Transitioning To A More Accepting Viewpoint

, , , , , , , | Learning | June 20, 2021

I’m a science teacher at a small high school. For a few years, I’ve also been handing out Vetinari points, or vet points, for students that answer difficult questions, ask truly insightful questions, or otherwise do something to impress me. The students can then trade the points in for a few potential benefits, most noticeably a small increase in a future test score.

A little while ago, the parent who gave birth to one of our students came out as trans and started his transition. It seems this detail has only recently filtered down to some of the less enlightened students in our school, though. I’ve recently warned one bully in particular about his transphobic comments and harassment.

On this particular day, I’m alone in my room during a break period grading papers while the student in question is at his locker right outside of my room. I’m not listening to his conversation at first, until I overhear a non-school-appropriate synonym for penis that I won’t be repeating here, coming from the hallway. Since I came in partway into the conversation, I am only able to deduce part of the conversation between the bully and the student, though it is clear from tone and attitude alone that the bully is intentionally harassing my student.

Bully: “…mom has a [penis] now.”

Student: “You clearly don’t understand anything about being trans.”

Bully: “What’s there to know?!”

I have already gotten up and am headed out to handle the situation, but by the time I get out there, the student has already started responding with such confidence that I choose to let him finish before intervening. He is literally counting off points on his finger as he speaks.

Student: “First, I don’t have a mom. Second, of my two fathers, only one has, or will ever have, a [penis]. Three, I think you’re just jealous I can kill Macbeth and you can’t.”

Bully: “Huh?”

They are covering “Macbeth” in English around this time. In the play, it’s prophesied that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.”

Me: “[Student], you just earned yourself one vet point for coming up with a much better subversion of that prophecy than the actual play managed, though you should both use less vulgar terminology next time you wish to discuss a penis.”

Student: “Oh, umm… yes, sir. Thank you.”

Me: “[Bully], I’ve already warned you twice about transphobic comments. Now you will be spending your lunch discussing it with the principal, instead.”

All of us teachers were a little worried for this student originally when his father transitioned, but he proved us all wrong. He handled every question about his father with just as much confidence and conviction, without once losing his cool or lashing out in anger, as he did this time. More than once, I saw him inform ignorant students about what it meant to be trans with such confidence that he managed to convince even some of those who were originally skeptical of the concept to support his father’s transition. It was quite refreshing seeing not only how strongly he stood by his father’s transition but how well (most) of the student body ended up taking and supporting the transition after he explained things to them.


This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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Bullet Dodged!

, , , , , , , | Romantic | May 17, 2021

I was bullied in middle school for my grades and my looks. I was a very short, shy, overweight girl. I was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that can cause delayed puberty and growth. Once I was put on meds to regulate the condition, I was much better. By the time I hit twenty-one, I look very different than I did as a teenager due to my hormones finally working properly.

One of the guys that used to bully me adds me on social media. I believe in second chances, so I add him. About two minutes later, I get a private message.

Guy: “Hey, what’s up?”

Me: “Studying for finals. You?”

Guy:  “Oh, nothing much.”

I go back to my exam review. A few minutes later, I get another message.

Guy: “D***, you grew up good. Real good.”

Me: “Um… thanks?”

Guy: “You were super awkward-looking in middle school. But I see that’s not a problem anymore.”

Me: “Not really sure what to say to that.”

Guy: “I’m complimenting you. Not used to that?”

Me: “It’s kinda backhanded, don’t you think? We were all awkward in middle school.”

Guy: “Geez, lighten up. I’m paying you a compliment. You should say thank you.”

Me: “Yeah, no.”

Guy: “Still uptight, nerdy, and b****y, I see.”

Me: “I’m deleting you now.”

Guy: “C’mon, give me a chance! I’m just having a bad day.”

Me: “Nope. Bye!”

He was still typing when I blocked him.

