A Matter of Perspective
by Elias Scott
Frank sent me this damn long email. It took me forever to read it. In fact I had to read it over a couple times to get everything he said. I'd begun to get a little scared, but he did something awesome. He laid out everything step by step after telling me about him being bullied in school. He wrote a story about it. Anyway, his long letter follows.
frankf4321s <frankf4321S@-****-.com> Fri, August 8, 5:28 PM
This email is kind of long so bear with me. Be sure to read it all. The story that follows is true. Being a writer, I've used a little poetic license.
I was bullied when I was a kid and I wrote about it in a short story.
Jim is the main character and is in the 8th grade. He's reflecting back on a bullying incident that happened when he was in the sixth grade. This other 8th grader name Brad gets in Jim's face, but Jim stands up to him. Brad, being a coward like most bullies, turns and walks off. He says, "We haven't forgotten what you were like. You're still a wimp." The story takes place in a small rural mountain town that was known for its mining during the California Gold Rush. Anyway, this is related to what I want to tell you so I've cut and pasted the section below.
The words, "you're still a wimp," brought back painful memories. Memories that went back to the fifth grade. I lived a double life in the early grades. The one I lived at school and the one at home. The life at school before the seventh grade was more like a minefield than a gold mine. I was held back in the second grade, was shy, withdrawn, afraid of other kids, and cross-eyed. On top of that I took piano lesson, dance lessons, and wore glasses.
The bullies thought I was a wimpy coward, and they were right. They taunted me and hit me in the head with basketballs, soccer balls, and volleyballs at recess. I begged them to stop and that caused them to increase their attacks.
My afternoons were spent lying in bed, waiting for the migraine headaches to end. Balls of color swirled in my head like orange, green, and yellow Ferris Wheels. Nausea wrenched my stomach as the colors went round and round, making me feel like vomiting. My mom didn't know what caused the headaches so took me to the doctor who prescribed medicine that never worked.
I always thought the bullies were the cool kids, the winners, and guys like me were nerds and losers. The bullies terrified me so I took their abuse and accepted it as a normal part of life. That is until the day I decided I'd had enough.
Our playground was typical. It was made of black top. Four square, hopscotch, and basketball areas were lined out. Some boys claimed parts of the playground as theirs or at least that's the way it seemed when five bullies surrounded me like wolves one day, their day of reckoning.
"Hey four eyes," Brad said. He was a jerk then too. Brad grabbed my shirt with one hand. "You're such a dork. Get away from me dork." He pushed me away from him, then let go. I fell on the ground.
I started to get up. A short kid pushed me back down. Brad grabbed me by the shirt with both hands this time and pulled me off the ground. The other guys formed a circle. Brad shoved me across the circle, and they pushed me from one side to the other.
A thin kid gave me a shove like he was passing a basketball. "No wonder no one likes you. Who wants a wimp for a friend?"
"Stop it," I yelled.
"Listen to the big baby. Stop it! Stop it. You're too scared to do anything about it," a kid with crooked teeth sneered. "You're nothing but a loser."
They took the rubber balls and started hitting me in the head with them from all sides. I started to cry. "Stop it," I said. "Stop it. I hate you! I hate you!"
"Look, the baby's crying. You're nothing but a big baby!" the short kid added.
Deep inside I felt that everything they said was true. I didn't fight back because I was afraid they'd do worse things to me. I'm not quite sure what could have been worse.
It may have been this thought or something else, but I suddenly realized they'd probably done about as much as they could, other than kill me. I'd like to say I kicked their asses that day. I pictured it that way in bed at night and saw myself attacking them, giving them karate chops, and kicking them to the ground like a Ninja warrior. But that would have been the way of the brave man. I was a coward and my plan was the plan of a clever coward. It was devious, and deceptive.
They hit me in the head a few more times before I fell to the ground limp. There was silence for a moment. The five of them circled me.
Brad stood over me. "Hey twit. Get up so I can beat the crap out of you."
Like that was going to motivate me. I didn't move.
Brad pushed me with his foot. "I said get up!"
I was afraid he was going to kick me until I couldn't take it anymore, but I refused to move.
"I think we knocked him out," Tim, a short kid said.
They began to shake me. "Jim? Jim?"
"Maybe we killed him."
I laughed loudly inside.
"We'd better get help," the short kid said.
"Are you crazy? We'll get in trouble."
They shook me again. I began to groan, moved a little, looked around as if I didn't recognize them, and fell back down and closed my eyes.
"He passed out again," the thin kid said.
I stirred again, sat up and looked at them, afraid Brad might actually start kicking me. "What happened," I asked.
