Tuesday, April 24 , 2018, 10:31 pm | Overcast 54º

 
 
 
 

Louise Palanker: Confronting Bullying Over Looks, Coming Out As LGBT, and Muslim Harassment

Question from Dominic S.

How do I deal with people saying negative comments about my appearance? Please don’t tell me “Oh, you look fine.” You don’t know what I look like.

I get so frustrated because it’s not just what people say, it’s how they say it over and over and over ... What do I say to make the bullies stop? I’ve tried being mean, ignoring it, and getting other people on my side, but nothing works. Please help. Thank you so much.

Weezy

Almost everybody is picked on about their looks at some point along the road of life. This particular form of cruelty tends to stop at college. You won’t generally see one adult approaching another to announce, “I hate your nose!” We require more sophisticated rational for a belittling remark, such as, being cut off in traffic.

I don’t know what your classmates are singling out regarding your appearance, but the way this tends to progress is that one kid will notice something very specific about you, point it out, have a laugh at your expense and then everybody jumps on that bandwagon.

So, let’s say you have big feet. Your goal can be allowing your attitude to become, “Oh, well. I have big feet.” I am not trying to dismiss the pain it causes you when somebody mentions your feet. Rather, I am encouraging you to accept what is and to go with it. If that’s all they’ve got on you, they’ve got nothing.

My nephew, Jake, has great advice on this. He says that if somebody were, for example, to call him a nerd, he would say, “And your point is ... ?”

I love this because it completely diffuses the intended impact of the insult. They are trying to get to you. If you simply agree and then ask why exactly they have raised this point, the wind drops from their sail.

You say that you have tried everything and I completely believe you. Now try agreeing with them and asking them to clarify why they have time in their day to bring the obvious to your attention.

                                                                 •        •        •

Question from Danielle E.

Hey, Weezy! So my mom recently went through my phone. She read text messages between me and my girlfriend. My mom doesn’t know I’m bisexual but she made a snide comment referring to “your girlfriend.” I was kinda freaked out because my mom did not know about my girlfriend before she went through my texts. She hasn’t brought it up to me exactly, but I heard her yelling at my dad about it and she sometimes calls me a lesbian or a dyke. I think this is only because of the way I dress. I wish she would just talk to me about it.

Weezy

It is horribly unwise and unkind for a parent to call a child derogatory names regarding sexual preference. But here is the thing when it comes to parents suspecting that their child may be gay or bi ... The parent will rarely come right out and ask the child. They wait to hear it from the child. That’s why it’s called “coming out.”

It’s up to you to decide if you have something to say about your sexuality, your gender identity or your sexual preference. Sadly, it’s also up to you decide if you will be both physically and emotionally safe coming out to your parents while you are still a child living at home. You know your parents. You need to make this call. I know that it is terribly stressful to live with a secret. But for many LGBT kids it is a better choice to wait until you will be resting your head on a pillow in another home that night, on the day you come out to your parents.

I highly recommend that you watch some life-affirming It Gets Better videos on YouTube. Here is one of my favorites:

(AppleEmployees video)

Since maybe 90 percent of people are straight, the straight kids never have to go through this. It is assumed, by parents, that a child is straight unless or until he or she says otherwise. Should your mother be making this easier for you? Of course she should. But, assume that she is scared and therefore making very bad moves.

Your mom seems to think that dropping a lot of hints and even teasing you will force the conversation. She does not get that she may be encouraging you to stay silent. Or she may be intimidating you into staying silent because she is not ready to hear the words spoken. You know your mom. When you come out to her needs to be up to you.

If you feel that despite her negative remarks, you and your family will be in a healthier place once the truth has been spoken, then break the silence and say something to your mom that puts this on the table.

Say, “OK, so I guess you know that I like girls, right?” It won’t come as a shock. You know that she knows. But the reality of you saying this out loud will also give you an opportunity to say, “And please don't call me a dyke. It’s not funny and it hurts my feelings.”

The single most attitude-altering force regarding LGBT acceptance in close-minded people is having a gay child. Your parents have much to learn from you.

                                                                 •        •        •

Question from Anna B.

I am a Muslim and started wearing a hijab (a veil covering the head and chest) only a few months ago, and it made me feel better about myself. On the bus for the past few months, people started talking about my race and how we are ugly, and my religion ... how we would bomb something down if we aren’t happy. I always cry in my seat and try to draw no attention to myself. Now I really want to rip my scarf off of my head and never wear it again!

Weezy

You are being subjected to prejudice and hate speech. This is race bullying. You can report it to your school principal, speak to your parents about it, or you can try to handle it yourself. In taking the latter route, I recommend that you have the backup support of a good friend who is in your corner.

This course of action will require a lot of courage, but it can be done with some practice beforehand. When the bullying starts, turn to these kids, look directly at them and say, “Muslims believe in peace. Extremists and terrorists come in every religion, shape, nationality and color. I am not one. What is sad here is that you are behaving more like terrorists than anyone else on this bus. Please respect me and I will respect you.”

You can use these exact words or make them your own. These kids are ignorant. You may try to take them on or you can report the behavior. You do not deserve to be treated this way. A little bit of understanding and tolerance goes a long way. Teach them some of it.

                                                                 •        •        •

Got a question for Weezy? Email her at [email protected] and it may be answered in a subsequent column.

Louise Palanker is a co-founder of Premiere Radio Networks, the author of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel called Journals, a comedian, a filmmaker (Family Band: The Cowsills Story is currently airing on Showtime Networks), a teacher and a mentor. She has a teen social network/IOS app and weekly video podcast called Our Place, built around a philosophy of cyber kindness. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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