Bullies and the Bullied

Bullies are bullies because they reflect the patriarchal paradigm.

Bullies are considered tough.  Because being tough means being able to dish out pain, hurt and humiliation without feeling guilt.

Being able to take pain, hurt and humiliation without being destroyed by it is called celebrating one’s victimization. Even though surviving such abuse without committing suicide or killing one’s tormentor takes great strength.

Destroying the lives of others is rewarded while having one’s life destroyed by bullying is punished further by people who treat the victims of bullying as weak and cowardly, unworthy of decent opportunities in life.

Damages are rarely awarded to people whose childhoods were destroyed by bullies.  Or to children who were deprived of their right to an education and the right to experience school as a safe place in which to grow and learn.

Bullies bully because bullying is the path to success.  It is the path to alpha status whether in a wolf pack or in the corporate structure.

Refusal to join the bullies places one with the victims.  Joining the bullies gains multiple rewards.  That is the mentality of Tea Baggers and lynch mobs alike.

When I was 13, I played goalie on a junior hockey team (my father required me to play sports).  They gave me the position because I wasn’t a good skater or an aggressive player.  But I turned out to be a really good goalie, years of learning blocking of punches and flinching had paid off.

Because I was good at playing goalie the bullies gave me the opportunity to join them.  All I had to do was beat up a kid who was a sissy like me.  Physically it would have been easy, I was strong and toughened by the summers spent working on the farm.  But I couldn’t do it.  I hit this kid once and stopped.

The next day I went to the school’s office and told the Principal what had happened.  I was put on a different bus because I would have been severely beaten by the bullies.

I made what I saw as a moral choice.  My family raised me well.  You do not join the thugs and beat up the oppressed just as you do not cross union picket lines.

I think a lot of people like Eddie Long and all the queer haters who look and sound so queer themselves also faced that ethical dilemma at some point or other in their lives and decided that it was more rewarding to be part of the bullies than the bullied.

I was already branded a teen age drag queen by my parents when I made my choice as to which side I was on.  I went on to grow into a left wing radical who believes in human rights.  Even when I tried to join the mob and the bullies about 10 years ago it never felt right.

As adults bullies have many glorified titles.  CEO, CFO, General, Admiral…  They are the ones who feel no guilt about the inflicting of pain upon others.  Psychiatrists call that sociopathic  behavior.  Those who take pleasure in the inflicting of pain upon others are psychopaths.

But the reality is society rewards bullies.  Society celebrates the conquering hero no matter how egregious and monstrous the actions.

Just as society blames the rape victim, the beaten wife, the murdered transsexual or transgender woman.

The victim is always seen as making the bully act in a monstrous manner.  Society always offers up mitigating circumstances that the bully may have never thought of on his own.

The victim of bullying is told to suck it up, get over it.

I was a tough little transkid.  I retaliated.  Because bullies rarely act on their own and usually act as part of a mob, I would wait till one was alone and unaware and I would attack him without warning using what ever means were necessary to hurt him.

Oddly all those authority figures who never found a reason to punish the bullies always found a reason to punish me.  But if I had to suck it up and take being punished it was better to take it for fighting back than for being abused.  In the process bullies decided it was better to pick someone else to bully.

I never made the connection as a child but as I became a teenager, who listened to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, I realized that if the bullied and intimidated got together, why there were more of us than there were of the bullies.

I also realized bullies do not stop being bullies when they grow up.  They just become sadistic sociopathic adults.  The sort who rape as an exercise of power.  The sort who join the military not to defend the country but so they can murder people who do not have the same military might.

Bullies grow up to abuse their wives and children.  Bullies don the robes of the KKK and the Republican Party.  Bullies seek out positions that reward their sick desires to abuse.  They join the police departments so that when the victimized, the raped and abused go to the police they are going to people more likely to side with the abuser than with the victim.

Suck it up.  It is your own fault.  If you would just not exist then the bullies wouldn’t be forced to treat you like the scum you are.

