protecting me from discrimination in jobs and in housing on the basis of my occasionally masculine gender expression. That is bullying.

Resources

In Syracuse, the Q Center offers support, counseling and other resources. Contact them at 315-701-2431 or qcenter@ AIDSCommunityResources.com or find them on Facebook

I can’t even hold hands with a girl I like in public spaces without having to worry about potential perpetrators of violence hiding out in the swarms of people. That is bullying.

Alright, so bullying permeates my life from sunrise to sunset—but so does liberation. So does survival.

I find my liberation from bullying every day in queer culture and community. I find my liberation in my short hair and baggy pants. I find my liberation in straight allies and the little things that tell me the world is changing slowly but surely.

I find my liberation in every second that I choose to live, because that is a choice in defiance of a culture that tells me I don’t deserve the same life that everyone else does. Every little gay beat my gay heart makes is a conscious rebellion against the bullying culture.

 

Phoenix is a junior in high school and an active member of the queer community.

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