The 6' 10" Basketball Pep Band Star

I have been a big boy ever since the day I was born.  10 lbs 2 oz and 24 inches long at birth, taller than all of my teachers since I was in 5th grade, and 6'10" by the time I was a Senior in High School.  You'd think I'd be the school's star basketball player, or at least a starting football player.  I wasn't.  Ever since I can remember I always loved music.  Anything music.  I gave soccer, swim team, baseball, even basketball a try, but the incessant bullying that I endured from other kids, and even worse, from the adults around me slowly made me detest the sight of a gym, weight room, field, or any sporting arena.  I was a husky kid growing into my body, and as I grew up, I suffered from a condition that left a little too much tissue on my chest than most boys are comfortable with.  My fellow classmates and teammates would draw attention to my chest.  They would squeeze me there and make fun of me.  The last time I darkened the basketball court was the day that the 7th grade basketball coach told us we would be playing "shirts and skins" and...yep you guessed it...I was on the "skins" side of the court.  That was it.  I refused to take my shirt off.  I knew what would happen if I did that.  Ridicule, embarrassment, I was mortified.  The coach told me to "stop being a sissy."  That was it.  I ran to the bathroom and cried.  Then I snuck out of the bathroom, and ran home.  I told my mom I never wanted to play again.  For once she let me quit, and that was it.  I never said why.  I put all of my efforts into what I  This brought me more ridicule than before, but at least I had a place to be, with people who loved me for who I was.  Singing in the choir, playing my instrument, and being around accepting students and adults was what I craved.  It didn't stop the ridicule.  I was called "faggot" and "geek."  It hurt.  I was a big kid though, and it was great sport to come up to me and just pick a fight because people knew I wouldn't fight back.  One day on the way home from school during the 7th grade (remember, I was this time over 6' tall) a 6th grader followed me home calling me a "big fat faggot."   I kept walking, and he started to hit me from behind in the head.  I walked right up to the closest house on my walk home, knocked on the door as I was bawling my eyes out, and asked the stranger at the door to please let me in and let me call my parents.  That adult was a savior to me that day.  The woman behind the door let me in, called my parents, and let her big German Shepherd dog comfort me until my mom got there.  The kid was punished, but the problems didn't stop.  Things got worse in High School for a while.  My older brother, star of the basketball and football teams, was part of the problem.  He and his friends continued to ridicule me, calling me "faggot," "band geek," and "fairy."  I stuck with my true friends, but it always bothered me the way that I was treated.  The adult ridicule intensified during High School.  P.E. teachers made disapproving remarks, the basketball coach was less than kind, and students were worse than ever.  One student would squeeze my chest area and "feel me up" on a regular basis.  I retreated further into my group of friends.  Ironically enough, the only times I participated in sporting events were when I was marching on the football field with the marching band, or playing my trombone in the stands at the basketball games.  

Leaving High School was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Because of my musical abilities, I received a full ride scholarship, and paid nothing for tuition during the first 4 years of college.  The bullying had stopped, but to this day, almost 20 years later, the abuse is as fresh as the day that it happened.  I am now a principal at a comprehensive public high school.  I work every day to be aware of what is going on on my campus, and to educate teachers, staff, and students as to the damage bullying does to people and how it effects their lives.  What saved me over those dark years was a good group of friends.  They supported me, and didn't judge me.  There were adults in my high school life that I would go to, and who would listen to me and treat me like I mattered.  My music teachers were supprortive and loving.  While I never shared with them about the struggles I was having, I knew they cared, and that if I ever did tell them that they would be able to help.  Looking back, I should have done that, and many of the incidents that happened to me would have stopped.  I did my best to reach out to those who I saw being hurt, and we formed a network of caring friends who supported one another.  Those kids who bullied me when I was a kid are all either still immature and poorly adjusted adults, or they are remorseful about what they did as kids.  They made mistakes, and have even come to me to apologize.  Forgiving is hard, and while I will never forget what was done to me, it feels good to make peace with those people.  

There are people out there who care.  I care, and I am working every day to make the world a better place by placing myself in situations where I can impact the lives of students in my city.  There are adults out there who are doing the same for kids in your area.  You can create caring networks of students and adults in your area, and be the change you would like to see.  

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