When I turned 8 years old and had just finished third grade, my parents received a piece of news that would fundamentally change the direction of our lives. We said goodbye to the confines of my grandmother's house, where we had occasionally slept five to a room, and moved into rent-controlled public housing. We had a house with two floors all to ourselves.
I still remember the smell of the recently painted walls and the varnish on the wooden doors and windows. I experienced that moment in time with profoundly mixed feelings: excitement about the new house, and fear of an uncertain future. Our new neighborhood on the outskirts of Arrecife (on the island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands) had morphed overnight from a wasteland to a hodgepodge of more than 100 houses occupied by heterogeneous families, all from different cultures and ethnicities.
Until that moment my life had been suffused with happiness. But in the blink of an eye, the four walls of my elementary school turned into my own personal hell. I was just a tiny person with thick glasses who soon became the object of insatiable aggression by other members of his class.
They attacked me nonstop, maybe because I was a weakling or a know-it-all; I'm not sure which. But I do know that at the age of 8, I had to contend with an epithet that, until that moment, I had never even heard: "faggot." Getting spit-balled, shoved and insulted was part of my daily routine. When I got home, I would go upstairs and take refuge in my room so that my parents wouldn't hear me crying.
Over the next six years, through middle school, I lived through constant bullying by those same classmates, both those who stayed in my year and those who were held back. We may not have shared the same classrooms, but we did use the same schoolyard. When the recess bell rang, it was a relief for most kids; for me it meant the start of 30 minutes of torment.
One evening, when I was heading home from school just after dark, some kids were waiting for me outside school, their faces covered by their sports jackets. It was a brutal hazing. I thought I was done for, that I would never get over not just the pain but the embarrassment of being incapable of defending myself.
Somehow I escaped, or they finally got tired of kicking and punching me. (I don't remember very well.) Luckily the marks they left were barely visible, and once again I was able to hide my pain from my family.
At that point, even at 8 or 9 years old, I knew that my feelings for boys were different. But I didn't know that there was a word for those feelings, or that it was the word that these bullies were using against me, cruelly and without even knowing its meaning, asphyxiating me with it: faggot, fag, etc.
Without a doubt, those were the worst days of my life, a period when I resigned myself to living with indescribable bullying in silence, keeping it a secret from my parents. Other boys suffered like me too, but we never spoke a word to each other, because we didn't want to have to see our own reality reflected in someone else's face.
This long episode of my life transpired in the 1980s. Spain has come a long way since then in terms of rights, but the sad reality is that I did suffer, and many little boys and girls continue to suffer today. A recent report by COGAM and FELGBT, two Madrid-based gay-rights groups, revealed that 43 percent of children who are bullied about their sexual orientation consider suicide, and 17 percent actually attempt it. Yet schools typically ignore the situation (42 percent of children report having received no help at all).
This is my homage, my way of supporting those who, day after day, suffer the torment that I lived through for six years, a torment that does have a name today, fortunately, as well as programs designed to help. But bullying continues to be very common among youth, and it requires the action of everyone in society and in government so that we don't have more victims of this potentially deadly torment.
Translated from the original Spanish.
"A Day in a Queer Life" is an ongoing blog series that documents the unique struggles, joys, triumphs, setbacks, hopes and desires of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in one of the six countries currently featuring a HuffPost site (Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). Each week a different blogger from one of these countries shares his or her personal story and perspective on what life is like wherever he or she resides. Want to share your own story? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can take part in "A Day in a Queer Life."Read previous entries in "A Day in a Queer Life":
- Jason Guberman (U.S.): "Why Being a Dad Matters to Me"
- Giuseppina La Delfa (Italy): "Being a Lesbian Mom When Families Like Mine Still Aren't Recognized"
- justin adkins (U.S.): "Just One of the Guys"
- Antonio Vila-Coro (Spain): "'Dad, Kids at School Are Saying You're Gay'"
- Olivier Steiner (France): "An Ordinary Day"
- Peter Tatchell (UK): "Being Peter Tatchell"