Seventh grade was pure hell. It was never physical, but being a book-loving teacher's pet made me the perfect target for bullying. I'll always remember how my classmates called me "child murderer" after bringing "Suffer the Children" by John Saul to school, and the constant jokes about the unibrow I began to grow will always stick with me. I'll always be insecure about those things, but there was one other thing that they all subjected me to.

I remember it well. We were walking from art class to math, and Esmeralda was laughing with her friends. She turned to me and called me a lesbian, and it hurt more than anything else I had ever been called.

It was shortly before the Obama era, when LGBT+ rights would be focused on heavily and non-heterosexual people could come out more freely. "Lesbian" was one of the worst insults you could throw at our ages. I mean, what girl would like other girls, right? It was disgusting!

But I guess I was disgusting, and she called me out on it. I'd been wrestling with it for years, my attraction to women, and she and her friends were laughing at my sexuality. Sure, they just meant it as a mean joke, but how disgusted would they be if they found out they were right?

And they must have seen how much it impacted me. For the rest of the year I was called a "child murderer" and "lesbian," and for the rest of the year, I was reminded that I was attracted to some of the girls in my school—and that they would think I was disgusting if I ever admitted it.

I couldn't repress the feelings I had, the emotions that were always kept hidden away. I had crushes on my classmates of either gender. I got butterflies when I saw my prettier friends, just like I got butterflies when I saw my handsome friends. Gender simply didn't matter, and every time I was called a lesbian, I was reminded of these little butterflies.

A year later, I came out to my parents as bisexual.

Seven years later, I came out openly as pansexual.

Unlike most of my peers, I would date anyone as long as I had an emotional connection with them. Man, woman, transgender, gender nonconforming... none of it mattered. I just wanted that connection, and with that connection, I could find a romantic and sexual attraction.

Thanks to my seventh-grade bullies, I came to understand who I was and what my sexuality meant. Thanks to my bullies, I was forced to confront something I had been repressing for years. Thanks to my bullies, I grew to understand that not everyone will accept my sexuality. Thanks to my bullies, I embraced who I was and found a way to express my sexuality in a safe manner.

So thank you. You were a little off, but your cruelty helped me. As soon as I came to terms with who I was, you gave me more happiness than you ever got from picking on me.