This is an open letter to my friends unknown who are being bullied, will be bullied or have been bullied.
Yesterday I made an "It Gets Better" video for the large company at which I work. A friend and I got the project going several months ago. We looked for others in our company who had stories to tell, and I recruited my employees to fill the roles of producer, assistant director and crew. It all culminated in our video shoot yesterday.
Lights were set up, cameras and microphones were put in place and several of us sat in front of the camera and told you how we have been in similar places to where you are today. We know the pain, and we know the anguish. We shared with you our stories of survival. We shared about our fulfilling lives that we are grateful to be living today, lives on the other side of the bullying experience. We want you to hear the message that it does and will get better.
My own story was about being a geeky overweight kid in junior high school who wore flamboyant, '60s-style clothing in a rural jeans-and-T-shirt town, a kid whose sexual orientation was called out when the word "faggot" was etched onto his locker for all the other already hostile kids to see. That word kept me silent for the next two years.
Not a single one of us left our perch in front of the camera with dry eyes. The pain was that fresh, and the feeling of wanting better for you was that intense.
In some ways, the eras during which we went through our bullying experiences were worse than times are now. No one was calling out bullying as an issue. For those of us who are LGBT, there were virtually no allies. Those things have gotten better. However, there are things you have to endure that we did not. We didn't live in the era of Twitter, Facebook and cyberbullying, things that can make what you have to deal with so much harsher and constant. We are working to stop those things from getting to you, and you have to help us stop them from having an effect.
There is a common denominator for all who are and have been bullied: allowing ourselves to accept the degrading comments about us as true. In our stories yesterday most of us shared about the creation within ourselves of our own receptive self-bully. That bully is the most dangerous. He or she is the one who says that all the other bullies are right about us. Our self-bully says that we actually deserve the abuse they are doling out. Yesterday, grown professional men shed tears of mourning over the still-fresh wounds from those old feelings that we were not worthy to be here.
The bullies are wrong. All of them. The bully within is the wrongest and most deluded of them all.
You are unique and beautiful and have a profound purpose. I know that to be true. The men yesterday know that to be true. We need you to know it, too. There is a line from Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata": "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." That passage is not just a nice saying for a greeting card. It is the truth... and it is the truth about you.
There are many more stars than human beings. There are many more magnificent trees. They are each created uniquely, gloriously and magnificently. You were created with the same principles as they were. You have as much right to your place in this universe as our sun, as the Earth, as the grandest redwood. Own that fact for yourself today, now.
The only difference is that when a star, a redwood or another miracle of the universe is bullied, it doesn't listen. Neither should you.
It helps when you surround yourself with others who believe in you. Instead of listening to those who don't, find the ones who do. We are out here, and as much as you are looking for us, we are looking for you.
"Desiderata" concludes with these words:
[W]hether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.