Look at what those who are bullied are called.

Sissy, nerd, freak, faggot, dyke, queer, whore, trannie, geek.  Words that hurt. Words that scar.

Words that say we should just kill ourselves because we are such misfits.

A year and a half ago when I started this blog I laid down the law to the “HBS/Classic Transsexual” that their name calling wouldn’t be permitted on this blog.  I had come to the conclusion that they were people who desperately wanted to join the non-trans bullies who abuse transsexual and transgender people, something I wanted no part of and that I would not permit in a space I controlled.  Now this set of people seem to devote an inordinate amount of energy to denouncing me.

I don’t care.

I know which side I am on and that is the side of the oppressed.

While bullies have whole armies of friends, lynch mobs who laugh and cheer them on as they bully and abuse too often the bullied and abused are forced to suffer alone.

I remember what it was like to feel I was the only one in the world.  I remember what it was like to feel that I was despised not only by the bullies but by institutions that either refused to intercede or who blamed me for provoking the abuse simply by being.

I knew I was different.  The nugget of truth that kept me going was thinking, “Yeah, I’m different. So What!”

But I was near suicide on more than one occasion as a child.  I thought how easy it would be to kill myself.  I dwelt upon the ways I could kill myself.  Sometimes the only thing that kept me alive was the will to deny the bullies the pleasure they would feel if I did kill myself.

I deliberately failed out of college after winning a New York State Regents Scholarship.  The reasons were complex and included desire to just not be there when the 1960s were happening and there were others like myself out there making a life.  But there was also a darker truth…  The 12 years of being bullied had so damaged my education and my ability to focus that I needed time to regain my sense of self worth.

In the last couple of years of high school I actually had a few friends.  We were hipper than the rest of the kids in school, listened to folk music and studied together.  I was no longer a complete misfit.

In college I became a radical and part of the SDS/ hippie crowd.

When I left school I was sustained by the radical left and hippie movements.

When I met other transsexual and transgender people I realized we had all been abused.  Drug and alcohol abuse was endemic to our crowd.  So was sex work.  Our lives had been shredded by that abuse.

It is okay for Dan Savage to say, “It gets better.”

It does but we need to tell the truth.  Admit that we were bullied and abused.  Admit that it destroyed our childhoods.  Demand redress from the educational system that failed us while it rewarded the bullies who often captained sports teams and won awards.

We need to create space for bullied kids to get together and expand that space to the kids who avoid supporting bullied kids out of fear that the bullies will turn on them.

We Need To Make It Better For Bullied People who are Adults

The pain of having been bullied does not stop once one becomes an adult.

As a feminist I listened to women tell of the pain of having been sexually abused and I was silent about my own pain.  I went home and poured a glass of wine and then another.  Other friends took pills or shot heroin.

We trivialized our scars because having been the victim of bullying was even more shameful than having been victimized by incest or childhood sexual abuse.

We have a hard time talking about it.  We go to AA or NA and keep silent about why we substance abuse.  We wind up in abusive relationships and wonder why.

We are haunted by depression and take Prozac or other drugs and still do not name the reason.

It took me all week to write this, a dozen attempts.  I asked myself if I should admit to having been one of the bullied.

The Day of Remembrance will soon be upon us.  We will remember, as well we should those transsexual and transgender people who were murdered but we should also remember those who died of over doses and organ failure from years of substance abuse for they too are victims of a violent crime.  Bullies with their torture and abuse are the ones who started so many on the path that finally takes their lives.

This year I celebrate my tenth year of sobriety.  I have someone I love who loves me and I have learned to speak out.  I tell her right away if I think her yelling at me is starting to be abusive.  I’m touchy and trigger easily but I am in recovery not only from drinking but from my childhood of being abused.

To make life better we have to have the space to name the secret scars that cause the pain we drink or drug to numb away.

I know I have focused this mainly on TS/TG folks but I include gays and lesbians as well as straight folks.  It just seems as though institutionalized misogyny means that assigned male at birth TS/TG kids get the worst along with feminine gay kids.