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Bullies Are Just The Worst

, , , , , | Learning | May 11, 2021

I am not social in school. One boy, in particular, seems to take great pleasure in pushing me to the point of tears before leaving me alone with my anger. I tell my parents about this boy, they ask the school to intervene, and the school sends us to a group called “peer counselors.” Each counsel session has two school-aged counselors and one teacher. I’m nine, [Boy] is eleven, and we’re both in fourth grade.

Peer Counselor #1: “We are here today to find out why [My Name] feels targeted by [Boy].”

Boy: “She likes it.”

Me: “I don’t.”

Boy: *Poking me* “It’s just for fun!”

I duck out of his reach, batting his hand away.

Me: “Stop!”

Boy: “She hit me! See?”

Peer Counselor #1: “[Boy], please keep your hands to yourself. [My Name], don’t hit.”

Peer Counselor #2: “[My Name], why do you think [Boy] is picking on you?”

Me: “I don’t know. He’s mean.”

Peer Counselor #2: “Let’s try to not use words like that. Let’s try being more constructive and less destructive.”

Boy: “[My Name] doesn’t have friends. I’m just trying to give her the attention she wants.”

Me: “I don’t want attention.”

Boy: “Then why did you go tattling to your mommy and daddy like a widdle baby?

He makes mocking crying motions by his eyes. I feel the tears coming and shake my head.

Boy: “See? She’s a baby!”

Peer Counselor #2: “[Boy], we don’t call people babies.”

Peer Counselor #1: “Clearly, [My Name] does not like the attention you’re giving her. Don’t you think you should stop?”

Boy: “No. No one else even talks to her.”

He reaches over and pulls my hair so hard my head jerks sideways.

Me: “Stop!”

I start crying.

Teacher: “Okay, [Boy]. That’s enough. Get up.”

Boy: “What?”

Teacher: “Get up. Now.”

She stands beside him, not touching him.

Boy: “You can’t make me.”

Teacher: “Get. Up.”

[Boy] smiles smugly, crossing his arms.

Boy: “No.”

Teacher: “Okay.”

She grabs him by the arm and drags him out of the room. He protests as they go down the hall toward the principal’s office.

Boy: “Hey! Let go! You can’t touch me!”

My mom came and picked me up from school that day. A few days later, when I returned to school, I heard that [Boy] had been expelled. My “tattling” had given other kids the courage to come forward, sharing experiences from stealing lunch money to physical intimidation. The principal and other staff members felt that expulsion was the best move for everyone. I don’t know what happened to [Boy] or where he went after he was expelled.

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A Little Class In Class Will Pay Off Later On

, , , , , , | Working | April 28, 2021

High school was a difficult time for me. I was the “smart kid”: straight-A student, top of my class, the one everybody wanted for group projects. And I was the one everybody forgot was there when recess came. I wasn’t quite bullied, but I was ignored A LOT.

To make things worse, I was diagnosed with a tricky disability in my senior year and was extremely ill, in and out of hospitals all through that year. My grades naturally slipped a bit, and at that point, the few people who talked to me regularly dropped me like a hot potato. Obviously, now that I was only a B student and couldn’t do the whole group project on my own, I was no longer necessary. By the middle of the year, only the “weirdos” from two classes below me even acknowledged I existed. (Great guys. We’re still friends!)

Fast forward several years. My disability is well under control and my career is taking off. I am to be the project manager on a big project in a prestigious engineering firm and I’m involved in hiring more people to the team. We call in a guy whose resume looks promising, and this exchange happens as soon as he is introduced to the interviewing panel.

Candidate: “[My Name]?! Wow, it’s been so long I didn’t recognize you! How’s it going?”

Me: “I’m sorry, do we know each other?”

Candidate: “What, you don’t remember me? I’m [Candidate]! We went to high school together.”

I figure maybe he is someone from another class aiming for a leg up, but I still have no clue who he is.

Me: “Ah, well. That was almost ten years ago and was a difficult time. I’m afraid I don’t remember you. But anyway, your resume…”

Candidate: “Oh, come on! You have to remember me! [Candidate]? We were in the same class all the way through! I think you even had a crush on me!”

