Bullying is everywhere, on the streets, in schools, in homes. It is all around us, every second of every day.
Pink Shirt Day is coming up on Friday, part of Bullying Free Week NZ. Pink Shirt Day is about working together to stop bullying by celebrating diversity and promoting positive social relationships. It’s about creating a community where all people feel safe, valued and respected, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or cultural background.
Celebrated annually around the globe, Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, took a stand against homophobic bullying after a new Year 10 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink. David and Travis bought dozens of pink shirts and distributed them to their male classmates to wear the next day. The word got out online and hundreds of students showed up in pink, some from head-to-toe, to stand together against bullying.
While people from all backgrounds can relate to the experience of being bullied, we believe it is important to highlight the bullying that so many young people today are still experiencing as a result of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
Some of the young people and volunteers that InsideOUT works with have chosen to tell their stories this week, with the hope that sharing their experiences may help and guide others, educate them in hopes of preventing what they had to endure, or simply let people know they are not alone in experiencing bullying.
This is one of those stories.
Sticks and stones and homophobia
We were at the park, just hanging out, and we thought no one else was around to see us. It was around Autumn so there were gold and red leaves everywhere and it was beautiful. I thought today we might actually get a break. So I took her hand and just held it, and she smiled at me and we started laughing because it felt nice to be able to do the things that heterosexual couples do all the time without any of the same prejudice.
It wasn’t even five minutes later when two teenage guys came up to us on their bikes with this look of disgust and anger on their faces. I remember the boy on the left having this look on his face as if we’d personally offended him, so at first I thought it was almost comical. Then they started speaking to us. “Are you lesbians? That’s disgusting! That’s not right you know – you shouldn’t be here – kids come here to play at the playground!”
They barely let us get a word in. I wanted to just ignore them, but my girlfriend at the time jumped right in after they asked the first question and that was that. I felt bad because I could see their words were affecting her much more than they were affecting me, especially when they said, “Oh I bet it’s because you can’t get a boyfriend!”
I just found hilarious because we’d both been asked out by a few guys by then and I’d already had a pretty serious straight relationship. To me it was ludicrous that that was their best insult. We turned around to leave after that and the guys started throwing stones at us. Luckily none hit, but it was the thought that counted wasn’t it? They wanted to hurt us and see us in pain.
If anything it hurts me now more than it did then, because I imagine if it wasn’t me but some other girl who’s only fault was that she’d fallen in love with another girl. It hurts because what if it had been another girl who wasn’t as dismissive as me, what if that had been the last straw of hay on the stack for her and she’d gone home with depression weighing on her lungs and had decided she couldn’t take it any more.
Bullying is for cowards who aren’t brave enough to try to express how they really feel from the beginning, before their anger or jealousy or fear builds up and turns them into unfeeling people, blinded by hatred. We need to start being honest about how we feel – and yes that means going the extra mile to be tactful about telling people if they’re annoying us, but that extra bit of effort is better than bullying which so often leads to isolation and suicide.
Our writer has chosen to stay anonymous.
Collated by Brandon Mamea-Crawford. Come back tomorrow for part two in this series!