Being a little different …

“If you’re a little different, some kids can make your life an absolute hell.”
Jean Vasquez, a student who twice tried to commit suicide while in middle school.

I just read some postings about a recent surge of suicides of school children in the US. There is an interesting article by Dan Savage (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=4940874) and a corresponding YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject):

and an interesting statement by Ellen DeGeneres:

Thing is, I am not surprised. I went to school in Germany, but it’s essentially the same here. I think there was one person in each class who was bullied — not necessarily because he was gay. But there was one person who was used as some kind of vent or plaything of his or her “fellow” students. And while you can more easily see the bullying among boys, there was also a girl in my class who was bullied very subtly but viciously by the girls (“little angels” my ass). And sure, being (perceived) different in your sexual orientation can make you a prime target for others. While my bullying was mostly due to differences in behavior and cognition (my interests and level of cognitive development was different), I also made the experience of being called gay. The fact that it didn’t matter that I was not and that they used sexual orientation as a way to verbally abuse someone is the thing that actually makes me want to vomit the most.

But I agree to the messages of support to bullied and gay kids online — yes, it gets better over time. School is a little like a prison (there is a great posting by Paul Grahman on this topic) and you are forced to do often meaningless tasks with people you have not choosen to spend your time with. Some can surprise you and broaden your horizon, but some retaliate against their own ineptness and their living conditions by abusing others. However, school is over one day and life gets better, and like Ellen DeGeneres said: “… you should be alive to see it”.

But only enduring it is probably not the best way — besides clinging to the fact that it will get better you should actively seek help. This is the great advantage of the Internet — you can get information on almost any topics online without having to tell anyone or be seen by anyone. While good help is hard to find, it is out there and there are better options than suicide (support groups, counseling, and change of schools come to mind).

Truth be told, there will be setbacks. There will always be people who get a kick out of trying to abuse others. People who need to bash others to maintain their self-perceived self-worth. Who need to make others feel inferior to feel that they have a value — which is strange because they sometimes manage to hack people down who ware way over their league. But outside of the confides of school you learn to deal with these idiots. For example, when a former colleage (and PhD student who now actually has a PhD) secretly ordered information material about gays and lesbians on the Internet on my name and had it send to my work address in an attempt to mob me, it took one visit to our IT department and one talk with his superior to effectively end it. There will always be assholes who try to use the same strategies they used in school to try to bully or mob others — thing is, you grow, you learn to defend yourself, you are in a different context — and then the strategies of these assholes do not work anymore. And it’s the asshole who is ostracized.

So, yes, it gets better — because you get better: Seek help, learn to defend yourself (verbally and physically), and as easy as it’s said and as hard as it is to do, don’t kill yourself.

Life will be so good most of the time that it is a shame to miss it.

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  1. Interesting TED Talk about Suicide | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY

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