I see you. I hear you. Yes, you do matter.
The lexicon of bullying has become part of the social fabric in todays society. Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Phoebe Prince and, most recently, Rachel Ehmke all sadly were victims of bullying who believed suicide was the only way for them to escape the emotional and psychological torment and pain they received.
Its happening every day, everywhere around us. Take the case of Rush Limbaugh, a national radio host, who called law student Sandra Fluke a whore. Roland Martin, a CNN News contributor sent out what many regarded as homophobic tweets, George Zimmerman profiled and killed Trayvon Martin.
And, since President Obama has come out in support of same sex marriage, bullying is even being committed by some pastors who have gone as far as calling for the execution of gays. Shockingly, their congregants have co-signed with thunderous applause of Amen, Hallelujahs and Thank you, Jesus.
Its sad but true so many people defend and encourage bullying. We all tolerate it in some form to the point that the great American tenet that says we are all created equal feels like a myth.
As I look back on my own life, Sissy, Punk, Faggot, were just a few of the horrible names used to degrade me.
Whether the kids in the neighborhood, my teachers, classmates, strangers and yes, even my own family members, everyone around me tried their best to bully me into being anything but gay. In fact, my fathers aversion to the possibility of having a gay son was so fervent, he coerced me into having sex with a 30-something-year-old woman, when I was just 8 years old all because I did not fit into his narrow, sports playing, tough, insensitive definition of what it meant to be a boy.
I was also a bully. Whether I was telling a fat joke (Hey Shamu, Sea World is looking for you), calling someone a derogatory name (Slut) or picking on someone because of their appearance (Youre black as tar), subliminally I was reinforcing the idea that they like me werent good enough.
Bullying is symptomatic of conflict within oneself, such as low self-esteem, a sense of inadequacy and pent-up anger and frustration. After all, hurt people hurt people.
After years of soul searching and psychotherapy, I confronted my own internal bullying demons and wrote about it in a novel, I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me! In the book I share my hurt, guilt, pain and disappointments but, more important, how I overcame it all: A lot of the things that you have said to me, I now use them to push me further. A lot of the things that youve done to me, I can now use to make me stronger. I can perhaps appreciate you for them now.
It was paramount that I spoke out. Therefore, I started an anti-bullying/conflict resolution program called, Lets Talk It Out. Its objectives are to circumvent verbal and/or physical aggression, to co-exist with people who are different from you and to support pro-social skills.
After all, education and constructive action are among the best vaccines against bullying.
The program has been taught in several Miami-Dade County public schools, churches and community organizations. Its laudable when participants self-actualize that they are whole, complete and lacking nothing.
As I wrote: Although we all have our struggles and crosses to bear, those struggles cant define us. What defines us is how we respond to those challenges. Im blessed because I know what I am and I am not what he, she or the rest of them call me. Im an overcomer. Im Jonathan Spikes. I AM ME!
Jonathan Spikes, who grew up in South Florida, is the author of I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me! He will be reading excerpts from his book at 5:30 p.m. May 30 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.