Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reflections on the Past - Schools and Bullies

My experience with schools pre-college was entirely an ugly affair and I cannot relate to what children experience today.  The experience was so horrific that I don't often describe those events to anyone.  You might say, I have a thorough understanding of why a person might choose suicide.

Let me give you a snap shot so you understand the difference is literally night and day between the schools of today and those in 1975-1990.  Please keep in mind the overt hostility of public school staff has largely been removed from society in this age.  For most of my years in school I was short, not well muscled, and not strong like boys are expected to be.  And there was an agreement between my parents whom were terrified I would grow up to be gay, ie. I, the female identified gender-neutral child, they had adjusted to male would grow up to like boys. Imagine that.  But no, they filled out paper work which said I would be a boy, therefore I had to be a Man, at the age of 5.  From 5-11 grade school was mostly tame, some fights here and there, nothing that differed too much.  After all, until 4th grade I was the same size as everyone else, just another kid.  By fifth grade I was starting to stand out and 6th grade wasn't much better, kids were starting to grow faster and taller, except me.  Grades 7 to 12 however, were a nightmare.

In the 7th grade I was suddenly (unusual for XXY I know) not tall enough to keep up with everyone else.  I looked wrong and was excluded from all groups.  Imagine that, a young "girl" didn't fit in as a boy, not at all.

By the 8th grade the damage was done, I was a target for all bullies with the tacit approval of school staff and worse, my parents, who were so terrified I would be gay.  So it began 3-5 bullies would accost me, and I would either flee successfully, be cornered and talk it out, or be cornered without an adult nearby and be tortured until I fought back.  Which actually means that for most of the 7th grade I was cornered and beaten down by a group of bullies whom were all larger, stronger, and much more willing to hurt people than I was.

By the end of that year, my parents finally decided I needed some help to stand up to the grueling punishment of bullies and they enrolled me in the martial arts.  Little good that did, the martial arts takes many years to become capable.  That summer, I learned that fighting back at least gave some satisfaction to being beaten down... quite by accident I managed to hurt one of many attackers.  My parents had long since instituted a policy that my complaints were but lies, and would automatically believe whatever story of my misdeeds from others.  Being "grounded" was a place of safety, what a fine discovery that was.
I learned early that if you want bullies to avoid you, then you had to be the meanest evil person they could imagine tangling with.  If they brought sticks, I needed a Knife.  If they brought chains, I needed a roll of quarters and a razor blade.  And I couldn't threaten them, it had to be quick, you attack me ....I cut you.  No hesitation.  You and your posse of bullies corners me, I have to hurt you badly so that you FEAR me enough not to do that again

I learned to find safety in punishment details.  A gang of kids would attack me coming or going to school, it would get vicious, people would get hurt, and I .. I alone, the only participant with no friends present, five, six or seven to one, of them all, I would be singled out as the bad one and placed on a punishment detail.  Little did the powers that be understand, those adults so willing to turn a blind eye to the bullies, a "punishment detail" was actually an Adult supervised event.  Thats right, it was a SAFE place.  None of the bullies would try to hurt me there.  The school staff person might be down right mean, but it was VERBAL.  They would not attack me physically, which made it a safe place.  And if I was lucky this would occur during periods of inattentive monitors by adults, ie.. lunch, before school, or after school.  The bullies were much too lazy to wait two hours after school for me to leave a punishment detail, or to get up two hours early to goto school to ambush me.  Sad, no?  Formal punishment the only SAFE place for children at school because it has Adult supervision, and the only place where the Adult present cannot turn a blind eye to physical assault.

Ugly, no?  That was 8th - 12th grades, and the bullies never entirely went away.  The combat escalated.. got more vicious and bloody with every year.  People got hurt.  Permanently hurt.  I'll let your imagination run with this, but if you can imagine it.. it probably happened.  The only thing we didn't have (fortunately) was guns... everything else got used.  I have ugly memories of high school, and no wish to revisit them.

My parents signed paperwork and paid money to have a boy.. unfortunately nurture didn't trump nature.  They got a messed up girl with the skill to survive street combat and smart enough to get herself straightened out enough to soar into the future.

That said, I haven't forgotten, forgiven, and if anything the pain of those days still burns behind every dark moment.  Public schools sucked for me, because I didn't look like a boy, was not a boy, and could not fit in with boys.  Sucked as a term doesn't do it justice... I understand why so many children would be willing to commit suicide rather than attend public school.

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