Straight Talk Advice

Feb 10, 2010

Bullying will continue until boys demand justice

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I am a short, small-boned sophomore with a high-pitched voice. I’m terrible at sports and PE is a nightmare. The friend I hang out with is also small. Some macho guys have started rumors that we’re gay and now everyone in school believes it. Our PE teacher has even made comments to this effect which compounds the problem. We are shunned and have been physically attacked because of this. We are not gay. We are interested in girls, but they aren’t interested in us. When I say I’m not gay they just laugh and say, “Then who is your girlfriend?” We are both A students and keep telling ourselves we will succeed where some of these losers will not. However, it is still a terrible situation for us. What can we do? — Small Town, Northern Calif.

Katelyn 15, Huntington Beach, Calif.. Ask me a question

My friend was accused of the same thing and he’s not gay either. He told me he has no friends and is moving schools and to not talk to him anymore. It made me cry. Bullying is not okay. Go to your parents, your principal, whoever will listen.

Maureen 17, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I was with Gay-Straight Alliance and we took a boy to the principal for attacking a gay kid. Gay or not, bullying is wrong. If you are being physically attacked, tell the administration.

Hannah 16, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

The macho side can take over boys in high school. My stepfather was bullied too. His size made him ideal to pick on. But he persevered and got in better athletic shape than the bullies. Keep your head high.

Brie 18, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

I know a guy in a similar situation. He stopped taking PE and other classes that put him on the spot. All I can suggest is hitting the gym.

Scot 22, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

I’m not a big guy either and I hang out with a best guy friend. I was recently informed that everyone in my major “knows” I’m gay, and that it’s okay. But I’m engaged to a girl! People make judgments. In high school, you may just have to stick it out.

Akasha 16, Gold River, Calif. Ask me a question

Keep your grades up. Start lifting weights. Keep insisting you aren’t gay.

Leif 20, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

Don’t let this rumor — or your physique, define you. Do things outside school. Diversify. Make sure no one thing can crush your self-confidence. It’s hard to stand up to these guys, so don’t. The important people will admire your resilience.

Graham 16, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Talk to the school, but be careful. Confrontation can make things worse.

Gabriel 19, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

People make fun of each other. Be the real man by acting strong and unaffected. Get the situation under control by telling a trusted adult.

Anjanette 16, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

How unfortunate that a PE teacher is making comments. With macho guys, the more they can bother you, the more they will. Inform your parents and the principal.

Lennon 23, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Report the violence and the gym teacher. A teacher poking fun at students for sexual orientation smells of a lawsuit.

Ashley 22, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

Join a leadership group and start advocating against bullying.

DEAR SMALL TOWN: Bullies exist because the “herd” supports them out of fear of being unpopular and victims are silenced out of fear of revenge. Bullying is so prevalent, and largely unattended, that many teens feel the only solution is to stand tall, change classes, or hit the gym. But bullying is against the law. And it will persist until victims and their advocates demand justice. Tell your parents and the principal immediately. The bullies should be expelled, and the teacher too. If your school plays dumb, contact Child Protective Services, the police, or an attorney.

Editor’s Web Note: This column tells the deeper story of how poorly bullying is being addressed on our campuses. The fact that only a third of the panelists strongly advise taking the problem to authorities (and this from a safe write-in perspective; on the ground, I imagine the numbers drop almost to zero), tells you the lack of leadership/resources at the top to take swift action against bullies. Our schools need community and parental support. Looking for a way to serve? Bullying needs addressing at all levels, from prevention to enforcement. — Lauren

  1. By , age , from Roseville, CA on 02/11/2010

    My younger brother is in a similar situation and I’m not so sure that going to the school authorities is the answer. Our parents tried it and there wasn’t much the school could do because it was his word against theirs and when the guys who were harassing him found out that he complained about them, it made things twice as bad.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I can see how horrible it is for him.  My brother is so depressed that he hardly leaves our room if he doesn’t have to and I hear him quietly crying at night when we’re in bed.  It really tears me apart to see how bad my little brother is hurting, but I don’t know what to do to help him.  Sometimes I even fear that he may be suicidal over this.  I really don’t think that saying that he just needs to learn to deal with it is the answer either.  I can’t comprehend why some kids are so cruel and what they get out of it, but I hope they get what’s coming to them some day.

    Concerned Sister

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  2. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Editor, Straight Talk on 02/12/2010

    Dear Concerned Sister:

    Your brother’s situation is exactly what I’m talking about with “if your school plays dumb.” Schools need a policy in place that doesn’t rely on he-said, she-said, because then bullies never get caught. Can you imagine our courts operating like this? “Oh, sorry, this person you’re calling a rapist says he didn’t do it, so go home, there’s nothing we can do for you.” It’s ridiculous and really a budget problem. That’s why you need to encourage your parents, or do it yourself: Call Child Support Services (it’s in your county directory), the police, or an attorney and tell them exactly what you wrote in this letter. You could also gather witnesses (who you are sure won’t blab to the bullies) to talk to the folks at either of these places. All this can be done with confidentiality. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and I think it will have to be through action like this that schools begin addressing the problem.

    I know you’re worried about your brother. I am, too. Please let me know how this process goes.

    Love,
    Lauren

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  3. By , age , from Carmichael, CA on 02/13/2010

    I have the same problem in reverse, so I really feel for “Small Town.”  I’m a girl and don’t look very feminine.  I have a stocky build and a deeper voice than most girls and even a little bit of a moustache.  I’m afraid to shave it because I’ve heard that shaving makes it grow back in even worse.  Because of these things, the rumor started that I’m gay.  I didn’t have many friends to begin with, but this rumor caused the few friends I did have to drop me because it caused them to be “suspected.” A couple of girls who I have gym class with started the rumor that they’ve caught me looking at their bodies and other girls’ bodies when they’re nude in the showers. It’s a total lie, but since everyone already thought I was gay they all believe it.

    The only one standing by me is my stepsister who goes to the same school and has also become my close friend. We share a room on vistations every other weekend and I’m able to express my feelings to her which helps as I have no one else to confide in about how much this hurts.  However, since she’s standing by mean and my former friends know that she and I sometimes share a room, it’s causing her to also be “suspected” which makes me feel really bad to cause that for someone else.  But I think it says a lot for her character and the wonderful person she is to still stand by me, since I’m not sure I could make it without her support.

    Mislabled

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