The freedom from bullies should be a basic human right and a matter of social justice.

Bullying is a part of misogyny, racism and classism.  It says that one group of people are superior to another group and that one group should be permitted to abuse another group.  That makes all bullying a form of hate crime.

13 Responses to “Bullies and the Bullied”

  1. Emily Says:

    Suzan-

    Would you please take a moment and look at http://emilysvirtualrocket.blogspot.com? It’s a virtual compendium of articles from newspapers, newsweeklies, magazines, etc. The majority of these articles are ones which deal with transgender and/or transsexual issues. If you like this blog, please enter it into what is known as the “blogroll”. (example) Thank you so much!

    Sincerely,
    Emily

  2. Transgender People and Bullying at Questioning Transphobia Says:

    […] Cooke wrote about bullying as well today. I won’t quote the whole post but you really should read it. What she’s writing is not […]

  3. Marja Erwin Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is hard to talk about bullying; not just the trauma, but the ways the bullies make the rest of us complicit, or poke and prod us until bullying someone else in turn.

    At one point, I was caged in with another of the short kids, and people poked us with sticks until we fought each other. I shouldn’t have fought. I know that know but things like that wear down our humanity, and it takes time to recover even part of what we have lost.

  4. Willow Arune Says:

    Bullies are found in transsexual circles more than in most other groups, it seems. We know of one – the type you mention – in San Francisco.

    There are also bullies who publish false and misleading matters on web sites.

    I have never experienced a bully prior to transtion. Not rom “normal” people, from gays or lesbians, After starting that road, I found that transexual circles were infested with bullies, dedicated to some form of politially correct thought. Differ from them in the slightest and you risk bullying by innuendoe and partial truths. Intimidation by slander. I have always thought this was an attempt to browbeat you into total agreement with what was deemed politially correct – by that bully. It works. Many transsexual women have contacted me over the years afvising that they agree with the points I raise, but would not say so in any public forum due to the attacks thaqt woudl invarabily follow.

    Part of my background is in debating where you have to be able to argue both sides of any issue. I fear my reaction to the bullies of the transsexual type is to go to the other side and argue that positon. The result has been a folly of ad hominum attacks. Let’s see – I am fat, bald, ugly, a man regardless of SRS; I am a stooge, a puppet, and worse. Frankly, if the arguement of the bullies is so weak that it cannot stand any confrontation or debate, it must be a pretty shallow concept.

    Yes, I correspond with a number of people who are said to be anti-transsexual. My copy of Janice Raymond’s book is inscribed to me from her, as but one example. One learns not by simply disussion with those who agree with you, but from dialogue with those who are opposed – assuming one can keep the disussion on topic. With most transsexual bullies, that is not possible. Like relgious bigots, they resort to personal attacks and avoid any discussion of issues. Any two reasonable people who hold vastly different views should be able to enter into a discussion on a hotly debated issue. And one can – unless confronted with a zealot who entertains only one aswer and quickly uses personal insults istead of staying on point.

    Anne Lawrence did a paper a short time ago adressing this issue, in respect of transsexual bullies. Anne Bolin had doen much the same years before, as had many others.

    And indeed, to my mind there is a lot of similarity between the religious zealots and the sisters of teranssexual purity. Each demands total adherance to a series of thougts for which there is no known proof. Any deviation from the accepted dogma is heresy and the person who voices it a target for abuse by the bullies and theri cohorts.

  5. Cheryl Says:

    Thank you for this. it sums up my feelings in words that i don’t have.

    I am in my 40’s still being bullied and still suffering from being bullied and abused as a child. No one wants to know because as you say being a victim of bullying is worse than being the bully.

    Once again thanks

  6. robbi cohn Says:

    Thanks, Suzan, for deciding to go ahead with this column. This could easily have been me…or any other number of persons who were bullied as kids. The torment was unmerciful, directed and blatant.

