Talk to Me (by Grant Bentley)

Talk to Me

By Grant Bentley

I'm gay. I have known I was gay since about 4th grade. But even at that age, I knew enough to keep it to myself. Elementary school was good. There were a few mean kids, or bullies, but as I progressed into middle school, I began to see a whole new level of bullying. It was something I had difficulty comprehending, but since I thought my secret was safe, I thought I was safe. Boy was I wrong. It wasn’t long before I was being made fun of and ridiculed. Apparently being tall and seriously skinny meant I had to be gay. At first I tried to ignore it but it got worse. I was pushed, tripped, slapped and had “fag” scratched into my locker door. I was told I was nothing but a sick faggot who didn’t deserve to live. I was called “fag” more times than I can count and it wasn’t long until I absolutely dreaded going to school. 

When high school came around, it didn’t get any better. It became less physical but more psychological. It was still bullying and it still hurt. Much of the time it came from people I didn't even know. It hurt the most though when it came from people I did know. It wasn’t just at school now either. It didn’t go away when I got home. There were emails, text messages, Tweets, FaceBook statuses; it was everywhere. Worst of all, I was going through it all alone. All the friends I had in middle school either went to a different high school, had left me, or had turned against me. 

By the end of 9th grade, it began to become too much for me to take. Even summer holidays didn’t allow me a break. The online and texting stuff continued. Then in the fall when school started again it seemed even worse. It was at this time I began considering suicide. I thought of all kinds of ways to kill myself, but I never had the courage to actually do it. That just made me even more upset. I began to feel like I was totally useless and worthless. I started to hate myself more than the bullies did. I convinced myself that I could never find anyone who could love me and I would be alone for the rest of my life. I told myself over and over to just end it. I was fifteen, in 10th grade, and all I wanted to do was die.

Then, one day, I was sitting alone in my room reading the usual crap on FaceBook when I came across a link to The Trevor Project’s Talk to Me. It’s not like I never heard of The Trevor Project before. It was more like I had convinced myself that my life was hopeless, so how could talking to some guy on the phone help me? But, since I had nothing better to do, I read some of their stuff, watched a video, and read the pledge. It was like they were talking about me and to me. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone. Thousands of other kids felt exactly the same way I did. It made me realize someone really did care. Hell, even Daniel Radcliffe cares.

So I did it. I dialled the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386 and I talked. Boy, did I talk… and he listened and gave me the support I needed. When I hung up, I knew I couldn't give up. I had so much to look forward to and to live for. And, it had felt so good to be open to someone. Granted it was someone on the other end of the phone line, but it was someone…someone who listened and understood…someone who cared.

Being open and free with him made me think that maybe, to make things even better, I should actually talk to someone in person. But who? I still wasn’t ready to tell Mom or Dad yet, so who? Well, wouldn’t you know it, the next day in school I saw no less than eight people wearing either a t-shirt or a bracelet that said Talk to Me and a couple that said I’ve Got Your Back. Somehow I don’t think it was the first time anyone did that. I think maybe it was just the first time I raised my head, and actually looked at people in the hallway.

One of the guys was in the same homeroom as I was and I made sure I was sitting across from him.

After kinda staring at him for a minute or so, he smiled and asked, “Talk to me?”

I shyly smiled back and replied quietly, “Uh, yeah…please.”

“Lunchtime in the quad,” he suggested and I nodded.

We talked for the whole hour and again for the whole hour at lunch the next day. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. The bullies hadn’t stopped, but I wasn’t alone anymore, and that simple fact made me feel so much stronger. During our talks, among other things, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t change peoples’ views of who I was, but I sure as hell could choose not to let them get to me and make me feel like crap.

That was also when I decided I was going to be myself. I stopped trying to blend into the walls and started dressing the way I wanted. I began participating in class discussions, became more open about who I was, and I stopped staring at the floor. One of the outcomes, that surprised me at the time, was that random people started to talk to me and before long I began to make friends.

It also wasn’t long before a lot of the people, who had been making my life a living hell, weren’t anymore. I guess now that I wasn’t always alone, I was standing tall, I was out and proud, and made it clear I didn’t give a shit what they thought, it wasn’t fun anymore. It didn’t all stop, but like I said, I simply didn’t give a shit…and life became so worth living again.