Obviously, this blog needs to seriousn-up a little.
Surfing the web I came across reports on two new teen suicides in the USA, one of them – again – a gay teenager, and both of them victims of bullying. Coincidentally, last Sunday I ran across a young gentleman here in Berlin, who felt the need to tell me, across the street, from like 10 meters away, that my “outfit looks gay” and “makes me look gay.” I got really angry. I felt victimized, but not to the extent that I was all shameful about my appearance (cause, heck, I love that particular outfit), but because his actions contained the power to make me so incredibly furious.
My lame-ass response was “blöder Wichser,” which translates roughly as “stupid jerk.” And while I believe that this is actually a pretty accurate description of the aforementioned gentleman, it immediately hit me that the reason for me being so angry about the whole thing exceeded far beyond the mere intolerance/ignorance/hate/self-loathing/you-name-it of Mr. Jerky Jerk. I was so angry, because I felt incapable to respond.
My first reaction, and the one that I kinda gave in to, is to blurt some vague non-discriminatory insult back. Huh? you rightfully ask. Because I don’t want to be some intolerant piece-of-shit and just degrade people for who they are, however, I want to make people who do this kind of crap to others experience how that feels. Which is difficult, or should I rather say impossible, because my understanding of what compromising characteristics are is fundamentally different from his, obviously. I am not insulted by somebody telling me that I look gay, cause I don’t think that being gay is something bad, nor do I think that looking – or acting – gay is something to be avoided or looked down upon. He certainly feels different about this issue. At the same time, I think it’s totally terrible if a person displays unfounded intolerance because of bigotry or the incapacity to deal with lifestyles that differ from yours. That, again: obviously, is not something he considers to be problematic at all.
So it boils down to a very thin line: Can I respond by pointing out the complexity of the issue and make him think about what he just did and why it might be considered wrong? Will I be able to do so, feeling that I actually achieved something, therefore content with leaving the situation like that?
I could also just not respond and act like I don’t care. Cause ultimately I don’t care that he tried to insult me, but I do care that he thinks his stupid-ass bigotry is worth parading down the street. And this whole caring about that leaves me angry and hungry for revenge, cause yeah, if he knew what he does to other people, he’d probably act different. Then again, he probably does know how it feels, and this is his response. Copying what he saw other bullies do, thereby displaying a “strength” that will grant him the respect of all bully-dom (but certainly not mine). And while all these thoughts run through my head within milliseconds after the incident I get more and more confused, don’t really know what to do, but don’t want to leave it uncommented (cause I’d feel like giving him the impression that his behaviour is acceptable) and thus come up with some lame-ass insult that will probably do nothing.
Then again it might serve to initiate an argument, which, in the best case scenario might lead to an opportunity to present some of the arguments and thoughts I have on the issue, but it might also (yeah, worst case) lead to me having my teeth kicked in right in front of my house.
So, what’s the point of this whole post? I feel completely unable to present the ideal solution to the dilemma presented, because I just don’t have one. And I guess it is also very dependant on the situation you find yourself in (two weeks ago I got a similar comment from three teenage girls on their way home from school… I don’t think they’d beat me up).
What I’ve begun to think, though, is that I should probably come up with something mimicking the elevator-pitch, a short and concise speech of why I think this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and why I choose to take the high road. I should practice it in front of the mirror and have it handy when the next moronic super-jerk tries to harass me verbally. Now there is a plan.
But what saddens me above all else is the fact, that I can sit here and write all that and believe in it, because I feel strong enough to handle the bullshit that bullies hurl at me. Other people don’t, and recently we all witnessed some of them taking their lives – because it seemed the easier way out, or even the better way to go. That’s horrible. And it is also the reason, why I need to get better. A lot has been said about the “It gets better” campaign, there has been praise, but also criticism. I tend to go with the latter, cause I’m not a fan of listening to celebrities of questionable fame blabbering about how the world will become a better place. Don’t get me wrong, the world will seem to be a better and wider place once you reach a certain point (and once you move on from school) but a lot of it has IMHO to do with the fact that YOU need to get better. Just as I did, I needed to get better at seeing through the insecurities and the ignorance that informs the actions of bullies. I needed to get better at making it not affect my self-esteem. And I still have to get better at responding to harassment. Because you never know who is watching, who you might be inspiring to carry on instead of just giving up.
To end on a somewhat lighter note, I give you a fantastic contribution to the “It gets better” campaign, that is really all sorts of anti, entitled “It gets worse,” and presented by the talented JIZ. Cause who would want to miss out on gay sex, right?