I grew up in a small town in NC. Relatively unassuming and predominantly Southern. Most of the school was in fact, white and most everyone was related in some way. Everyone went to the same churches, attended the same functions and were otherwise branded /normal/. While although I was raised in the same area, my folks were quite different in my upbringing. My mother was a witch as well as my grandmother. I personally attended church, but it affected my outlook on social limitations and the fact there didn't need to be any.
I always knew I was a little different. Even in my younger years I hung out with the teachers more than the other students. I excelled in my studies, particularly art and due to a very eclectic exposure of rock music and art, I found similar paths myself. In the transition into high school I finally found some kind of identity for myself. I found my own music (mostly a combination of punk and rock). I started dying my hair. I found my own friends (most of whom had giant mo-hawks or liberty spikes), but we were /good/ kids. We went to Christian punk concerts and skateboarded around town. We weren't getting into trouble. We weren't drinking or doing drugs. We were just a handful of weird kids in a small town bound together by common interests.
For most of my school years, I was protected. The upperclassmen football players had adopted me as a mascot. They were kind to me, looked out for me. I could roam the halls in polyester or plaid with my multi-colored hair without fear of torment. There was mild teasing here or there, but it was hardly considered bullying from my end.
My senior year, that all changed. The football players I'd come to know were gone and I had no real protection from anyone in my own grade. There were little to no newcomers in the classes after me and my final year there was a year of Hell.
There was a new wave of 'rednecks' at the school. Those guys with rebel flags on their trucks and the horns converted into the dixie anthem. Every morning there was a group of about 12 them waiting for me at the entrance I had to come in. They'd pace the halls waiting for me. It was a game. Some were people in my own grade that I had tutored in other classes. All bets were off, I was a target now.
They'd chant names at me as I passed by. Freak. Devil worshipper. 'Rainbow' (as if that were some kind of proper insult). They'd call me bitch on my way to my car in the afternoons. If they saw me on the street skating, they'd throw things out the window at me or act like they were going to hit me with their truck. At lunch, they'd throw things at my small circle of friends. We tried leaving the main lunch area to eat, but they'd hunt us down.
It's easy to slip into a victimized state of mind. Into fear. I went home crying one day and my mother came back with me demanding some kind of retribution to the principle. He told her that I had it coming and that I deserved it for calling them rednecks. (Keep in mind that's what they called themselves, and proudly.)
It damaged me, I think. Stole away a portion of youth I couldn't get back. I started getting violent panic attacks that year and they lasted for ten years after. There's a sense of dread, getting up in the morning, that goes along with being bullied. A distraction in school. A longing to quit.
There's a loneliness in knowing that no one is going to help you and that everyone would rather turn a blind eye than get into the confrontation themselves. It's what I lived with and it wasn't until some years later that I realized I didn't have to be a victim. You /choose/ to be a victim to bullying with submissive surrender. We always have the option to fight it.
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