An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from a Victim of Bullying

I know from first-hand experience that bullying is more than just name calling. It’s designed to break people who don’t fit in — to make someone feel so despised and humiliated that they lose the will to fight back or, in some cases, the will to live.

Fortunately for me, as a gay kid growing up in a small town in the Deep South, I had a lot of badass female friends who stood up for me and kept bullies from making my life a living hell. These girls weren’t easily intimidated and they never backed down from a fight.

I kept thinking about those friends while watching the debate last night. I thought about how easily they could have left me to fend for myself. Being on my side certainly didn’t make their lives easier. In many cases, it made them a target, too. But this never seemed to bother them. In some strange way, bullying made them stronger. Every encounter only seemed to make them more determined to stand up for the little guy and protect people from something they knew wasn’t right.

I usually love discussing politics, but I’ve found it harder and harder to keep my cool when talking to people about your opponent lately. There’s something about his behavior that feels strangely familiar to me — a bullying playbook that we should all be able to recognize because it’s one we’ve all seen before.

Identify someone in the room who doesn’t have much power.

An effective bully can spot what sets someone apart and makes them vulnerable from a mile away. Ideal targets include anyone with a disability, someone overweight (although any physical quirk can work in a pinch, really), a foreigner (preferably with an accent), or someone who practices a different religion.

Create a humiliating nickname and repeat it over and over.

Bullies aren’t usually great with complete sentences, but they’re very good at coming up with catchy nicknames that will follow people for years.

Threaten violence or ask your friends to hurt someone.

Encouraging others to intimidate and assault your latest enemy is a brilliant strategy. It adds to the victim’s anxiety because an attack could come from anyone at any time. (It also provides an easy out if you’re ever called in to the principal’s office.)

I could go on, Hill, but I’m sure you’ve heard all this before. You have more experience dealing with bullies than I ever will. All I really want you to know is that I see what you’re up against, and so do millions of other people in this country. We know exactly how bullies operate and we know that their words are the only warning we get before they take their abuse to the next level. We want you to know that we are forever grateful that you keep getting back up again to fight another round on our behalf. And we want you to know that this time, we’ve got your back.