These days, it’s well known that bullying takes place in many forms whether it be violence, threats of violence, manipulation, gaslighting, exclusion, the list goes on. One popular way of bullying someone and I am convinced it still goes on was to call someone homosexual, even if there was no evidence of the victim being ‘that way.’
I know this to be true through my own experiences, especially through the three years of bullying hell which inspired me to write “He Was Weird.” During sixth and seventh grades, I was constantly called ‘homosexual’ and all the derogatory slang terms that went along with it. My protests to the contrary were ignored or met with derision. If anything, it spurred the bullies on more. The effect this had on me was to further dent my already fragile sense of self worth. That combined with my Aspergers. I was frustrated at the perceived ignorance of the people who didn’t want to believe that I was heterosexual.
Looking back to when I wrote “He Was Weird,” I am glad that I brought the story into modern times for several reasons. One of those was that Mark was able to provide some evidence that he wasn’t gay because he had a girlfriend who he’d met during his week in paradise during the summer between those two years. He even has Facebook to back him up. Still, even that was dismissed or thought of as a lie. He was branded gay by his peers and even in the school newspaper. Note: A similar incident led to a school shooting in Kentucky many years ago. In Mark’s case, one boy in particular constantly made comments about Mark’s perceived sexuality but instead of rehashing an old post, you can read about it here.
The subject of bullying by calling the victim homosexual is present in other books I’ve read on the subject of bullying which results in a school shooting. In fact, I was slightly reluctant to use the homophobic bullying angle because I feared I would be accused of plagiarism.
One book where this type of bullying takes place is “Endgame” by the late Nancy Garden. Her bullying victim, Gray, suffers a lot from the bullying jocks and is constantly called a fag by them. We learn that Gray is not gay because of his attraction to a girl in the story. The final straw which leads to Gray taking up a gun and doing the deed is that those same jocks try to force Gray to perform a sex act on his friend in the shower. When the friend resists, the bullies start chanting, “fag fight!” It’s no wonder Gray ends up shooting his main antagonist and tries to shoot some of the others.
Jodi Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes” provides the other example. Her protagonist, Peter, is bullied from day one but when he reaches junior high school and later high school, he is bullied for his perceived homosexuality. On one occasion, in gym class, when picking teams for basketball, the antagonist and alpha male in the story picks Peter by saying, “I’ll take the homo.” This bullying becomes so bad that we find that Peter himself wonders whether or not he actually is gay. In one scene, we see that Peter takes a bus to the next town over and visits a gay bar. One man comes onto him but fortunately for Peter, one of his teachers, who is gay, intervenes to protect him. After the shooting, the partner of that teacher, whom Peter shoots and kills, states that while Peter might have been confused about his sexuality, he definitely wasn’t gay. There are other examples in the book to support the fact.
Nowadays, with more relaxed attitudes towards homosexuality and the legalization same sex marriage, it might be thought that homophobic bullying would be a thing of the past or only found in books like Jodi’s, Nancy’s or even mine. However, I remain skeptical, very skeptical. The point here isn’t really about someone’s sexuality, it’s about using a label to bully someone to the point that their self esteem is eroded. It happened with me and I can say that it absolutely stinks.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?crid=36I8I1G32U0R4&keywords=he+was+weird&qid=1570010250&s=books&sprefix=he+was+%2Cstripbooks%2C148&sr=1-1