Some men fight against people from other countries in order to survive and to protect our society. I had to fight society to survive and live comfortably in my own country. I live a constant uphill battle to keep from being knocked down by others in an attempt at being a successful individual. Before you call somebody a derogatory word or name, think first, and stop before you ruin a life. That person may just be somebody who will change the world someday. This could be you, your child or anyone else in your family taking this abuse. Try to put yourself in their place, and give everybody a fighting chance. Hopefully by reading about my experiences, you will be able to understand.
My first memory is when my family moved into our first home, I was still a baby and remember my mother holding me in her arms, as I looked around at the empty house. Too small to realize what was going on. There were typical wood paneled walls, a style that was popular in the seventies. My dad stood next to us while my brother and sister were nowhere to be found. They had already been exploring the new house, and I guess they were staking claim on the bedroom of their choice. This was where we would grow up and try to do our best with what we had to make a family. My memories of growing up are very sporadic up until the time I was in high school. I don’t know why I don’t remember more, childhood is supposed to be the best time of your life. Maybe I didn’t want to remember.
When I entered school and had to associate with other kids, something wasn’t right. I was different from all the others, at least in my eyes. Kids can be cruel and they tease each other, but when they teased me, it affected me in a bad way. I took the teasing and insults very personally and couldn’t understand why anyone would do this to me. I wasn’t a mean kid, I tried to get along with everybody, but as I would realize along the way there were problems that were not my fault, it was the environment I grew up in.
The constant judging and ridicule I was subjected to had a big effect on my personality. I didn’t think like everyone else, I didn’t react to things in the same way others did. I was in constant fear of everything from my looks to the way I presented myself to others. Was I acting the right way? Was there a wrong way to act? I knew that it wasn’t anybody else’s business, but I was afraid that my family and friends would be ashamed of me and that I would be hated. I already felt like an outcast. Why did I care so much about what other people thought? Well the reason was obvious; people do care what others think of them. That’s what society teaches us, but what they don’t teach us is that you can ruin a person’s life by making them feel unwanted or unloved.
If you’ve ever been judged or misjudged, if you’ve been criticized for who you are, if you’ve been hurt by someone’s words or actions, if you’re straight, gay, or bisexual, if you’ve been loved or unloved, if you’re strong or if you’re weak, if you’ve been abused, or have been the abuser, if you’ve been taunted or bullied, or have been the bully, and if you’re an addict or know someone who is addicted, or if you just couldn’t handle things in the usual manner, then you will be interested in reading my story. I hope it inspires everyone, and you might be impressed with how my story ends. I guarantee my story will touch you and make you think before you speak, because you may just ruin someone’s life in the process. The effects can be unbearable, leading to such things as abuse, suicide, homicide, or sexual assault. Fortunately I was too afraid to do anything horrible like that, but I very well could have.
It took me a long time to overcome issues of self-confidence, weakness, fear, hate, sadness, discouragement, unhappiness, and a general dislike of myself, because I had never been taught the coping mechanisms to deal with these feelings. If you suffer from any of the above feelings, do not be afraid to talk to someone. I know it may be embarrassing to admit these things to a stranger and you may be ashamed, but there are thousands of other people who feel the same way. Have faith and look to a higher power for the strength you need to make it through the really tough times. You may just save yourself or another from being hurt.
Nowadays, the typical family consists of a mother, a father, and 2.5 children according to statistics. Most of the times after the children are born; couples will separate or even divorce because of differences not known to each other until it’s too late. The family is already made and there are no other options. They must live with that decision. You also have children who are born to single mothers. It happens a lot more often now, because couples don’t get to know each other before the child is born, and then they find out that they really didn’t know each other at all. All of these situations have one thing in common, the effects on the children, and how they cope.
My parents both grew up in large families and both were raised by only their mothers. That just blows my mind, because now if a single mother raises more than three children on her own, it’s surprising. They do the best they can, but it can sometimes end in tragedy. Mothers have nowhere to turn on their own; they are left to raise the kids on a single income, which isn’t much. They must fight for child support and usually courts don’t go after the fathers like they should, so the kids end up suffering and resenting their dads. What kind of family is that?
Both of my grandmothers worked really hard to provide for their families in the absence of the spouses, one as a nurse and the other as a factory worker, leaving the eldest children to take on parental responsibilities to help raise the family. This doesn’t always work out and is mentally strenuous on all involved. I will never understand how they did it, nor would I ever want to be in their shoes. I had no children for a number of reasons, some more obvious than others. I could have adopted a child, or even had a surrogate carry one if I wanted. Today, there are several options out there to help people who can’t have their own children, but want a family. I could barely support myself, and wasn’t in the best mental condition. Now kids are totally out of the question, too much time has passed, and I am now just starting to heal from a lifetime of hurt.
