Work has kept me from commenting much on anything, but I wanted to take a moment, on National Coming Out Day, to address the recent anti-bullying efforts in response to the horrific spate of gay teenager suicides.
I’ve spent a good decade now overcoming the consequences of my own terrible decision to remain in the closet about my bisexuality. I take responsibility for that decision, and all the stupid decisions that followed. That does not change the fact that growing up LGBT in the mid 1980’s was about a million times worse than it is today. Not even Elton John, or Michael Stipe, or George Michael, or name your now pop-icon gay from the period, would do it back then.
What a difference two decades make. Today, in many ways, it’s almost cool to be seen as gay, or bi, or lesbian, or whatever. And yet, still, for so many, it’s so tough, the atmosphere of hate can become so vicious, that kids kill themselves rather than go through it. Hang themselves from their own bed. Jump from the George Washington bridge. It’s a very dark place when all around you, all you perceive is a rejection of who you are, and all you may ever be. Nowhere to turn, but inward, where it is often the darkest.
What to do. Well, I’ve got one anti-bullying story of my own, and some advice.
I got bullied a lot in middle school, and early in high school. Skinny, glasses, quiet and shy new kid, teacher’s favorite, etc. People stopped bullying me after I hauled off and gave a kid a black eye with a right hook in front of my locker while classes were changing. Crowd gathered to see what douchebag would do in response. He ran. That was that. It started up again when I changed schools from middle school to high school. One swift knee to the nuts landed Asshole #2 writhing in pain on the floor in front of his posse unable to even breathe. That too, was that.
Fight back. Bill Clinton always said the best way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose. If you don’t like mixing it up physically, fight back in some other way. But no one needs to put up with the kind of torture that young kids can dish out in swarms of unthinking hate. So don’t. Once you stand up for yourself, you’ll be amazed how quickly things change.
The advice for everyone else?
If you know someone who is closeted, help them out of it, fast. Because there is almost no chance they’ll come out on their own except by force, involuntarily, with potentially tragic consequences. It sounds like a cop out, but if in high school, one person close to me had said, “ummm….Tim….as your friend, let’s talk…..”, in any way at all, my life would be unrecognizable today. Sometimes you have to help people do what they should do themselves, simply because they may never, ever, do it on their own. All they need is someone they love to help them out.