Zero Tolerance for Bullying

The subject of bullying is one that I identify with. Not because I was bullied in childhood for being gay but because in many ways I never felt good about myself. As a teenager, there were days when I looked in the mirror and didn’t feel good enough. I had lots of doubt and insecurities. I guess this comes from years and years of being told by people that you don’t measure up to expectations. In fact, it’s only about three years ago that I hit the road to recovery. In my previous note, I wrote about the perfectionism that my mom’s family drummed into me. Still, even when I tried, I didn’t measure up.

For me, it was more about being encouraged to do things I didn’t love than being encouraged to do what I loved. The Bible, which I began learning to read at age 7, is still a difficult book to read if not problematic at times. I was never good at maths. Not even years of coaching in primary school made me perform better. In a way, something that I didn’t like was imposed on me- forcefully because if you didn’t perform well in maths, you were not smart enough. The closest I ever performed well in a maths exam was a Credit 5 and that was after being taken to boarding school where I was subjected to rigorous maths coaching which to me, seemed like brain damage.

The week of October 3rd is anti-bullying week. Last year, Tyler Clementi jumped off from the George Washington Bridge after pictures of him kissing another boy were posted on the internet by his roommate. Tyler’s story moved me closer to the anti-bullying cause so much that it reminded me of one of the stories that inspired the choice to become an intentional LGBT activist. Many teenagers and even grown up gay people as is the case in my country, have taken their lives.

Paula Rwomushana was a student at St. Joseph’s Girls school, Nsambya, where I did my A-levels. I didn’t know her but I could easily relate with the bullying of lesbians that I witnessed and have read about in many of our schools. Like Tyler, Paula committed suicide because she was made to feel ashamed and afraid of herself.

We live a high-tech world of facebook, twitter, blogs, and the visible faces of human rights activism. This means that people are more likely to know how to get a sense of belonging because they can identify with someone else in their situation. Even then, many LGBT people don’t know who to talk to while in their most lonely places.

To all kids and adults out there who are caught up with insecurities and hurt:

I have been in the same place. I have walked this journey of self-acceptance. Even as an adult, I used to get picked on by anti-gay slanderers. The people who hate you don’t deserve you. Learn to love yourself and know that you’re God’s unique creation. As you grow older, you will look back on all those moments when you felt less of yourself and see that there was always someone who loved you. Remember that by being proud of who you are, you don’t only change your world; you make the world a better place for other people like you.

I am still here because I never gave up. Don’t give up. We need you. It gets better.

Have a wonderful anti-bullying week.

 

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