"You passed out," the short dude said. "You scared the hell out of us. We thought we'd killed you."
I acted like I was getting up, then fell back down. A boy about the size of Brad said, "Put your arm around my neck."
Soon I was upright but hanging on tight. Another kid put my other arm around his shoulders. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said, bending my knees and letting my weight hang on their shoulders. "I can't see. Where are my glasses?"
"He's just faking," Brad said. "You guys aren't going to fall for his crap are you?"
"You're the one who's always picking on him," the short guy said.
Brad smiled. "And like fools, you follow."
The guy to my right pushed Brad. "Stick it where the sun don't shine."
They laughed as they walked me over to lunch tables under a tree next to the playground. One of the guys got me a drink. They hovered around me like bees until they were sure I wasn't going to die or tell on them.
The guy to my left said, "You wanna play some basketball?"
I looked at each one and they all nodded, even Brad, who suddenly seemed to have lost his magic powers.
I followed them to one of the b-ball courts where we played basketball like we were old friends. They were true to their word. They never taunted me again.
That's how I got the bullies off my back. This medicine was better than the doctor's. The migraines disappeared. Many challenges lay ahead, but life was gold again. The bullies found a bit of fools gold that day, but never knew it.
Now that I'm older, I realize bullies are just cowards because they pick on the weak kids, the ones they know won't fight back. Brad could have started kicking me while I was down. Fortunately, he didn't. If he had, I think the best thing would be to jump up and hit him in the mouth as hard as I could. I might have gotten my ass kicked, but I'd have caught him by surprise and hurt him. He'd have to think twice before he bullied me again.
Anyway, that's why I say, "A cowardly wimp still lurked within."
Will, the point here is I adapted to the situation. I became a Chameleon. I didn't think I could beat them physically so I used my head and defeated them. I'm suggesting you do the same thing.
You probably won't like what I have to say, but I think I have a solution to get you back in with your parents, and over time, with your old friends at school. But you have to become a chameleon. Keep in mind that the chameleon is always a chameleon no matter what color it becomes. You will always be gay no matter what color you become. Don't forget that.
I'm looking at your situation and asking myself what would I do? How would I handle it? This is what I'd do, and you are free to take my advice or tell me I'm full of it. This requires courage and is bold. Don't be like some gay guys and be a wimp. Take action and make things happen rather than wait for things to happen. Of course I'm not talking about using a gun or something like that.
You'll now understand why I asked you if you ever had sex with a guy. What you did with James wasn't really sex. It may have been fun, but like you said, if he hadn't moved, you'd have done a lot more. So given that, this is what I suggest:
You ask to meet with your parents and explain to them that you were going through a rough period and thought you were gay. But now that time has passed, you've decided that it was just a passing phase. (Big lie of course. But that's alright). You tell them you've decided that you're straight and apologize for all the stress you put them through. (You'll probably see both doubt and relief on their faces at the same time.) Tell them you've never had sex with a guy. (This is not a lie because what you did with James was Bill Clinton sex and not even that). You could add that the more you thought about it, the more you came to realize you're not gay.
Now is the time to pause and let them ask questions. It will probably be like an interrogation so you'll have to be convincing with your answers. (Keep in mind I'm being a writer here, and while I've never seen this happen or have any experience with it, I do have a picture of how it will work in my mind. You need to do the same.)
1. "Will, are you just telling us this or is it really the truth."
"It's the truth." Just repeat what you already said. "I was under stress at the time and I thought I was gay, but now that time has passed and I've had time to think about it, I realize I was wrong. (More relief on their faces and the thought, "What the hell are we going to do about his college fund?")
2. "Are you telling us the truth when you say you've never had sex with another boy?"
"Yes. I've never had sex with another guy. I made the mistake of telling everyone I'm gay and now they all hate me. And besides, who would I have sex with?"
3. "Are you going to start dating then?"
"Maybe. Some girls might not want to go out with me now. But I can always hope. It would be nice to go to the prom." (More smiles and a few long exhales)
4. "What are you going to do about your friends at school, the teachers, and the administrators?"
"I'm going to go to them individually just like I'm doing with you and tell them the same thing." You pause. "Well, I might try meeting with my friends when they're all together. It would be easier. How do you think they'll react?"
5. "We have no idea. What the hell got into you in the first place telling everyone you were gay?"
"Like I said, it was stupid. I was only fifteen and a confused teenager. You were young once, weren't you? Didn't any of these kinds of things go through your head?"
6. Your dad says, "No one talked about things like that when I was a kid. There wasn't all this porn and crap. Have you been looking at porn?"
