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In My Own Words: How Courage Overcame Adversity

Throughout our lives we often experience an array of experiences which help to define who we are, to mold our individual identities. My life is very much so an experience in itself. My adventure over the past 19 years of my life has helped to define who I am today and has given me the courage to come forward with hopes of helping those who may suffer from the same negative factors which I endured much of life.

My early childhood could be characterized as normal at least until I started elementary school. Upon entering elementary school, I was continuously ridiculed by my peers, because like some children, I enjoyed hanging out with the teachers instead of other students. This form of “elementary-bullying” soon escalated when I started going to babysitter before and after school. While going to the babysitter, her children often made fun of both my brother and I. However, their comments to me were direct; they often called me “gay” or “faggot.” This abuse that I endured at the sitter’s soon carried over into my later years in elementary school. Then in fifth grade, I finally built up the courage to tell my teacher that I was being made fun of, and what did she do – sent me to the school psychologist. The psychologist asked me ridiculous questions like “Do you carry purse,” which of course the answer was “No.” Then he did something that affected me for the rest of my life and even to today as I reflect on the nature of what occurred next, he asked me to walk down the hall, because he wanted to see if I walked like a girl. Surprisingly to him, I walked “Just fine.” After meeting with the psychologist, I told my teacher that the bullying stopped just so that I would not have to endure another meeting with him. This was the point at which I stopped trusting people; the point at which I isolated myself; the point at which I started to emotionally fall apart.

After graduating elementary school, I moved up to the middle school. In middle school, the bullying continued, except this time it escalated even more. In the sixth grade other students were throwing textbooks at me and calling me “faggot” – please tell me how can a sixth grader dressed in a pair of jean shorts and a polo t-shirt, warrant the throwing of not only physical objects, but also and more importantly the slinging of words such as “faggot” or “gay?” By time eighth grade rolled around, I became accustomed to not only the verbal abuse that I endured each day, but also those bullies who saw it necessary to slam me into a locker. It was in middle school when I started to think “If everyone is calling me a faggot and beating me over that word, then am I gay?” When middle school finally ended, I entered high school, and still endured the abuse for the next four years, thankfully though the physical component of the abuse ended. Dealing with the emotional strains of the verbal abuse was rather difficult, especially doing it on my own, without confiding in anyone. Then in my senior year of high school, I had been so tormented by my peers, and had heard their horrible words so often, that I finally figured that if they were all calling me “gay” then I must be and with that I came out to my parents. Upon coming out to my parents I then sought to establish a gay-straight alliance at my high school under the influence of Billiam Van Roestenberg, an individual who I later realized was only trying to further his individual agenda, who was simply using me as a means for getting his name in the paper. Upon getting the gay-straight alliance approved, I continued to feel discontent, sadly little did I know at the time, but I was suffering from anxiety and the onsets of a depression. After establishing the GSA, I was profiled in magazines such as The Advocate, InsideOUT Magazine, Instinct Magazine, and an array of online periodicals. That fall after having come out of my nervous breakdown, I decided to transfer out of my local area so that I could create my own identity instead of falling victim to outside influences. In turn I transferred to a college in upstate New York.

When I enrolled at the upstate college, I knew that it was going to be a worthwhile experience; however, I never anticipated that the six months spent upstate would help to mold my personal identity, would allow me to finally find out who I was without the influence of others. While at college, I realized that for the course of my entire life I had been influenced in nearly every step of my life; that my “coming out” was the easy way to avoid my bullies; that I had allow my bullies to define who I was; that I had fallen victim, because I always just wanted to someone to love me, someone to embrace me. In the end I realized that I was not gay, but rather like I am sure other children, I fell victim to the words of my abusers, I realized that I was believing the lies of my peers instead of what I knew to be true. Therefore, I am now ready to come out, and this time it is twice as hard, but ten times as gratifying, because for the first time in my life I am coming out as who I am, I am proud that I have regained the courage to fight the cynical words of my peers – I am a heterosexual, a straight man, and I am damn proud and never will I let myself falter in terms of my courage again.

The words of our bullies can have everlasting negative impacts; however, it is important that we maintain the courage to overcome the abuse, to be who we truly are. I have witnessed other peers who have suffered from similar circumstances, individuals dealing with eating disorders, plastic surgery, drug addictions, sexuality, and an array of issues. In the end the only advice that I can offer is be courageous; be yourself; never falter in the face of adversity; and share your story so that quite possible one other sole will find it.

I hope that through sharing my story children will gain the courage to be who they truly are without giving into their bullies. Wherever you are, whoever you are, be who are you, not what others want you to be!

Submitted by:

Joseph T. Amodeo

Joseph T. Amodeo, 19 years old, is a college student. Amodeo is a public affairs consultant, and full-time student. He is a member of the American Political Science Association and the National Council for the Social Studies.





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