Eric Marcus

Out In Middle School! Part 2

Filed By Eric Marcus | June 08, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: anti-gay harassment, bisexual, GLSEN, GSA, middle school, National Day of Silence, PFLAG

Last week I posted an e-mail from a bisexual middle school student who is out and has been having problems with people teasing and harassing her. She asked for advice on what she could do and I responded to her note by asking a few questions. Here is what she wrote back. My response follows after the jump.

Hi Eric! none of my teachers have really intervened, they don't really care, although one time a school security guard yelled at me for being bisexual and actually screamed at me for it. so i told the school guidence counselors and i hope they'll do something for me. in my school, none of the teachers really care about it.

i think it would be great to have a GSA but being it's my last year in middle school it's too late for clubs. but i have told my guidence office that it would be a good idea in the future for the kids next year. and when i get into the highschool i am DEFINITELY going to try to start one!

i think what GLESN is doing is really cool. and i really like the idea of the "national day of silence" and i'm handing out flyers in my school and a bunch of my friends are going to participate in that.

My parents don't really know how hard it has been. i didn't really tell them much. my dad actually doesn't even know. but my mom is very supportive of me and has been great since the moment i told her. i do see a counselor. i started seeing counselors in 5th grade cause i have depression. my therapist helps me a lot and is very i guess i just have to wait for others to accept me, and if they don't, i don't need them anyway cause they don't like me for who i am.

so what was it like for you at school? did you have a lot of support? did your school have any GSA type programs?

--Still Miserable In Middle School

Dear Still Miserable in Middle School:

I'm sorry that things have been so difficult for you. I think you're extremely brave and very strong for someone so young. It's terrible having to absorb the abuse of your classmates--and it's even worse when it comes from an adult like the security guard. Unfortunately, as you're already discovering, people can be terribly cruel no matter what their age.

Has your mother talked to the principal at your school? The behavior of the security guard was outrageous. And your teachers should be watching out for you. I'm glad to hear that your mother has been supportive and that your therapist has been helpful.

Regarding my experience when I was your age (back in 1973), there were no organizations for gay teens, no one talked about it, no one I knew was out, and if you were someone who was identifiable as gay--and there was only one kid in my middle school like that--then you were the target of some teasing, but not like it is now. Kids weren't as aware of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people as they are now and in some ways, at least in terms of the teasing, it was easier for those of us who were gay/bi who weren't easily identifiable. At some point you may want to read my history book, Making Gay History, which will give you a sense of how much things have changed over time.

The only time I had a big problem (other than my own internal problems dealing with my sexuality) was when I was at summer camp when I was fourteen. I wasn't good at baseball and I wasn't interested in going on raids of the girls bunks, so some of the boys started calling me "faggot." They were relentless and I got very depressed. Fortunately, I was only in camp for three weeks, but I never told my mom what happened (my dad died when I was twelve).

Even when I got to high school in Queens, New York, it wasn't an issue because no one was out, no one talked about it, and there weren't any organizations for gay and bisexual kids. So those of us who were dealing with our sexuality generally had no one to talk to about it and had to struggle on our own. It wasn't until college that I met other gay kids and at college there was a gay student group. And once I figured out how to accept myself and came out, my friends were great about it. Still, it was a lot different when I got to college in 1976 than it is today.

Have you given your mom materials from GLSEN? Do you know about PFLAG? That might be an organization your mother would be interested in knowing about.

I hope you'll stick with the counseling. I've seen a counselor for a long time and it's made a huge, positive difference in my life.

Thanks again for writing to me. Please write again if you have any more questions.

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That security guard had no business telling her not to be bi.

Eric, this made me cry. Thank you for what you are doing. And your book MGH has made such a huge difference in my life. I hope this kid does get a hold of it. THanks a bunch for being a support for her.

Of course the irony is that in those days, the gay/GLBT kids were too afraid to say anything, even to each other. That's assuming that they knew who the others were. I didn't.

One of my pet peeves from those days was that the gay teachers didn't reach out to us. Yes, I get that they were just as scared, and that they were afraid for their jobs. But when you're a kid in pain, that doesn't matter much.

Sometimes I sit back in amazement at just how different it is now. I know it's not easy for today's kids either, but - man - a GSA? Supportive staff or parents? I could only have dreamed...

Bil, when you and I were in her situation, they still had separate drinking fountains for "whites" and "coloureds" in the Deep South. Where I lived, "un-natural acts" between consenting adults in private were looked upon with the same abomination, and given the same sort of punishment, as paedophilia is today.

I'm still not entirely sure my culturally-induced bigotry and homophobia is entirely gone. Mixing with GLBT groups has helped though, I can't see "straight" and "gay" any more, just "people".

But that's the way it's supposed to work. Each generation is supposed to live in a better world than the previous one. We had it vastly easier than our parents, but we still felt the same pain. These kids have it easier still (in some ways) than us, but their pain is the same, and perhaps even more sharp because they haven't been accustomed to second class status. I hope that their kids will look upon the difficulties we have now, the prejudices and persecutions we suffer, with the same kind of blank incomprehension that today's youth regards "miscegenation" laws and the like.

We can now help without not just risking, but being certain of, imprisonment, rape and perhaps death. We should help. We must help, if only to sooth the wounds we took so long ago, and which still pain us. But most of all, we must do it for them. They don't deserve this ... used food... and I will be damned if I let them deal with this alone.

I am on an LGBT youth community though I am in my 40s. I am there to work with them on stuff like this and i am the call person for crisis situations for mostly bi but any LGBT kids for a couple of organizations. Where I do most of my work is with parents who are trying to understand the issues. But this sort of story is very familiar to me and while some areas of the country do have good support systems in place there are still areas that don't. My generation had very little, though I was lucky to have a some queer folks in the family for support. When my son came out it was minimal in effect around here in school or among his friends. My daughter started the GSA here several years ago. The funny thing was that when she got to law school they black balled here from being able to participate in the Queer law club because she is engaged to a guy. It really comes down to where the kids is dealing with these issues and what is available.