"Yeah, some. It's kind of what caused me to think I might be gay. I was watching hetero porn and I was always thinking about the guy and not the girl."
"What do you mean?"
"It's not that I didn't notice the girl, but I could understand how the guy felt so I looked at him more and it made me think I might be gay, but now I realize it was just that I identified with him because I'm a guy too. Seems normal when I think of it now."
Your dad may or may not have watched porn, but he'll probably want to change the subject.
7. "So you're saying that you're not gay and you made a mistake?"
"Yes." (Still some doubt on their faces, but a lot of relief too.) Now understand, during all this time you're going to be thinking, I'm finally getting back at them for all the times they ignored me and treated me like shit." That will definitely keep you motivated. It doesn't mean you don't love them, but it's because you value their love that you are playing out this scenario."
You may very well start crying, not because you want to, but because you can't help it, and they will be touched and feel sorry for you.
I could probably go on with this scenario like we did with Pete and the rain, but you get the idea. It's a simple idea and one where you are keeping your integrity of being gay while making them think otherwise.
Fools gold as I said in the segment from my book. You have changed your color for the sake of blending in and making it less likely that you will stand out as being different. There is nothing wrong with that. It's known as survival and that's why the chameleon changes color.
Now to school. This won't necessarily be harder, but it will be more complicated because there are more people involved. I'd start with the principal. He holds regular faculty meetings, and like he probably did when you came out, will talk to the teachers about how, now that you are older, you realized you made a mistake in coming out so young (Not that it's that young, but to older people it is). Be sure to explain that you haven't had sex with anyone at school or anywhere else which proves that you were speaking without ever having experienced sex with another guy. (That's basically the truth.) He will probably ask you a lot of the same questions your parents asked you. Make sure to let him know you'd appreciate it if he would let all the teachers know. That will help make sure he does something.
Two down, one to go. Now your former friends. Think of this as fun and don't be afraid.
You could start with one friend that is willing to talk to you and who won't be embarrassed or self-conscious. The other option, which I think is the better one, is not to isolate one guy, but talk to them all at once.
Don't beat around the bush with a bunch of preliminary BS. Just walk up to them and say, "I'm not gay." That will stop them in their tracks. You want to erase the picture of you doing all the things gay guys do to each other, so you immediately follow with. "I've never had sex with another guy."
They will act like they don't believe you. This is a normal reaction. They'll probably ask the same questions everyone else did. You're really prepared now. Understand, that your old friends are most likely to be the biggest doubters. I can't quite explain why that is, but I guess it's one of the qualities of youth for good and bad. Be sure you look them in the eye. Act like the last couple years didn't even happen. That doesn't mean that you slap them on the back and act all buddy buddy. It just means you talk to them like you would have when you all were friends.
They probably won't accept your conversion right away. But after you answer their questions and they have time to think about it, they will start to change over time. Because once the news gets around the school, which it will pretty fast, people won't be as afraid to hang around you because they don't have to fear being labeled as gay or a friend of a gay guy, which they fear means they're gay too. It's their own way of being a chameleon. If girls come up to you, and they may be the first to do so, because no one can accuse them of being gay, make sure you show them the same respect you want for yourself. Be friendly, but not phony. You don't have to ask them out or anything. Just be calm and cool and nice.
Hopefully, in about a month, things will be back to normal. And if they're not. We'll create a plan B.
Let me know what you think. I'm expecting you to tell me I'm crazy, but I'm hoping you have the balls to carry this off. It will make your senior year much more enjoyable and who knows what may come of that.
I imagine a lot of you are thinking Frank is full of it because he's asking me to deny who I am. But if life is about survival and living, then this is the answer. I've been close to killing myself a number of times because I'm so isolated and have no friends. Frank offered a solution. Like you hear a lot of gay guys say, "It will get better." Yes, it may get better, but for me, right now, with a whole year of high school left, and what should be the happiest year of my life, I needed to do something other than take shit from the homophobes and be ignored by my friends.
Will Waters <willw521K@*-----*.com> Sat, August 9, 9:43 AM
God I haven't been this damn excited in a while! A LONG while! Do you know how good it feels to actually be happy and excited about something for a change? It's been so very long... About the only thing I can equate it too right now is Christmas Eve when you're a young boy, or leaving to go to Disneyland! I suddenly feel alive, hopeful, and something I can't even quite adequately put into words right now!
The lessons, the talks, the sharing, the picture, the video, the advice, the plan, and quite frankly the hope, it's all just so almost overwhelming. I'm crying again, but they are the first tears not born of sadness and hurt in such a very long time. Thank you. You're giving me back me. And I will truly love you forever for this. Will
PS I'm talking to my parents tonight.
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