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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Hard to believe, but it gets better

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I realize that the "It Gets Better" campaign is supposed to be for adults who were bullied for being gay to come out and offer support for kids going through the same thing. However, this seems a good time for me to come out about my own experience of being bullied.

Some kids (and adults, sadly) will taunt, bully, and torment anyone they see as different. When I was a teenager, "different" and "queer" were somehow synonymous. Hey, I was a fat, four-eyed geek who couldn't get a date. Yet, in the eyes of some of my so-called peers, I was gay. This still happens today  - "different" = "gay."

Junior High and High School were hell. I had a few good friends, and I even dated a couple of guys in high school. Neither was Mr. Right, though. (I still keep in touch with one of them. Yes, he's a friend. But that's another story.) Yet, I was still the fat, four-eyed geek who - even in high school - was gay because she was different.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for my peers who WERE gay. There was one transgender student at the school, and I don't know how he (born female) stuck it out. But he did, and I admired him for it. I often wonder what happened to him, but I lost track.

Things DID get better. College was the best experience of my young life. I stuck with my true friends and made many more new friends. The cool thing about college was no one cared that I was fat or wore glasses. They wanted me for my brains - and they weren't zombies! (grin)

I wish I could say that everything was smooth sailing after that, but I still went through some issues because my self-esteem had been so battered during my teen years. During both periods in my life I learned the value of true friendship - and true love.

Of course, this all begs the question: Knowing what I know now, would I go back and relive those years if I had the chance, and what would I do differently? You know, that's a difficult question to answer. I know I'd be able to bear the pain better. But here's where the "butterfly effect" comes in: Would that mean I wouldn't be married to Paul? I'd have to pull a Marty McFly and go back and fix the past - even if it meant personal pain - to have him in my life.

And if I fixed things so I'd never have to feel pain, what good would that do? Pain is part of the process of growing up. Pain makes us what we are, to some extent. So does joy. But life can't be one without the other. If nothing else, it'd be dull.

So what would I say? The same thing I told Chris when he was bullied for being different. It gets better. But oh, I know. It's hard when you're the teenager. Someone told me that it gets better, and I had a tough time believing them. It's hard when you're a teenager and you're different - whether you're gay, fat, four-eyed, smart, creative, or any combination of the above.

But I'll let you in on a secret: I've accomplished so much more than those kids who put me down during those days. I'm not rich or famous, but things could be a lot worse. My self-esteem could be a lot better. But as I said above, would I trade better self-esteem for the live I have now? That's a no-brainer. The answer is NO. There are rewards for the pain. It's hard to see it sometimes, but looking back, I'm glad I didn't give up.

If you're a bullied teenager reading this, all I can say is that I've been there and it got better for me. And it got better for the people who told me it would get better. Hang in there. I'm very glad I did.

Tags: Life

Filed under: Life   Bullying   It Gets Better      
10/14/2010 7:37:56 PM
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