Me: “I beg your pardon?”

Candidate: “Yeah, you totally had a crush on me! You were always up for helping me with homework, and you were game to include me on group projects and then do my share. Pretty sure you did everyone’s share! Ha, no point risking your grade being lower, right? You were a weird little girl!”

I remember him now. I did have a crush on him for a while and “helped” him a lot with schoolwork (meaning I did it for him). It’s bad enough to bring that up in an interview, but… 

Me: “Ah, yes. [Candidate]. I remember you now. You were the one who started yelling out that the [ableist slur] was coming when my disability first started. And stepping back in corridors or crossing the street when I walked by. And telling people they should stay away from the [other ableist slur] or they’d become losers like me, too.”

Candidate: “Er… I… Well, I was young, and…”

Me: “Thank you for reminding me of all this. Turns out it saves us some time.”

Candidate: “But… my interview?”

My Boss: “I think we can all agree that we’re done here.”

He seemed sincerely shocked that he didn’t get the job!


This story is part of our Best Of April 2021 roundup!

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You Know What That Is? Growth.

, , , , | Learning | February 15, 2021

In the early 2010s, I was in high school taking a math course. It was the first class of the day and we had a really wonderful, punctual teacher. One day, she didn’t show up, no teachers came into the room, and after forty minutes — much to the anger of twenty other teenagers — I went to alert the office, worried something had happened to her.

The teacher was fine, but I became the center of horrific bullying in that class as a few of the students got in a lot of trouble for their actions while we were not supervised. Some of my favorites included shoving, spitting on my homework, and throwing plastic Easter eggs with slips of paper in them at me — the eggs were for a fun math game — hard enough to crack the plastic and bruise.

Most of this was led by this super senior; she was held back her senior year and was in her fifth year of high school. This bully went out of her way to make sure I was miserable that entire semester, and she was the reason I hated Easter eggs for years.

Fast forward to 2019, nearly a decade later. I am at a bar with two friends and my long-term boyfriend. The friends grew up around here but moved away years ago and are just in town to visit and catch up with people. A lot of people are coming to our booth to say hi and catch up with all of us. One of them is a woman a year or two older than me, covered in tattoos. She looks sort of familiar and is super thrilled to see [Friend].

I guess she thinks I look familiar, too, because she squints at me a little and finally asks if we used to go to high school together. After a few seconds of trying to remember where we know each other from, her face lights up with excitement. 

Woman: “Oh, yeah! We were in [Teacher]’s class together!”

Me: “Oh, yeah. You were the b**** who threw plastic Easter eggs at me.”

Cue deafening silence from the table. [Woman]’s face runs through a whole range of emotions, from shock, to remembrance, to horror, to complete embarrassment. [Friend] is glaring at her angrily; she’s heard the story before and is connecting the dots. My boyfriend looks like he might kick her out of the bar himself and our other friend is just shocked. 

Suddenly, [Woman], with all the charisma and emotions of a drunk woman, reaches out and takes my hands, her eyes tearing up.

Woman: “Oh. My. God! I have been trying to find out where you were for years! I am so, soooo sorry for everything! I was so unbelievably horrible to you and took out so many things on you, and it wasn’t until I got older that I realized how terrible I was! I was such a b**** to you and I’m so, so, so, so sorry!”

I don’t know what I expected, but it was not that. I just tell her it’s cool and it’s in the past; we were dumb kids and we can move forward now. Her whole face lights up again. 

Woman: “You are like, totally, seriously the best, Egg Girl! Besties! Can I put this on Insta?”

We never became friends, but I did let her take a selfie of us to “confess her crimes” online, and for the next year until the health crisis closed down the bars, we would occasionally run into each other out on the town. She would stop everything just to point me out to her friends and go, “That’s Egg Girl! I threw plastic Easter eggs at her in high school. I was suuuch a b**** to her!” 

Life is like a bunch of plastic Easter eggs; you never know what you’re going to get, I guess.

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