I’ve already alluded to it several times, so I might as well start talking about it.
As I’ve mentioned, I was a victim of bullying, starting in elementary school, reaching a head in middle school, and slowly fading in high school. Why? I’ve been trying to figure that out ever since. But I will try and talk through it here, as I have been with all my other baggage.
I didn’t have that many friends when I was younger. I was not a native of the area I was going to school in, and because it is a small town, it was exceptionally cliquey. What’s funny, when you’re older, you realize this is because of the parents, some of whom even go so far as to choose their children’s friends for them.
Also, I was small, one of the smallest in the class. I was unbelievably passive. I was more sheltered than a lot of my classmates, and therefore, pretty naive. And I had an atrocious speech impediment.
My parents think it is because I had tubes in my ears when I was learning to talk, and I think that is probably a pretty valid opinion. I also think it’s possible that there was something physiologically wrong with me. I do know that it was infuriating to deal with: many of my early memories are of me trying to talk to someone, and them looking at me like I was an idiot. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and by my ear, it sounded as though I were saying it. But no one ever understood me.
What’s funny is, watching old home videos now, I don’t even know what I was saying half the time.
My list of speech problems was pretty broad, including the following letters: <j>, <s>, <ch>, <sh>, <r>, <l>, <th>. Maybe others, it’s hard to remember the whole list. Chief among these were <s>, which I always lisped. In fact, I just had a problem sticking my tongue all the way out of my mouth with half the sounds I tried to make.
I was never directly bullied because of my speech impediment, but I do think it (and the other factors I mentioned) contributed to people later believing I was gay, because my lisp and high-pitched voice sounded similar to how the stereotypical gay male (not that sexuality in any way has a physiological effect on speech). Not that I really knew what “gay” was when it started (remember, the naivete). But I quickly learned it was something you did not want to be branded by your classmates.
So how did it start? Sadly, the way I think a lot of bullying starts. A friend (in fact, my best friend at the time) started a rumor. And almost overnight, it was all anyone “knew” about me.
I was an instant, hated, pariah.