On being bullied (and bullying) #SpiritDay

“¡No seas niña!” (“Don’t be such a girl!”)

“¡Pinche joto!” (“Fucking fag!”)

“Maricon” (“Faggot”)

Growing up, these might as well have been my nicknames. An obviously effeminate kid, who preferred reading to roughhousing, I was the target of bullying. At school, I faced ostracization, taunts, and the early forms of cyberbullying. At home, my cousins would snicker and point, my uncles would crush whatever self-love I felt, and I felt as is my family didn’t say anything.

One night, when I was around 13, I was hanging out with some cousins when one of my cousins with venom in his voice called me a “princess”. Something inside me broke and I lunged at him starting what would be my first and only fight. Our moms heard what was happening and ran in to break us apart. My mom walked me outside and I followed with tears clouding my eyes. She asked me if it was true what people were saying; she was asking if I was really gay. In between sobs, I looked down and said no. The constant bullying had me convinced that I should be ashamed to be gay, so ashamed that I should at least keep it a secret and at most I should end my life.

In high school, I became a “popular cool kid”. I sat with the cheerleaders and football players and was finally the one with the power instead of the powerless bully. But so internalized was my shame, that I thought in order to stay popular and in order to get people to believe I wasn’t gay, I had to become the bully. I used my newfound power to make people feel like I used to feel. And I felt terrible. To this day this is my biggest regret.

Eventually, I stopped bullying other people. Eventually, I stopped being the “popular cool kid”. Eventually, I stopped searching online for how to commit suicide. Eventually, I stopped crying myself to sleep and praying to be cured. Eventually, I accepted my sexual orientation. Eventually, I was able to leave toxic environments and relationships. And eventually, I was happy.

Today, I go purple to stand against bullying and in support of LGBTQ youth. I take the pledge to show LGBTQ youth you’ve got their backs. I will work every day of my life to make sure that NO kid ever feels shame for their identity. I will work to ensure that NO one is bullied for having a marginalized identity. For more information about Spirit Day and LGBTQ+ bullying, check out https://www.glaad.org/spiritday.

❤️💛💚💙💜

Adrian Vega

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