It started when I was seven years old. You told me I was ugly and stupid. I cried. You laughed at me and told me I was fat. I believed you. You told me my mom gave me a boy’s name because I looked like a boy, and probably had boy parts instead of girl ones. I hated my parents. I hated myself. I never understood why you didn’t like me, but I knew there must be something wrong with me and that I deserved your insults. Eventually, once my tears were no longer amusing, you moved on.
The next time I saw you, I was 11 years old. I had friends now who could protect and build me up. I felt indestructible. But you weren’t coming after me this time. A young girl, my same age, was your new target. Her hair was thick like her glasses which were too big for her delicate face. She was sickly thin with paper white skin, large teeth and a brown mole on her cheek. You hated her, and wanted her to know it. I watched callously as you tore her apart, one splinter at a time. Every day you reminded her how ugly she was, that she was a freak and no one would ever love her. One day in class, I saw you huddled writing in your notebook, giggling with the others as you wrote a letter to this poor girl. You wrote mock compliments, inflating her fractured self-esteem. You professed a secret love for her and wanted to meet the next day and kiss her. You put the note in her locker and waited for the lamb to meet the lion. I don’t know what happened next, I don’t want to know what sick games you played at her expense. But the next day in class I saw you make kissy faces at her, and then laugh as her face caught fire and the tears welled in her eyes. By 7th grade you escalated the persecution. She was in the talent show, adorned in a beautiful red dress accompanied with simple sad song from her heart. And do you remember what you did? You booed her. You laughed at her for having the audacity to stand up and a sing a song like a normal kid. She left school after that and never came back. You got exactly what you wanted, for her to disappear and never come back.
We were in 9th grade when I saw you again. He was just a boy, 14 years old, about to be victim to a merciless four year torment. I will never understand what this boy did to deserve your brutality. In class you would poke and pinch him till he screamed in agony. You would pass him notes depicting sketches of him dead in the street with crowds cheering around his mutilated corpse. You called him spaz, geek, freak, gay, loser and a few names I don’t dare write down. You pushed him into lockers, shoved his head in toilets and kicked him in the dirt until he painted the floor with blood. One time in our junior year I saw him hunched behind a vending machine, his eyes red and tears stained his freckled face. He had survived another ruthless attack and had nowhere to hide his shame. I wanted more than anything to sit beside him, put my arm around his quaking shoulders and tell him it was ok. I wanted to tell him we could stand up to you, and that I would be by his side the whole time. I didn’t say anything. I kept walking like a coward, until his sobs could no longer be heard. I wanted to have the bravery to stand up to you, to protect these battered, broken kids from your wrath, but I never did. I let the beatings happen, and for that I will always be ashamed.
I don’t know what happened to these kids you tortured, but I pray for them every day. I still see you everywhere; on the news, online, at schools, even in homes. You still persecute those who are different. Race, religion, gender, sexuality, it doesn’t matter; you are right there pushing their nose in the dirt and laughing as you break them. No matter what we do, you will be there, a united voice of hatred and persecution. And I know, regardless of how many of you we stop, there will be someone new to take your place. But I want you to know this: I’m not afraid of you anymore. I am no longer that shy girl whose cowardice stopped her from doing the right thing. I am a proud daughter of God and no amount of punches, insults and hate can change that. You can bet I will always be there to shield those who can’t protect themselves and remind them that they are loved children who deserve better than the filth you spew every day. I am fighting back now, and I will never let you win again.