My mom was the eldest of nine. Their father left the family before the last child was born. He moved to the west coast and started a whole new family with someone else. I only remember meeting him once, when he came back to visit. It was at my house and there were a lot of his grandchildren there to meet him for the first time. We were all small and didn’t realize what a sorry excuse for a man he really was. Our parents, however, thought we had the right to know our grandfather. He read to us from one of our children’s books, as we all gathered around him. We were all young and didn’t know the truth about where he was and what he was doing away from his family, we just knew we did have a grandpa, and he finally had a face. We found out later the man who read to us was physically and verbally abusive to the entire family, and that it would have a lasting effect on them, and the children they now raised.
My dad was sort of in the middle of his family. He was one of eight kids raised by my grandmother, who worked mostly nights and spent her days making sure everyone was fed, clothed and went to school. There was hardly enough time for her to rest, and I don’t know how she did it, but everything turned out okay. Her husband died when my dad was nineteen, and his death was never really spoken about. I did learn that he was a drinker, so I’m not even sure he was there a lot while they grew up. We were afraid to ask, and my dad’s side didn’t really talk about their feelings. My dad rarely showed any emotion, unless he was angry or disappointed with you. He quit school early and had no high school education, but went to work as soon as he was allowed. My dad wanted to help his mom, so she didn’t have to work as much.
When my mother and father met, it was the sixties; things were a lot different than they are now. My mom had two children already, but my dad was willing to raise them as his own. Before that, my dad was in the army, and I guess he learned the discipline he lacked growing up. That discipline was reflected in his parenting skills. There was no crying, no showing of affection, and we were expected to follow the rules without exception.
I was a very shy child, and always needed to be by my mom’s side at all times. My dad was a bartender to support the family, and was usually at work. We hardly spent any time together as a family, and sure didn’t get the one on one that we probably needed at that age. I wanted to play with other kids because my sister and brother were a little older than I was, so I made friends with the neighbor’s daughter Megan, who was my age. We played together all the time. She was the only person I felt comfortable with. The time came for us to enroll in school and when kindergarten started, we were separated. This upset me very much, she was the only friend whom I knew, and now we were ripped apart.
This first year would be the one that would change me forever and would affect my personality. I didn’t know how to make friends with the other boys, since my only experience was with a girl as my best friend. When we played together we didn’t play army or cars, we played house. The school room was large and open, with tables in the center, and openings lined one side of the wall. They were called cubby holes. That is where we stored our coats and things. Letters and numbers lined the walls, and in the front, there was a piano where we would sing with our teacher. There was a section of dress-up clothes in the room and another section with more masculine toys, sports related. I didn’t feel comfortable playing any sport because I wasn’t really good at anything and there wasn’t anybody to help me understand the rules of the game, and no one encouraged me to keep trying. So when it came to playtime, I avoided the basketballs and headed toward the dress-up clothes. Everybody noticed, and that’s when the teasing started for me.
I became withdrawn and didn’t want to play at all then, because what I wanted to do got me teased, so I basically hung around my cubby hole all the time and didn’t speak to anyone. I never participated in class, but I did listen so I could learn. I couldn’t wait until it was time to go home. I got to walk home with Megan and spend the rest of the day playing with her. I felt safe with her; she never made me feel like an outcast.
Winter came soon, that year there were some problems with the heat in the other kindergarten class. This was a relief for me because I would get to see Megan again. We watched programs likeSesame Streetand Mr. Roger’s neighborhood on the big television wheeled into the room. There were activities like learning the days of the week and counting exercises, but again out of fear I did not participate. I didn’t want anyone to make fun of me, because kids can be cruel even at that age. I made friends with another girl in my class named Eileen. We were inseperable. One day on our way to school it was snowing, more snow than I’d ever seen before. It was cold, but I just wanted to throw myself into its softness. My sister normally walked me to school everyday. We were allowed to go home early that day, and as usual, my mom picked me up to go home and Eileen’s mom came to get her. There was a discussion about me possibly going over to Eileen’s house to play for the rest of the day, and I was excited, but her mom decided that since it was still snowing, that wouldn’t be a good idea. I remember crying because we had gotten close in the past few months, and I thought that her mom didn’t want her to play with me because everyone teased me.
The following year we were promoted to first grade, but that wasn’t a real happy time for me, because the friends that I did make were off to Catholic school, and I was going to return to public school. The one bright spot in all that was Eileen would be going to first grade with me. We now had a longer day with the recesses and lunch break atnoon. Then there was the thing I feared most of all, a new bunch of kids to meet. Almost immediately there was whispering behind my back, plus the name-calling and insults started. I began to look different now. My hair turned from blonde to red, and my clothes were a bit too small. I would get my brother’s hand me downs, but we all got one brand new outfit when school started. My mother’s choices for that year were ruffled shirts. Mine was yellow. I hated wearing it because everyone teased me about it. I wanted to go to Catholic school even more now, because everyone wore the same outfit. I begged my parents to let me go, but my dad insisted that I go to public school. At that time, he wasn’t earning much. He did have a new job but also had five mouths to feed, clothes to buy, and bills to pay. I didn’t understand why he kept saying no, I just knew he was sending me back to that hateful school.
