In a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about his teen years, which brought me back to my own fear-filled teens. We’re from different generations, and vastly different social contexts but the awkwardness of being a gay teen is remarkably similar. I’ve also been saddened, to put it mildly, by the suicide of Tyron Unsworth – a 13 year old gay boy who opted for death rather than face the bullying he constantly experienced.
His school said they had no idea this was going on & that if they had been told they would have intervined. The fact that when his older bother did complain about his particular bullying he was told to act more like other kids & to toughen up. Thus blaming the victim. Why would Tyron expect anything different in his case?
I experienced frequent verbal & physical bullying until I left Sydney – Cape Breton. I was also told to act more like other kids & to toughen up. Never was there a sense that those bullying kids were in the wrong – that if I opted to be ‘other’ then I had to pay this price for my disgusting depraved sexuality.
You know, at thirteen I had no idea of what to do, no role models to call on. One friend offered to teach me how to walk more like a man. Ironically the people who said I should be more like others became critical because I wasn’t thinking for myself.
I did entertain thoughts of suicide. I opted for the longer, more painful method of alcoholism that started in my late-teens. That & being as invisible as I could, which clearly didn’t work. I can remember one day at my job, which involved dealing with the public, some guy said ‘lets ask the faggot.’ Defend myself? Against the truth.
Andrew has had people tell him they are amazed that he’s alive – meaning ‘why didn’t you off yourself.’ As if the normal solution to his limitations was death. He dug in his heels with a stubborn fuck you (hand me the lube) stance. I survived because living well is the best revenge.
Tyron Unsworth didn’t survive. How much emotional fortitude is a 13 year old expected to have? Why did he have to learn to defend himself in the first place? Gay marriage hasn’t caused gay teen suicide to decline but has given some the opportunity blame a victim – after look what we’ve permitted for you. I never wanted marriage when I was a teen – I wanted respect.
The poem 12 griefs in Venus Selenite’s book Trigger starts on ‘the first day of Christmas my oppressor gave to me a chalkline on my sidewalk’ the subtext being- this chalkline could have been her’s & she’s glad it isn’t. Tyron’s suicide is a chalkline that could have been mine and my grief will not remove it from around him.
Home (not of the brave)
he lived across the street from us
mornings I’d peek from the front door
till he had left for school
then I’d sneak along the maple trees
make my way down the hill to class
most days I’d avoid him his gang
sometimes I couldn’t and would come home
with a bloodied nose bruises
that disappointed my dad
who didn’t understand
why I couldn’t stand up for myself
after school when I was in sight of home
I’d run like hell to the front door
where I’d be safe but not secure