    Like you, I tried joing the bullies side…just once. I couldn’t follow through, it was an alien concept which I was incapable of carrying out. But I wanted to be stop being the outsider, stop being alone and in pain.

    And…I agree that the etiology of bullying is pervasive and is based on systemic patriarchy and privilege, a theme which runs through the politics of this adolescent nation. In many ways, very little has changed in 200+ years…

    • Suzan Says:

      At this point the US is not really an adolescent nation in comparison to most if one takes into account continuity of governing principles. What it is though is an imperialist nation and that makes it a bully. It uses military power to bend other nations to its will, extract tribute, and plunder.

      It is not reacting well to peak oil, the climate crisis or population crisis.

      Free Market corporatism has killed capitalism and is working a number on governments that are actually run in the interests of people.

  7. Marja Erwin Says:

    I think there’s some ambiguity in what people mean by markets and free markets. I mean, in one sense they are institutions, with actual currencies, barter, and exchange. In another sense they are economic models – such as the classical market with perfect information and no friction.

    A “free market” can refer to an economic institution which has no restraints on its power – although tyrant market might be a better term. Or it can refer to economic models of voluntary interactions. A neoliberal “free market” tends to be the former; an anarchocommunist “really really free market” is composed of voluntary gifting and taking.

    I get a bit annoyed at left-libertarians which switch between narrower and wider senses of “market.”

    ****

    I think Janice Raymond’s anti-trans actions overshadow her theoretical contributions. I’ll concede there are good ideas in *Empire,* but it’s badly-organized; for example, I think it is more understandable if one reads Chapter 3 before Chapter 2. But if I was going to recommend one of her works, it would be *A Passion for Friends,* which makes more room for self-discovery, some of which can apply during transition. (“Original women create their own originality,” 2001, p. 41)

  8. Anonymous Man Says:

    Willow Arune, you put down my thoughts exactly, but I’m an FTM and within the FTM communities that I’m aware of there is a lot of bullying just like you describe. It’s done mostly by the most popular people and always toward people who express unpopular or politically incorrect opinions. When they are told they are bullying they often justify it by saying the victim deserved it because they were not politically correct enough. What they refuse to acknowledge is bullying is never ok, it’s never justified. Ironic isn’t it that one of the worst perpetrators of bullying in online trans communities actually went on a transgender forum and linked to a suicide hotline and articles denouncing bullying. It was in another recent posting by someone else they are there bullying someone yet again! So many of these people never fail to amaze with their two faced behaviors. You can’t claim to be against bullying while you go ahead and bully someone. If you want the world to be free of bullying behaviors, start with yourself!!!

  9. Marja Erwin Says:

    Are we even talking about the same thing?

    Bullying is something that I grew up with – beatings and mocking from other kids, teachers, and later police. I have never encountered anything comparable online.

  10. Marja Erwin Says:

    Sorry, that came off too harsh. I mea that while I’ve experienced obnoxious, abusive, and triggering behavior online, it just doesn’t compare with what I had to face in person growing up. Kids get beaten up for not fitting in, for being too short, too weird, too geeky, too queer, too androgynous, and so on. Kids face systematic emotional abuse from teachers and peers, and have to go back to it every school day.

    • Suzan Says:

      There are whole gangs of people on line who bully. I sometimes wonder if they are for real or not. Some seem to be “Classic Transsexual”/ “HBS” as part of a virtual identity in a fantasy role playing game.

  11. Alexia Says:

    Thank you for speaking up and skillfully putting into so many words what it means to have been bullied. Bullying does not happen because there are the bullied, bullying happens because there are bullies.

    I was also bullied as a kid (for being a quiet, shy kid), but I believe the lingering effects are the same no matter what the original reason. I don’t believe there is any shame in speaking up and saying that these unacceptable situations are happening every day, because at the end of the day, we the bullied are not the cause. Either way, it is still hard for each of us because we have been living with that type of pain for so long. I salute you from another side of the world for this act of courage.


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