One day when my sister walked me to school, there was a boy standing in the doorway of an old store, it had been closed down for years. He ran down the steps and punched me in my face and laughed afterward. Why would someone I don’t even know want to hurt me like that, he must have hated me for some reason. More importantly, why didn’t my sister do anything about it? She may have yelled or something, all I can remember is feeling hurt, not in my face, but in my heart. I was never mean to anyone or talked about people behind their backs. I was afraid to walk to school for days after that, I didn’t want the same thing to happen everyday. That’s when my feelings of anxiety started. I was eager to meet people like me, but didn’t know how to go about doing that.
Recess had begun and it was very cold that day. The group of us had gathered together behind the school library to play. Eileen wanted to play along with the others, but I didn’t want to embarass myself so I waited for her until she was done. I wanted to be accepted by my classmates, so I huddled close to Eileen for warmth thinking maybe if they saw me doing something only older kids did they would be impressed. One of the kids said “I dare you to kiss” so I did, just a peck on the lips, but he turned around and ran to the teacher and told her what I did. She came over to us and asked if we did indeed kiss, I said yes, then we were escorted inside the building and told that was not allowed, we were too young to do something like that. I can’t remember if we got in trouble at home, but I never tried that again.
The next year was very traumatic for me. The kids had grown and became more hurtful to me calling me names like “faggot” because I got along better with the girls. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I did know everyone laughed at me. I never wanted to play with the boys because they made fun of me and teased me when we had gym. The gymnasium was a very long room located in the basement of the building across from the boys’ bathrooms. There were echoes when someone spoke or when sneakers squeaked across the floor. I wasn’t very coordinated and didn’t play as well as the others because I was afraid they would make fun of me. I tried to hide behind the pillars and avoid having to participate in the excercises. When the weather turned warm and we were allowed to go outside to play, the boys would try to get me to play dodgeball or basketball, but I said “no” and hid in a corner by myself. I could hear them talk about me, and they even tried to hit me with the ball.
Halfway thru the year Eileen told me she was transferring to a new school because she was moving. I was very upset about this, she was the only one who would stick up for me and try to get the others to stop teasing me. My protector was going to leave me. Who would be there for me?
My hope was that I’d find another friend to take my mind off of all the harrassment and things would get better. I walked behind everyone else when we moved to different classrooms for each subject and stayed behind as long as I could so maybe the others wouldn’t pick on me. The classrooms were different; the desks had a top that lifted up where you kept your books. The subjects were faster paced now and there was no playtime, except for recess. Most of the day we stayed in one classroom to learn the basics like reading, math, and writing and in the afternoon we alternated between music, art, and gym.
I was seated next to a boy named Tony most of the time, and when we were in other classes he would stare at me and make faces, but often smiled. Finally I thought I had made a male friend who wouldn’t make fun of me and he might stick up for me. We talked everyday and played at recess, he was an explorer and liked to look around the building. I had a pair of jeans that had a hole in the knee, so my mom put a patch on them. It was embroidered with a bee and said “Don’t bug me”. Tony would make fun of it and tell people it said “Bug me baby” even after the joke got old. As time went on he would reach under the desks and touch my leg and make me jump, because I was very ticklish. We were yelled at alot for playing or talking. One day when nobody was looking he pulled his penis out and wiggled it around, I guess he was trying to get me to laugh, but the only thing he did was make me feel uncomfortable and I avoided looking at him. Even though he did this alot, I still considered him my friend. He came home with me to have lunch a couple times, and after we ate we went to my room to play. Tony had a habit of touching me inappropriately while we played, but I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else because he didn’t really hurt me, just made me uncomfortable.
We walked together to art class and music regularly; we would sneak into the auditorium and other places on our way because we had ten minutes to get to class. I remember Tony suggesting that we look in the lunch room behind a curtained wall to see what was back there. It was dark back there and I couldn’t see him. I called for him and there was silence. I was scared and ready to get out of there, when he grabbed me by the hand. He had pulled down his pants and made me feel him. I remember being afraid someone would see us. I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know then, but I was being molested by a schoolmate. I kept still and he undid my pants but I quickly zipped them back up and got out of there. I have no memory of him after that, maybe I blocked him out. Recently I came across a picture of him on a sex offenders list. He had been convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a minor boy.
Was what everyone was saying about me true? Was I queer? No, it couldn’t be, I had not asked nor wanted that to happen to me. I didn’t enjoy it; I was scared and really upset by that encounter. He took advantage of me the way an adult would have to get what he wanted. I was no participant in this, yet I was ashamed just the same and never told a soul about it. It would just prove what everyone had suspected all along, that I was gay. There were enough rumors going around about me and I was only eight years old. Not old enough to make that kind of decision about my sexuallity, although society had branded me with that title based on what I looked like, how I acted, and who I was friends with. Dear God, I was only eight years old. People should never treat a kid that young the way I was treated.
The very disturbing thing is that recently, there has been a rash of suicides by young kids, because they were different and targeted by bullies. Some were not even gay, but their classmates just assumed they were. I wish that there was one person who would just speak out and stand up for that one unusual person who they go to school with.
Title: The Way I Was Made
Author: Remy Matthews
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