Wednesday, February 9, 2011

30 DoP #23 - "It Gets Better"

Same Sex Wedding Cake Toppers

A week ago, I received this message on Facebook from my very first boyfriend (the only ex that I still consider alive):

"A friend of mine has a 14 year old son who just came out. He's going through a really rough time right now at school with bullies. His mother has mentioned that all the bullying and name calling is starting to take a toll on his health and well being.
The cast I am currently working with is putting together an "It Gets Better" care package filled with encouragement, and our own personal stories to help him though this tough time. If you'd like to share your story or provide words of encouragement, please email them to me or send them in a Facebook message. I will print out your story and send it with our package. We are going to get everything ready to be mailed by this Wednesday Feb. 9th! I would love to send as much as I can to help him out.

His name is Kurtie."

Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign is something the world has needed for a long time. I've always been an advocate of the "old" teaching the "young". Experience, being unique, is always the best teacher, wouldn't you agree? Shared experience is equally strong, and "It Gets Better" fosters that shared experience. It brings together the people of the LGBT community, and not just in an effort to stop bullying. When we share our stories, we're tapping into something primal to the human experience, and there's beauty and strength in that. So I woke up early this morning and sat to pen my contribution to Kurtie's care package, and found some catharsis. I found myself wishing this kind of global community existed for me when I was going through hell as a kid. I'd like to share my entry, even if it's a bit of an overshare. Perhaps in posting it here, someone like Kurtie will see it and find hope.

With Love, to Kurtie:

I had big glasses. My hair was always a mess – curls on the sides and straight as a pin down the middle. I played with the girls. Theatre, drama club, main tenor in chorus, an artist to my core. Something was different about me from my first memories, and because it was encoded into my genes, it exhibited its fabulous tendencies in my body, my movement, my pattern of speech. I was gay, and I was mocked.

It was scary growing up in rural Illinois. The town I was raised in was surrounded by corn and emptiness – no bright city lights for this one. It was all stock car races, county fairs, and football. Machismo was the name of the game, and because I was more interested in pretending to be a wizard, playing with Barbies, painting, and reading fantasy novels, I was picked on relentlessly. I remember the name of every person who called me a “fag” in school. I can recall their sneers and barking laughter in locker rooms and on gymnasium floors when I was asked over and over again, “Pike – are you gay?!” It was an exercise in torture and humiliation for me to attend classes every day, and though I had my strong contingent of family and freaks and geeks to bolster me, protection from the mental and emotional abuse a dorky gay kid in rural America was limited at best. I grew up feeling “less than”. I grew up being “other” I grew up under a magnifying glass.

Bully is the wrong word for what I went through. I was abused by my peers in every sense of the word – emotional, physical, mental, and verbal. They were abusers. They didn’t let me love me.

But it got better.

I grew into my big ears and long limbs. My muscles toned to fit my body, I got contact lenses, and by senior year – the year when people in my graduating class seemed to really realize the end of something was imminent – I had decided enough was enough. I wouldn’t hide any longer. People seemed to leave me to my devices more as I stood up for myself and my friends, and though the abuse didn’t cease, I ceased allowing it to define my existence. It wasn’t easy, nor was it sudden. Perhaps my confidence developed as my body finally developed; maybe the threshold had been reached. If anything, a switch had been flipped. I came out reluctantly, though it was more for my own understanding than to tell people some hidden fact that were unaware of. Small town politics and small-mindedness were still all around me, but I tried to carve out a niche in which I was able to at least survive quietly.

It got better.

I met my first boyfriend while waiting tables at a Cracker Barrel (an establishment famous for their “no gays” policies, if you enjoy irony as much as I do). I got bold and left my number on his table one afternoon. Call it another step in throwing a wrench in the mean gearwork of the region I lived in. I was nothing if not bold. By some odd and hilarious twist of fate, he also worked at that Cracker Barrel in off-times from college, and we started dating. It was butterflies in the stomach, it was exciting, it was…well, bold. I fell into the best kind of love with him. He taught me a lot of extremely important things about myself – that I was beautiful; I was interesting; I deserved love like everyone else. I remember taking lots of long naps that summer with him, meeting his family (though I’m sure we were both terrified), and kissing him. Kissing him, for as cliche and ridiculous as it might sound, solidified my knowledge of myself as a gay person, and it turned out it wasn’t as scary as I once thought. I wasn't the only one out there. My love for him turned a fresh page and began a new chapter in my life. It let me love myself, FINALLY.

That boyfriend was our mutual friend, Shain. I’m not surprised he’s put this all together for you, Kurtie. He’s the best kind of person.

He holds a place in my heart that's unalienable. He was a link in a long chain of love in my life - not just romantic love, but a respectful love that we all need in our lives, especially as gay people. Shain and I allowed our lives to take their respective directions, and before I knew it I had left that town for college. Those four years allowed me to reinvent myself as a more genuine version of me. I studied Theatre, met people who had no knowledge of the abuse I suffered as a dorky kid in the cornfields of Illinois, and crystallized into a more honest person, both in regards to myself and my emotions, but to the world at large as well. Doors opened. I was an artist, and it was a GOOD thing there. Encouraged by a professor whose love was only matched by the size of his personality, my life blossomed further. He’s still an extremely close friend, and growing through our lives, both gay men, has been the pinnacle of education. I know you’ll find people like that, too. Look forward to it!

It got still better.

