As most probably already know, Pink Shirt Day is today– WEDNESDAY, February 24th, 2016. IN CANADA.
I tried several times to draft this post. My hostility began to amp up every time, and I knew I’d be doing nobody any favours if I continued. So I thought, rather than focus on my own troubles with bullies growing up…I would try to tackle why I write what I write.
First off, for clarity, here’s a bit of the Wiki entry for Pink Shirt Day…as it appears Canada celebrates it at a different time than most.
The Wikipedia for Anti-Bullying Day:
Anti-Bullying Day (or Pink Shirt day) is a day when people wear a pink shirt (or blue or purple, depending on location) to symbolize a stand against bullying, an idea that originated in Canada. It is celebrated on various dates around the world. In 2012, the United Nations declared the official day to be May 4, which was recognized by over 25 countries worldwide, including the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The idea of Pink Shirt Day began in Canada, but it seems most countries have adopted the USA’s chosen day of May 4th to celebrate it. Nevertheless, it could not hurt to draw focus on bullying on more than one occasion throughout the year. After all, the victims of this senseless debilitating morale crushing epidemic don’t get time off. For them, every day is a downer.
I know this, because I chose to make myself a target for bullies back in the day. I can still immediately recall the weight of being bullied. I say I chose to make myself a target because I lived in a backwater town as a teenager. A ‘GM town’ that had no tolerance for anyone who was different.
Oshawa, Ontario was an ugly horrendous place to be a teenager in the 80s. My high school, O’Neill Collegiate, was a place of nightmares for my friends and I. We were–heaven forbid–punk rockers. We dressed weirdly, we dyed our hair, we had mohawks, we wore eyeliner. Having just moved to the suburbs from Toronto, I was unwilling to acclimate myself to the school uniform of O’Neill. The uniform was Red and Black checked Lumber Jacket, Kodiak boots, and an Adidas bag tossed over the shoulder. Anything else was a no no. I was a no no.
I faced bullies every single day. I faced bullying from my fellow students, teachers, and the school administration. I remember one of my teachers held a binder up every day during class to block his view of my face. Needless to say, his class was the worst to get through…any teacher who would do that would also allow his students to abuse the freak in the room.
My bullies were relentless. I was too androgynous, too gay, too weird, too crazy, too much of a freak, too girlie, too offensive, etc, etc, etc. I was pushed in front of a moving car on Simcoe Street, just outside the front of the school. I was pushed down the stairs in the hall. I had numerous swirlies (where they take your head and hold it in the toilet while they flush), I was punched, kicked, slashed, jumped on, spit on. Every single day I had to pick spitballs out of my hair. Going from class to class was a combat zone. Teachers turned away. The ones who weren’t enticing the bullying (like the one mentioned above who couldn’t even look at me), were okay with it. They stomped me down, and down and down.
It was unbearable.
But…as I mentioned, I brought it upon myself. How dare I be different. ESPECIALLY in a place like Oshawa.
See, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write about bullying without recollecting the nightmares. I tried. I set out just now to explain why I write young adult fiction about boys who are marginalized, traumatized, bullied, different, abused, stigmatized, etc, etc, etc. It’s what I do. I always imagine that I’m writing the book that would have saved me when I was a teenager in high school. I still, to this day, am baffled that I survived it. I don’t feel particularly strong.
But as a writer I come from a place of personal experience. I am NOT my characters, but I do write what I know. I write about the weak and downtrodden marginalized lost puppy boys who are often forgotten. I try to write them into corners dark and dreary…and then I try to end my novels with a little bit of hope.
Because I believe in the motto THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I believe that IT GETS BETTER. I am, after all, living proof of this.
I write young adult fiction with broken boy characters struggling to survive because I write for boys like me. #IWasBullied