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Ben Leander Willgruber, MSc.
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To my former Bullies: An open Letter

Spoiler alert: I do not forgive you.

There is no use in holding on to hate for other people. Nevertheless, I don’t have enough compassion and kindness in my heart to forgive the bullies of my school.

The Never-Ending Why

I don’t have a good answer to the question of why I was bullied. There probably is none. I thought about it many times, alone at home or with my former therapist. I am gay, yes, however, I wasn’t ‘out’ back then. So, unless my fake-straight persona wasn’t convincing enough I wasn’t bullied because I was with men. I was way too shy at that point, anyway.

Sometimes I was made fun of because my mum is from Germany (I am living in Austria) which might sound insane, but is the truth. It got to the point where I was ashamed of my descant. It took me years to realize that I love Germany and Germans usually love Austrians (‘The accent is so cute’). So, Austrians who makes fun of Germany should probably just go fuck themselves.

There is no good reason to be bullied

I was just a weird, geeky kid who didn’t know how to dress, wasn’t confident in myself or my sexuality, was more into arts than sports and definitely didn’t watch the porn movies that were circling the school because of the girls in them. I always dreamed of being one of the cool kids which is probably why I never became one. I should have started way sooner to not give a fuck about what other people think.

I had to change schools

It was a late change after the point where you’d normally do it. I made the decision to do so after a school trip which I remember being the opposite of fun. All of the boys were staying in one room. I hated about half of them and didn’t care about the other half. I remember not fitting in and trying to make friends among the lowest common denominators. There was one guy I thought I was friends with. Actually, if I count it right, there were two or more even – many of us knew each other since we were children. One by one they changed their alliances to become friends with the cool kids. Or, even worse, they pretended to be friends with them and the outcasts.

I remember that I used to be a generally happy kid and I loved going to school. Day by day this changed when the bullies started to target me somewhere around 6th or 7th grade (2. oder 3. Klasse Unterstufe). It was a process starting with us messing around and making fun of each other. The scales tipped more and more and the occasional jokes turned into a routine of people making fun of me. There was not one bully, there were many bullies – and sadly enough, I wasn’t the only victim either.

Bullies

Bullying was normalized

Everyone, including the teachers and many parents, knew about it but nobody ever did something about it. Except for a mother once forcing her son to apologize to me. You can imagine how that worked out for me: An uncomfortable situation and more tormenting afterward.

At a certain point, I was no happy kid anymore. I started acting out, became depressed, started cutting myself and just wanted to disappear. I thought about committing suicide more than once but I was never close to doing it. Somehow I did always manage to imagine a future where I could live freely as my true self without people judging me. I am glad I held onto this thought and never gave up. In the end, I grew taller than my bullies in many ways.

Finding myself…

…took a long ass time. Even when I started university I wasn’t confident in myself and still on the way of finding out who I was. Getting bullied cut short a part of my life that would have been crucial to developing a normal self-image. I missed out on exploring who I am and who I wanted to be. I had to catch up on many things I didn’t dare to do because I was afraid of other people’s reactions. Getting bullied made me afraid of outing myself as gay, it made me anxious to date, it made me lose trust in humanity in itself and people I meet in particular.

These experiences made me question what was wrong with me to the point where I wanted to end it all. Getting bullied left emotional and psychological scars that sometimes still haunt me. I needed years in therapy to get closer to accepting myself and to break detrimental loops and patterns I had established over years. I had learned that feeling helpless was the norm. My bullies taught me over many years that something was wrong with me, something abstract you cannot even put your finger on.

So, No, I don’t forgive my bullies and I never will. I only saw a few of them again over the following years and I remember two of them giving me half-hearted apologies for what they had done. I think I made the mistake of accepting their apologies when all they were truly doing was trying to get rid of their bad conscience. So, let me put it out there, at this moment: You are not forgiven. I wish that the thought of you having been a horrible person will accompany you with everything you do until your time runs out.

I know that karma’s a bitch and this thought has always made my past experiences more bearable. I know that people who are big intimidating assholes in school often have problems later in life. Nevertheless, it feels good writing about this. I didn’t know I still had so much anger in me until I started writing it down. Weirdly enough, I feel a lot calmer now. This just goes to show that writing is a great tool to deal with just about anything that is going on in your life.

Finally, I hope this Open Letter finds its way to the bullies who should read it. 

 

Ben Leander

 

Related reading suggestion:

Why (some) Gay Men are Shady | A Theory

Compulsive nonconformist who left the 9-to-5 world after studying psychology and has since then devoted himself to design and writing on a freelance basis. Has at least four different kinds of chips at home at any given time.

Comments

  • Avatar
    29. October 2020
    reply

    heavenliner

    You’re the living proof then that “It gets better”… your scars are the badges of your being a brave warrior. Smile! Warm hugs…

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