It’s hard to remember too many specific incidents, but I can recall a few.
One of the first I can remember was in elementary school, when one of the “popular” kids pulled me aside while we were lining up for recess.
“Hey, I have a question for you.”
This guy was actually usually pretty nice to me, even though his status as being “above” me always felt pretty real.
“Do you love [Sam]*?”
“What do you mean?” I responded. By this point, I was becoming surrounded by kids.
“It’s just a question. Do you love him?”
I grew up Christian, and if there was any one thing I had learned in Sunday school, it was that you should love everyone, no matter what.
“I mean, I love everyone in the world.”
The others were starting to laugh. More joined the crowd. I was starting to feel really uncomfortable, but I didn’t know exactly why. The guy pressed on.
“Yeah, but do you love him?”
We went back and forth a bit, me saying that Jesus said to love everyone, and him responding the same way every time. Finally, I conceded.
“I–I love everyone. So yes, I love [Sam].”
The laughter was immediate. My inquisitor began making the rounds, shouting “[Nameless] loves [Sam]! [Nameless] loves [Sam]!”
It hurt, bad, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t even know what sex was at the time, or attraction. I just knew I had done something wrong.
Ironically, [Sam] (not his real name) was the very guy I said started these rumors, and whom I claimed as a best friend. We were neighbors, and had a very close friendship. I often spent the night at his house, and he at mine. Outside of school, I did not have a more stalwart friend.
But he craved acceptance and popularity, and in order to achieve that goal, he was completely different at school. No one called me “gay” more frequently or more loudly than he did.
That is the first one I remember.
The worst one I remember was a few years later, in 7th (maybe 8th) grade, in Social Studies class.
I hated Social Studies worse than any other class I had at the time. For one, [Sam] was in it, as were a host of the popular kids he so badly wanted to be a part of. And my teacher was as creepy as they came; even then, I knew there was something not right about him.
In fact, my freshman year, he was caught under the bleachers with a video camera at another school. Right under the cheerleaders.
Anyway, the guy had basically no control over the class, and was so clearly f*****d up. It was chaos.
While watching a movie one day (because learning), [Sam] started a quiet chant, in a cartoonish voice.
Over, and over, and over again. Slowly at first. Quietly. Then others, laughing, joined in.
Of course, I laughed too. How could I not?
That instance stopped soon enough, but it would not be the last time.
The worst time was in the middle of class. Not movie time, just regular ole’ class time. And then it started again. Louder, more rhythmically.
Everyone. I looked around, and literally the whole class was doing it, laughing. Everyone. Pointing. Laughing. Chanting.
Even my teacher, though he never said a word, smiled, laughed, and did nothing to stop it.
I don’t know what I did to make people hate me so much, but they did.
I’m an excellent learner, but nothing really came naturally to me. Everything felt an uphill battle.
This was especially true of making friends. The deck was always stacked against me.