Left college. Began a short-lived career as a Costume Designer. Traveled. Loved, with all its requisite ups and downs. Learned. Made art. Eventually found myself in Chicago, a National Makeup Artist for Sephora, the first of my kind. I spent a few years all over the map nurturing a new art and a new facet of myself. I met my current partner, whose patience and care has proved that all my frustration in love and life was worth every single second. I have huge legions of friends who are all examples of the good things the world can produce out of adversity. My family loves me (you and I share that). As a twenty-something, I’m as fantastic as I’ve ever been. I made another bold move, leaving a horrible job and beginning my own jewelry line which thrives today and is a constant reminder that I was right all along – I’m a hundred times more artistic and creative, interesting, beautiful, intelligent, successful, and bold than those abusers in school ever allowed me to believe. They were wrong.

It got better.

It keeps getting better.

You have that to look forward to. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Love your friends. Be thankful for your family. Make bold strides. Don’t be scared to be scared, but move through it and take notes. You’ll need them later when your life coalesces into a unique and gorgeous thing that only YOU can take credit for. It’ll happen, trust me. Self-confidence and self-love are vital survival tools. You’re a perfect version of yourself, and you owe it to yourself and the people you love to perfect that perfection. Above all things, love yourself as openly and beautifully as you can possible stand it. Love yourself so much it hurts.

We love you, Kurtie. We’re all in this together!


  1. This is beautiful! I love this campaign, and I think it's great that kids today have more and more people to turn to for encouragement of this kind.

  2. Kurtie -

    I feel a tightness in my chest when I think about you being bullied. It matters not that I don't know you personally - it matters a LOT that you are suffering. I feel this pang because I understand.
    And it gets better.

    I was a fat girl with unruly red frizz, like a halo of doom around my head in an era when Marcia Brady's hair was the standard of beauty. I had the kind of braces that went all the way around my teeth (it was the 70s, and orthodontia was still fairly medieval and ugly), like railroad tracks. I was an only child, who had 2 dead siblings by the time I was 7. Painfully socially awkward. And too smart for the room (think Hermione Granger or Lisa Simpson).

    Mostly, I wanted to remain the invisible observer, but sadly, I was often the entertainment for bullies. Public taunts, merciless and endless. One boy used to kick my shins under the desk, with his huge boots. I could barely walk from the pain - always bruised, often bleeding. There was a girl who rubbed my face in the dirt on the playground every chance she got. The physical bullying I could take - I'd suck it up and not tell anyone. It was the emotional bullying - the name calling (fat, ugly, nerd, smelly, etc.) and public shaming (lies about me and boys, me and girls, and everything in between) that killed me. When I spoke up, adults disregarded it - "Typical kid stuff". I was always an odd duck, and on many, many occasions adults would suggest rather bluntly that I must have done something to inspire this kind of treatment.

    But it gets better.

    I found my people in high school - other oddballs who worked in the theatre. This helped me to develop a little confidence.

    That confidence got me a scholarship to an elite arty school across the country. When I arrived, suddenly an odd girl who was smart was a hot commodity. I didn't need to be so painfully introverted anymore. I came out of my shell.

    It started to get better.

    Since then, I've found that these odd ducks and black sheep are the people that understand. My friends became my family and my protectors. Their unconditional love and acceptance helped me to unconditionally accept myself.

    It got lots better.

    Kurtie, only you know how it feels when they bully you. I do not presume to know what you are going through. But I share my story because I hope that you may recognize what I felt, and I hope that it will encourage you to look forward to the days when it gets better for you as well.

    Because it will get better.

    When you cannot see how this is possible, please remember this note. I don't have to know you to want the best for you. I hope, more than anything, that one day you are as happy and loved and accepted as I feel now. Because it can happen. And it does.

    It gets better.

    Be well Kurtie. I will be thinking of you.

  3. Wonderful words, I have 2 brothers that came out at different times in their life. They both struggled with being excepted and it was hard to see as I have deep love for both of them. Thank you for featuring my Same Sex Dolls my brothers are always my inspiration behind them. My hope is that one day they find a lasting good relationship!!

  4. This is awesome. Great idea. You rock. I will repost on facebook.

  5. Very well said!! As I was bullied constantly, I can understand a little, but will never fully be understanding of this particular type of bullying. It saddens me that people are still so closed-minded about being gay. One of my best friends in HS is gay and I love and respect him even more for being honest with himself and the world. This is a wonderful thing you are doing in helping show what you've overcome, and I applaud you for your beautiful words of wisdom and encouragement!! :)

  6. Wow! It is a crying shame that there are so many close-minded, ignorant, jackasses out there. People young and old that bully do so to make themself appear to be superior to others. They lack self esteem. They learn what the do from their up bringing.
    It is pure ignorance.
    We learn from our parents. They learned from their parents. Their parents learned from their parents. And so on and so on. .......

    Only we can break the cycle. Only we can teach our children tolerance and understanding. Think before you speak. How would you feel if that was said to you ? Remember the Golden Rule.

    I to was bullied. I was the fat one. I not only got it at school. I was reminded every day at home. To make my long story short. I am 50 now. When I was 26 I finally asked my mother to please stop telling me I need to diet and lose weight.
    I told her that every time she or dad nagged me it just made me want to eat more. I told her I love myself the way I am. If you or anyone else doesn't like what you see don't look. I am who I am love me as I am or kiss my fat ass.

    She or dad have not said one word to me since.

    Love yourself. That is what it is all about.
    Love you all

  7. Thank you for sharing your stories, all. Bullying pervades so many of our lives, and we can be examples for others. It's time to reclaim ourselves against others' abuse and show the world what greatness can come from adversity. <3 you all!

  8. This is truely a beautiful story, it kept me reading all the way through.
    Bullying is, there is not a word to describe how wrong and bad it is.

    I found you on Handemadeology. I am now going to follow you.
    I would be honored if you followed me also :)
    Here is the link:

    Thank you,


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