Welcome, visitors of the Hop Against Homophobia! This is my first time participating in a blog hop and if I’m going to lend my voice in support of any cause, this one would be my first choice. Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Phobias can stem from fear of or discomfort with something that doesn’t fit in to someone’s predefined worldview. Ignorance plays a big part as well. Lack of knowledge, unfamiliarity, or difference can provoke in us, flawed human beings that we are, that primal response in which those with power lash out at those that are relatively powerless. In the case of homophobia and transphobia, it boils down to bullying, pure and simple, and it’s not okay.
I’ve had personal experience with bullying, as a witness, the victim, and the victim’s mother. Just a few weeks ago, my son had his first experience with bullying and I got to see what it feels like as a parent, witnessing how impossible it is to completely protect your child from that big, scary world out there. It started with my son getting glasses for the first time. Days later on the playground, a trio of very young kids decided to play a game where they would take my son’s glasses and hide them from him. Only my son didn’t know about their game and once those kids had his glasses in their hands, they didn’t just hide them. They popped the lenses out, twisting the frames so hard they snapped into pieces. Then they hid the evidence and lied to teachers about what had happened. My son was left half blind, with no idea what had happened or what he did wrong.
So, as the parents, we spoke up. My husband and I found out what happened from other kids with the help of their parents. The kids who had done this were identified and the school was made aware of the incident. The kids wound up apologizing on their own to my son. It was quite clear that they didn’t realize the damage they did, so it was a learning experience for all of us. That’s the best outcome I could imagine. However, I was later told by a family member that I shouldn’t have gotten the school involved at all; that now those kids knew my son was a snitch and would attack him even more ruthlessly. They said I should have kept quiet and forgot it ever happened, lest the bullies find reason to strike again.
That’s not how you deal with bullying. You don’t shut up and take it, you find help. You speak out. You correct the source of the problem before it gets worse.
Fifth grade was when the bullying was at its worst for me, when some boys tried to push me down a stairwell. I was routinely ridiculed for being too quiet, too scared of other kids, especially large groups of them. It got so bad that I transferred schools twice before high school. Trouble is, bullies are everywhere, in every school, every town. The way I coped was to keep to myself and try not to be noticed. It never helped. It never made anything better. The isolation and loneliness tore my self-esteem to shreds.
At about the same time, my mother was working with a woman named Sara, who I liked a lot. Sara was very eccentric, very intriguing. She was outgoing, friendly, loved handmade earrings and had a wild haircut. When she gave me a pair of those crafty, crazy earrings, they were a treasure to me. But my mother didn’t like Sara, who set my mother on edge constantly and made her very uncomfortable. I could tell, sensing those shifts in my mother’s temperament. I didn’t understand why at first. Then I learned that Sara was gay. I’d never known anyone who was openly gay before and it fascinated me. The thing was, though, I could only see the situation one way, from the perspective of someone who was bullied, judged and criticized for acting in the way that came naturally to me, by being myself. My mother didn’t like Sara because Sara liked girls. That’s what it came down to. For the life of me, I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would be mean to Sara just because she liked a certain group of people. She wasn’t hurting them. She liked them.
It was fear, misunderstanding, and ignorance. It was my first real experience with homophobia and even as young as I was then, I knew how wrong it was. I knew that Sara was an incredible person just the way she was. She didn’t deserve to be bullied either.
The best way I know how to combat this plague of bullying and discrimination is to let our voices be heard. Conversations need to happen, because silence lets the fear fester. Worldviews need to be challenged, because there are a lot of good people here, among us, who might not be understood at first meeting, but something as simple as the sharing of stories might open someone’s previously closed eyes and make the world a slightly less scary place for those of us who were born a little different. Our uniqueness makes up special. It should be celebrated, not hidden away or silenced.
In order to do my part and keep the conversation going I’m giving away a free ebook of the winner’s choosing, of any of my three M/M novels (Deliver Us, From Temptation or Whatever the Cost). For a chance to win, simply comment on this post. A random winner will be selected and contacted via the email address you include with your comment. The contest ends on May 27th and the winner will be announced Saturday, June 1.