If Not For My Middle School Bullies, I Probably Would Have Never Come Out

To The Bullies Who Called Me A Lesbian In Middle School, Thank You For Helping Me Come Out To The World

You weren't completely right, but your constant ridicule helped me discover who I truly was.

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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.

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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'Grey's Anatomy' Taught Me Just How Important Gay Rights Are

This episode opened my eyes and heart.

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Attending a Catholic high school made it very clear in my mind that LGBTQ individuals did not fit in with society. I watched as our principle refused to allow students to invite their same-sex partners to dances. I remember our administration fighting against letting a boy on our dance team because they thought it would ruin the reputation of being a Catholic school. The way they were treated in front of me every day became the way I thought the world should treat them too. But I couldn't have been more wrong.

In season seven, episode 12 of "Grey's Anatomy," Meredith Grey encounters a patient who was trampled by horses after his partner set up a carriage ride to take them to sign their domestic partnership papers. His partner explains to Meredith that he had just wanted the day to be special because straight people get to have the most special day of their lives on their wedding day. They get the flowers, the ceremony, the reception, the gifts. At this point in time, all members of the LGBTQ got was their signature on a piece of paper.

I remember something inside of me being moved at the thought of someone simply being in love and not being able to celebrate it because people thought it was "weird" or "unnatural." I put myself in the reverse situation and thought about how much it would break my heart if society did not accept the fact that I want to marry my wonderful boyfriend some day. I cried during the scene in the show because even though it was acting, I could see just how important these two people were to each other and all of the unnecessary barriers they had to cross just to prove that their love was the same as anyone else's.

Maybe this moment was extremely late in my life to have the realization of how hard it must be for LGBTQ people to find happiness in our society, but I am glad I had that realization at all.

Certain religions crucify the LGBTQ community, saying they will go to hell for sexuality because it is a sin. Personally, I have a hard time believing that God could condemn anyone for showing another human being unconditional love.

It scares me how poisonous our society can be at times. 10 years ago, if you asked me how I felt about people in the LGBTQ community, I would probably (wrongfully) say that they freaked me out. These days, while you won't necessarily see me at a Pride parade, you will see me hyping up and supporting my awesome gay best friend to go after his crush. You will see me taking girls hitting on me as a compliment rather than something weird. You will see me openly supporting gay rights because it is the right things to do, human to human.

The saying "love is love" is so simple, yet so incredibly true.

I can't help how much I love my boyfriend and I would never in a million years expect someone to tell me to stop. Who are we to tell members of the LGBTQ community to stay in some box society and religion have built? We aren't. Love is love and you can never and will never be able to put rules and restrictions on a feeling.

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