A Letter to My Bully

Dear Dirk,

I have hated you almost every day since we first met. But for different reasons altogether than you might expect.

I still remember the terror I felt, every time I approached the soccer field. It was junior high, a difficult time for almost everyone, but for me, especially so.

You see, I’d always known I was gay. Even in kindergarten, just looking at Jeff Hayward’s smile would make me happy, and I knew, intrinsically, that it was alright to feel this way—to love other boys—as everything about it felt completely natural and unforced.

In junior high, however, once placed on the same soccer team with you, everything changed.

What I had seen as natural and good, you were suddenly calling abnormal and detestable. Every “faggot” you spit towards me hit directly between the eyes, and the whispers, taunts, and dirty looks you and Mike Baker sent my way continually unnerved me, affecting both my sense of self, as well as my performance on the field. Because of you, questions about my masculinity hovered over me, and I would feel physically ill at the thought of another practice or game. I would choose different, roundabout paths to my classes, just to avoid where I knew you’d be.

In high school, while I went on to be active in theatre and academics, you and Mike continued to rise socially, becoming the big men on campus that I’d longed to be. You were even voted onto the homecoming king’s court, and as you took to the field, flashing your charming smile, all I could see was the sneer on your lips when you turned and glanced my way.

But that isn’t why I have hated you.

Just prior to our senior year, during summer break, word came that you’d tried to commit suicide and were in a coma. No one knew what had happened, but you eventually returned to school our senior year.  You were just as popular as you had been before, and perhaps even more so, now that you had this added sense of intrigue about you.  But despite your outright hatred of me, I still wondered about you and about what could have possibly led you to try to take your own life.  You, more than anyone, seemed to have it all, and despite the way you continued to torment me, I felt a pang of pity for you.

The following summer, I got another call. You’d again tried to kill yourself, tying a noose from the garage rafters–only this time you succeeded. Your mother discovered you, hanging there, upon her return home.

How lonely you must have felt, Dirk, as you tied that rope.  Could you really see no path forward?  Was there no one you could have reached out to?  Was there no friend, family member, priest, counselor–not one person you could’ve trusted with your pain?

Later, I heard that you’d left behind a note, writing that although you did not like girls, you did not want to like boys. And suddenly it became horribly clear to me.  You and I were exactly alike.  That anger and venom you directed at me, you were also directing at yourself.

How I wish, Dirk, that you’d allowed yourself to connect with me. I’m not saying that a friendship between us could have altered your path, but just knowing that we weren’t the only ones could’ve made our lives easier.  For me, discovering that there were other gay people out there did help. I found a progressive bookstore, not too far from where we lived, and I’d covertly journey there as often as I could, just to lose myself in reading about a world which I knew I’d someday enter.

And even if a friendship between us wasn’t possible, given our differing social status, imagine how less torturous you could have made another’s life, simply by being kind.

While in school, my hatred was based solely upon how mean you were to me, now my anger is reserved for the lack of value you placed upon yourself.  Clearly, you didn’t think you were worth loving.  Where did you get such a message?  You were smart, personable, an exceptional athlete, and beyond handsome.  Even with all of the venom you sent my way, I still admired your more affirming qualities.  Regardless, despite all these many gifts, somewhere along the way, you were taught that instead of acting on your love of other men, you’d be better off dead.

I hate that you hurt so, Dirk, and hate just as much that you listened to those who filled your head with such thoughts.

I also hate that I was so absorbed in and blinded by my own situation that I couldn’t see your venom for what it really was.  What if, one day, instead of running the other way when I saw you, I had instead offered you a smile?

Dirk, you might be surprised to know who I ran into at our high school reunion–your old pal, Mike Baker.  Imagine my shock, spotting him across the room, when we suddenly locked eyes.  I immediately went to that same place of fear and panic, but that only lasted a moment, until I saw him break out into a big grin and make a beeline toward me.

I was shocked when he warmly clasped my hand in his, as if we were longtime friends.  “I’ve been looking all over for you,” he said, intently.  “I’ve really been wanting to say ‘hello.’”  While he never brought up our shared past, it was clear to me that he was making amends.

Did you know, Dirk, that Mike’s younger brother has come out as gay? Would it surprise you to know that Mike is totally okay with it?  If you had known back then that your best friend might have been accepting of you, could that have possibly altered your decision?

People loved you, Dirk–then and now.

I wish I could have held you, Dirk, comforted you, and told you that everything would be alright.  Our individual uniqueness’s are a gift, given by our maker, which we then get to share with the world.  Your void is noticeable, even 20-odd years later.

You could’ve done so much, Dirk, if only you’d realized that each one of us is deserving of love and respect.

Wishing you peace,

Kergan

Though innocence for all was lost some years ago, in respect of their families, all names have been changed.

Cross-Posted on Bilerico Project, LGBTQ Nation, and Huffington Post.

8 Responses

  1. J Mark

    Meh.

    I wouldn’t get too choked up. Some people are too spineless to live in this world.

    Think of people like Kathryn Lehman, the lesbian GOP staffer who helped draw up DOMA. Her excuse is that there were no nice, normal gay people back then like Ellen Degeneres or Neil Patrick Harris (and I’m still not convinced they’re not the same person), it was all naked people on motorcycles in parades.

    Think of people like Ken Mehlman who came up with the idea of those anti-gay constitutional amendments that will harm gay and lesbian families for generations to come.

    Your bully Dirk would probably have been like that. People who punish us for having the guts they never did. You admired his “affirming qualities,” but they were just as phony as him. People like that don’t act from the heart, they act from a cold and calculated place. Emotionless, manipulative and devoid of real emotions. Mike wasn’t his friend, Mike was a guy chosen to play a character in the charade that was Dirk’s life. He was a prop. Like a desk or a lamp.

    Yeah, it’s sad he ended the way he did. I guess.

    But if I may be so blunt… he couldn’t hurt anymore people that way and frankly, I’m sure a lot of people are a lot better off.

    Sorry to be such a downer. But there you go.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:14 am

  2. Super powerful. Thank you, Kergan.

    March 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm

  3. Bob

    Kergan,
    Yet another amazing example of your writing skill. What a powerful story. I am another of those whose life could have been so very different if someone told me I was ok. At age 50 I finally found that happiness, and 14 years later I couldn’t love my life any more than I do. So sad for all of the Dirks of our world.
    Excellent job, my friend.

    Bob

    March 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

  4. What a touching tribute to someone who made your life hell. What strength you had then to ind your own path, and hat strength you have now to write this.

    March 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    • Thanks, Jeff. It’s amazing how our feelings can change once we know someone’s story. All the more reason to tell ours!

      March 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

  5. george moore

    kergan very well written & poingnant i wish it was required reading at high schools, i was bullied but not like that. i unfortunately beat bullies i returned violence for violence, i have matured and realize truly only love conquers hate, be well and prosper you sweet soul

    March 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    • Thanks, George. I fully understand. There were times I literally felt like beating him to a pulp–but I knew he was bigger and stronger–would’ve creamed me!

      March 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm

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