Shadowproof

Fessin’ up…

NOTE FROM PAM: The diary of Blender Travis Ballie (theantidesi101), “Confessions of a Schoolyard Bully,” has generated emotions and insightful commentary ( here is Part II).

Fellow Blender Nathanial now shares his own story here. For those legislators, parents and teachers out there who cannot bring themselves to address bullying in schools because of their own homophobia and transphobia (or worse in the case of pols, caving to the bigots and anti-gay orgs for simply voting protecting kids), you are doing all of our children — including those who bully —  a tragic disservice. Be adults — stop the cycle of violence and discrimination.


This posting — http://www.pamshouseblend.com/… — brings up a variety of memories and emotions…

I recall an interview given a couple of years ago by gay Anglican bishop Gene Robinson, in which he recalls, as a young boy, remaining silent in fear while a young classmate was routinely bullied, beaten and tormented as a “homo”. Robinson described his abject terror at the thought that if he spoke up to defend his classmate, the bullies would somehow know that he was gay, and turn on him. And so, Robinson said nothing, and left his classmate to fend for himself — something that he said still haunts him to this day, and drives his determination to speak out, and never again be silent in the face of oppression.

Well, I had a classmate like that, too. His name was “Perry”. He was slight — even “delicate” — neat, precise, a little on the fussy side, and had some qualities that could be seen as “effeminate”. He eschewed rough physical sports, he played in the school band (clarinet), and most of his best friends were girls. And as far back as I can remember — all the way back to Grade One — he was mocked as “Perry the Fairy”, tormented, picked on, bullied and was the target of abuse and attacks. Keep in mind, this was long before the onset of puberty, and I daresay that most of us had little to no real understanding of what even constituted a “fairy” (let alone having a grasp on homosexuality). Nevertheless, with a William Golding type of casual brutality, he was hounded and persecuted by most of the boys in our school, and even some of the girls. I never took part in any of the bullying myself, but, like Robinson, in my fear I stayed silent, and allowed Perry to suffer the abuse and torment alone, even though I knew it was wrong.In later years, when Perry joined the school band, developed a talent for creativity and design (art classes, yearbook, drama), excelled in dance… his reputation for “fairydom” was seen as received truth, even though there was never, to my knowledge, a single shred of proof that he actually was gay. But since when have the bullies ever needed confirmation? The abusive behavior continued — never so extreme that police were involved, but punches in the back in a crowded hallway, being spit on at recess, having his locker vandalized and his gym shoes set on fire, the ubiquitous name-calling, and a general shunning. And throughout it all, I stayed silent, in denial of my own gaity (despite the knowledge deep down that I was not the same as “everybody else”). Even after my first tentative attempts to act on my desires, I stayed deeply closeted, in denial, self-loathing and — above all — kept my physical and emotional distance from Perry the Fairy. In short, I was glad Perry was there to take the heat, and distract attention away from me.

Well, I never forgot Perry, and I have never overcome my shame at my earlier inaction. Even if I had been straight as an arrow, I knew that the way he was mistreated — while teachers and staff did nothing to aid him — was wrong, in every sense of the word, regardless of whether Perry was actually straight or if he was gay. A few years ago, I made up my mind to see if I could track down Perry. I wanted to apologize to him for my earlier cowardice and betrayal, and to commend him for his courage and perseverance in the face of treatment that might have destroyed a weaker person. I thought I had a fairly decent chance of finding him, as he had an unusual last name, and I was right — I found him online.

To be more accurate, I found mention of him online. I found his name, complete with clarinets, embroidered onto the Cross-Canada AIDS Quilt, and a tree planted in his memory at a park in Calgary. He was one of the casualties of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. I still don’t know for certain that Perry was gay, but as he was never the type to be an injection drug user, I rather suspect that he was, and that the bullies had been correct all along. That’s not really important, though. What IS important is that he was SEEN as gay, and persecuted for it, and I had stood by silent, and done nothing, locked into inaction by my own fear, cowardice and denial. I had thrown him to the wolves.

I will never, ever make that mistake again. I will speak up on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, I will fight uncompromisingly against the bigots and the bullies, and, if necessary, I will use force in their defense. I will never ever again walk away while someone is being beaten, tormented or abused, no matter how terrified I may personally be. Call it my way of offering atonement to the memory of Perry — who had so much more courage than I ever did — call it karma, call it whatever you will. But, like Gene Robinson, I have never forgotten that kid I went to school with, and I never will.

A few years ago, I told this story to a friend in California, as a way of explaining my determination to stand up to the dirtbags who persecute our People, and he told me a story about his past, something that he was deeply ashamed of. Without going into a lot of detail, it bore a lot of similarities to Bil’s story as recounted in the original post in this thread — http://www.bilerico.com/2008/0…

Like me, my friend’s youthful experience had changed him, and he had also become a public and vocal defender of our People. I could not condemn his past actions, and did not need to — he already condemned them himself, and had worked for many years to redeem himself.

All of which leads up to a couple of comments I traded recently on another discussion board about this very topic:

I wrote:

“Sadly, ‘Raos’, this is not the first time I have heard stories that are remarkably similar to that — many times from people who I consider to be good friends. Experiences such as that can easily warp people on both sides of the relationship, sometimes for years afterward.

Of course, we know who is to blame for all of this.”

And my friend, ‘Feral’ responded:

“Blame? Are we going there? What will we get out of it? Those who have done these things… they are responsible for their own actions. They did as they did.

One could talk about “blame.” One could. It would be better to talk of “redemption,” not that that’s the best word for it. Who was “to blame” is just a targeting mechanism.

Hmmm… who shall I hate for this particular tragedy today?

It’s a common enough strategy, so why not?

I’ll tell you why not: you don’t get anything out of it. Nothing at all. It’s a waste of time, this “who’s to blame.”

Instead, where do we go afterward? What’s next?

Sure, sure… there are ten thousand extenuating circumstances for just about everything… and none of them wash for some people. Everyone has an excuse, do they not? None of it makes that which has been done undone.

Indeed.

I like to think my friend in California, and I — and I hope the author of the original post, Bil, too — are working to redeem ourselves. And part of that is being open about our past failures, as they inform and drive who we are, and what we do today, and in the future.

But I still wish I could apologize to Perry. I will spend the rest of my life trying to do that.

Good luck to you, Travis Ballie… maybe your work can help cut down on the number of Michael Johnsons and Perrys out there in the future.

***

Related:


* Killer of Lawrence King to be tried as adult

* Defense attorney of Lawrence King’s murderer: it’s the victim’s fault
* Q Of The Day: Try Lawrence King’s Alleged Killer As A Juvenile, Or As An Adult?
* Ellen speaks out about the Lawrence King murder
* Parents confront officials about Lawrence King shooting

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