By Tara Thomas, Truth for Youth Social Media Manager
As I was growing up, there was always talk of anti-bullying. There were posters in the hallways, TV shows would show the underdog showing up a bully, and we were told to “love our neighbor as ourself” according to the golden rule of “treat others the way you want to be treated,” but in my experience that was ignored at the most important point in my life.
I went to Catholic school from second grade until I decided to leave college this past March. Out of all of those years, the most formative were when I was in middle school, ages 12 to 14. I was figuring out who I was, what I liked, what I wanted to be, and especially what I didn’t want to be.
In sixth grade, it felt like everyone else got better at what they did. Everyone who was athletic got sportier. Anyone who exceled in schoolwork got smarter. Anyone who was artistic got smarter. I didn’t feel like I fit into any of those categories. I didn’t try to make friends with anyone in my class for that reason. Instead, I found friends with whom I did fit in. I’d been told I was always mature for my age, so I befriended two girls two years older than myself.
All was great until an old friend from first grade transferred to our school. I was ecstatic because someone my age who I could relate to was there. Although one of the eighth graders wasn’t too happy about my old friend coming back into my life. And just like that, the girl I told everything to decided that we weren’t going to be friends.
It started with us hanging out only sometimes, then others she would avoid me like the plague. If she was going to choose to ignore me, I would just spend more time with this friend who transferred, which led to more bullying.
Tere was a day that my bully had decided that this friend of mine and I were lesbians. My immediate reaction was to laugh it off. This girl whom I’d told every single detail of my life thinks I like girls? Tell that to the crush on a boy I’d had for three years at that point… Then I started thinking about how I was very protective of my female friends. We weren’t super close, but if you hurt them then I would have been furious. “I’m just the mom friend though, right?”
I was so curious about this possible attraction to the same sex that I turned to pornography. I saw the naked female body and realized that I was attracted to it, so I started identifying as bisexual. At the time, I had heard that porn was bad, but I didn’t know how or why it was bad in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I also didn’t understand the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, so my newfound label didn’t worry me.
Those weren’t the only effects that my bully had on me. There was one day that I’d ended up crying. When we went inside from fresh air time and my teachers were about to let me pass right on until my new friend pulled me aside, telling the teachers that I had something I needed to tell them.
When I talked to the teachers, they heard all sides of the story. But not once did they listen. My friend and I were two sixth graders going against a seventh and two eighth graders. It felt as though as soon as we said our side of the story, we were on the losing side. In fact, one of my teacher’s reactions was “Well, some people think Mrs. ******* and I are lesbians, but that doesn’t mean we are.” It was like she missed the entire point.
To make matters worse, my bully came from a big, Catholic family. If this was what it meant to be Catholic, then why in the world would I want to be?
After this experience, my view of myself worsened. I was now the depressed, bisexual atheist who enjoyed watching porn in her free time. I found a group of people on the internet who only encouraged this even more.
My view on my identity has changed quite a bit, but there are still so many scars that need to be healed from that experience. Bullying can truly change a person. I just ask that whoever is reading this, be patient with people. You don’t know what wounds they’re still healing from.
If you're interested in learning more about my story and how I'm working on overcoming the obstacles that I've dealt with since I was a kid, you can subscribe to our blog as well as keep up with our social media!