I frequently see friends of my 14-year-old stepsister using words like “fagget” (yes, they spell it that way), “gay”, “homo”, and other gay slurs to describe people they don’t like. That is no different than it was when I was a kid. I was called all of those things – beginning in third grade at Walter Jackson elementary school. I’ll never forget the first time I was called the F-word and how my teacher did absolutely nothing about it. From there it was all downhill. I was cornered, smacked around, beaten up, tossed into lockers, dropped from elevated walkways and stairwells…you name it, I took it. It wasn’t just at school, either. Nathan Hutchison lived down the street from me AND went to church with me. He once beat me until I was covered in bleeding welts. Danny Sugasti first went to school with me then started going to my church because his girlfriend went there. “Faggot” was his favorite name for me. Theresa Baylott cornered me in the locker room more than once to beat me up – and she rode the bus with me, too. Her favorite thing to do was call me “big girrrrrl” in the most annoying, nasal voice she could muster from across whatever space she saw me from. I had bigger boobs than most every white girl in school, so she made fun of me for it. Ginger Bailey had science with me; she’d make a face and go, “ewwwww!” when I walked into the room. Eugene Klimczak also called me a faggot – he also called me dyke, queer, and a host of other gay slurs that I didn’t understand in jr. high school. He, too, cornered me and beat me up on more than one occasion.
I never fought back because I was deathly afraid of what my parents would do if I were caught fighting. The idea of self-defense didn’t even cross my mind, even though back then teachers did discern between fighting and self-defense. My parents were against any form of violence. It was made well known in our home that if any of us were suspended for fighting, we’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble. I never fought back because I was more afraid of the fallout at home. Both issues made my life a misery that a select few share with each other once they reach adulthood.
Recently I saw a video that has gone viral: young Casey Heynes, a 10th-year student in Australia, fighting back against a younger boy who was bullying him. Here’s Casey talking about the incident, along with the clip in question:
Seeing Casey pick that kid up and slam him back to the ground to stop the abuse took me back to the days when I was being treated that way, outnumbered and surrounded, wishing I had a way out – and imagining myself doing exactly what he did.
Amazingly, Ritchard Gale – the bully – claims that Casey started it all:
I have no illusions that Ritchard will actually read this, but if he does, he’s going to get his first lesson in reality. People can tell when you’re lying your ass off, buddy.
First of all, in the original clip, it is obvious who started it. Casey had no friends with him. In fact, he was surrounded by Ritchard’s friends, one of whom filmed it with a cell phone. Ritchard’s friends were spurring the incident on and laughing. And when Casey finally put a stop to it, one of Ritchard’s bigger friends stepped up and threatened Casey. Casey, unlike Ritchard, walked away once it was over. Those aren’t the actions of an instigator. Consider, too, that Ritchard was taunting Casey by dancing around him. That is what a bully does.
Remember the first kid I mentioned – Nathan Hutchison? His mother thought his shit didn’t stink. She believed everything that came out of his mouth. He would bully my brother and I and turn around and tell his mother that WE were picking on HIM. The day he severely beat me (he did so with an industrial-strength blueprint mailing tube), he claimed to my mother that I’d “nailed” him in the chin (which I hadn’t done). HIS mother believed him and told me to my face that I deserved what he’d done. The only problem was all of the other neighborhood kids who tried to tell her he was lying. She still believed him. Were I to meet him today, I would likely do exactly what he claimed I did back in 1991 – nail him. Today, though, I’d hit him hard enough to shatter his jaw.
Ritchard Gale’s father may not accept it, but his kid is a bully. Claiming that Casey abused him first is exactly what bullies do when they’re caught…they try to lay the blame on their victim for starting it, thus taking the full weight of the trouble off of them. I can only hope that school administrators see it that way. And if Casey ever has to defend himself again, I hope he shows the same courage that he did that day.
I’m in my thirties now and I will forever wish I had when I was his age. I’m now quite well-versed in Shaolin gongfu and Krav Maga and wouldn’t tolerate being abused. I’m just eighteen years too late.