I was 12 years old and desperately trying to get away from a mob of kids chasing me as I got off a school bus. I had just made it to the front door of my house when the lead bully pulled me away from being able to turn the key.
After he yanked me back, I was somehow able to convince him to let me in my house. I promised I would come back outside, even though I knew there wasn't a chance in hell I would really do that.
My mother was working, and my routine was to call her as soon as I got home. I decided I was going to talk to her as though nothing was wrong, but she saw right through me. I couldn't hide the edge to my voice, and once she asked me what was wrong, my tone grew into full-blown hyperventilating.
As I talked to her, the kids from school remained waiting for me outside the front door. Peering through the curtains of the front window, I could see they were now holding dead tree branches and sticks in their hands. I was absolutely terrified.
I was supposed to go pick up my young sister, then in kindergarten, from a bus stop a block away. I knew these kids weren't going to let me make it and I was equally terrified they could possibly hurt her if she was left to wander home on her own.
In the end, my mother called a neighbor, who chased all the kids off. I was able to go get my sister without a problem. I was so shaken by the whole thing I never wanted to go back to school again.
The next morning, my father walked me to the school bus and got on with me. He asked me to point out the kids that had chased me. He proceeded to the back of the bus where they all were, and yelled at them in a way I've never forgotten.
Although I was horribly bullied, my thoughts never turned to suicide. My parents loved and protected me. Neighbors and teachers watched out for me. I joke that watching too many ABC after school specials about troubled teens helped me to know taking my life was not the answer. Somehow, even then, I knew it was going to be better someday.
Four years later, I came out as gay. I expected the bullying to get worse, but to my near shock, it practically stopped.
Looking back, one reason I think the bullying largely stopped was because of my high school involvement in theater and music departments. The arts absolutely provided me with an outlet for creative expression, and I believe whatever talents people thought I had outweighed any issues with my romantic or sexual preferences.
Only one person ever gave me a problem. He was a football jock a year younger and threatened to kill me all the time. I was constantly in the Dean's office dealing with it.
Within a year of my graduation from high school, the jock had started dabbling in the theater department. In 1989, I was surprised to find him among my cast mates in a summer theater production.
During a social event, this bully who continually threatened to kill me came out to me. I asked him how he could possibly explain why he'd given me so much grief. He said, "Look, if you hadn't been 'so out' I never would have thought about being gay." So he blamed me.
Because of him, to this day I absolutely believe "those who protest the most" are repressing their own gay desires and fascinations. It continues to be proven over and over again with each "gay scandal" that comes out of a religious sect or the political arena.
The Trevor Project is currently spotlighting a slew of videos from celebrities encouraging gay youth to know that "it does get better." This blog is my way of doing what I can to assist in getting that message out as well.
The bullies come after you because you know who you are. Your comfort in your own skin makes them jealous, afraid, miserable and unhappy. So they want to make you feel the same way they do. Do not let the bullies win. It does get better, especially once you're out of high school. Just hold on. I did and so have millions of others.
A friend of mine sent me the video below created by The Young and the Restless actor Thom Bierdz. The theater and music departments I mentioned above, and the adults who ran them, helped me tremendously as a gay teen. I am moved by Thom's efforts and wanted to bring more attention to his video and AmericanArtAwards.com.