At school I got bullied.
After the last operation on my genitals, when I was about eight, I was sent to a single sex boarding school at nine years old. Before that, I had attended a normal mixed-sex junior school, where my friends were girls; my best friends outside of school were girls, and being sent away from them to be with only boys was heartbreaking at the time. I had never identified with boys, and from the time of my first operation at about four ot five, after which I began to understand I was supposed to be a boy, I found it very difficult to act as a boy. At nine, I found myself immersed in an all male environment. I assume that this was part of something my parents were advised to do as part of my “gender reinforcement”, part of the psycho-social conditioning that accompanied the earlier genital surgeries, and would eventually lead to what I believe must have been hormone when I was around 13, fortnightly shots in the buttocks that went on for about six months, presumably to try and kick-start puberty.
I spent two years at boarding school, which was a “preparatory school”, preparing me for life in a senior boarding school. I did have an interview for a senior boarding school, but the headmaster warned my parents that there was no way I should be sent to a senior boarding school, because I would not survive such an environment – because I was a very female looking boy. My experience was that violence against people who are different on a sex/genital/gender/sexuality basis amongst such boys starts at a very early age, before senior school. My experience of that boarding school was of torture, and I put it down to my lack of masculinisation as a child, to such an extent it required surgery on at least two occasions that I can remember to try and make my genitals look more male. I was bullied and tortured, often around the swings on an almost daily basis with the result that I became quite solitary, and avoided company, developing pursuits that could be pursued alone – ornithology, lepidoptery, carried out either while walking or in the library. Nobody intervened, and I figure it must have been seen as my fault, because I failed to prevent it, or to fight back, I was not masculine enough, so I must have deserved this.
This kind of thing persisted well into what is normally adolescence, including when I was moved to a day school. I didn’t start puberty at the same time as those around me. Because I was underdeveloped, I could not compete in sport effectively against the males around me who were masculinising. Being weaker, more sickly, and often missing out on sports and other outdoor play, having to take time out for health issues and visits to hospital, compounded the problem. The victimisation worked not just in relation to my peers, it was institutionalised. Pupils were assigned to ‘houses’, and because I was not competitive in sports, I was often singled out as an ‘underachiever’ who ‘let the house down’ by not winning at sports events. This was at a time when boys around me were developing masculine secondary characteristics, like pubic hair musculature, and hairy legs, while I was not. Sixth formers and prefects often picked me out for attention, at one point was telling me it was because I was “transgressive”.
Locker rooms and toilets became places where physical and sexual assaults could take place with impunity. Being different, being underdeveloped, meant that I was a target, and found fending off such assaults more difficult. These kinds of assualts were so frequent, I cannot recall most of them. An exception was an assault by another pupil that happened when I was made to stay behind after class by a teacher, unsupervised, and the pupil returned to the room. He was the captain of the school swimming team, and much stronger than I, and he pinned me down on the desk and started – what I can only think now as – trying to rape (at the time I had no real idea what he was doing, I was petrified); I have no idea why he did not finish what he started, maybe he ejaculated before he got any further.
When I was about 13, I was stalked on the London underground by a predatory paedophile – although it took me many years to understand that is what had happened (I am sure Green, Blanchard and Bailey would point out this was a hebephile, rather than a paedophile). I used to travel across London on the Circle Line to get to school, and the carriages were alwasy packed with standing room only. One day, I felt this man touching my genital area. I looked up at his creepy eyes, and wanted to scream out, but it was like a hot coal in my throat prevented me. I was left scared out of my wits, shaking, and so ashamed I could not even tell anybody what had happened. That week, I went to a shop and bought a stiletto-bladed lock knife, and in my father’s workshop I sharpened it till it was like a razor, and I oiled and sanded the mechanism so it could be opened with one hand, the thumb flicking it open. I carried this with me to and from school every day, and about a week after the first time he interfered with me, he saw me again from the platform, and got on the carriage, and stood in front of me. Again, he started to touch me. I carefully took the knife out of my pocket and opened it, and moved my hand towards his. As he looked down with his creepy eyes, I looked up and smiled, and began to gently cut the back of his hand, I managed to cut it several times before he felt anything, presumably because the blade was so sharp, and he was busy getting off on whatever it was he was doing. But the look on his face when what was happening hit him was priceless. He fled at the next stop, his hand dripping blood. I saw him again, a couple of weeks later, a look of cold hate in his eyes when he saw me through the window, but he didn’t get on the same train that time, and I never saw him again after.
Around that time also, I was taken to the Ideal Home exhibition by my dad, and we got seperated. Three boys around 15-16 came out of nowhere and attacked me in the middle of the crowd. They beat me, one wearing knuckle-dusters, and a crowd of people formed a ring around us; nobody stepped in or tried to intervene, just watching as three teenagers beat a young feminine looking boy to the ground. My dad appeared as the kids ran off, and he was furious that I hadn’t stood up to them. I learned from that day that I was on my own, and the middle of a crowd can be the most dangerous place to be. My dad was so annoyed that I hadn’t fought back, that he decided to take me to boxing classes. He dragged me there once, but after receiving a good thump on the head that laid me out as soon as I got in the ring, we never went back again. My dad and I didn’t really have much to say each to other after that for at least 15 years.
The time I learned that the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them was at school, when one of the tallest kids in our year, a sporty blond-haired blue-eyed boy, would walk down the stairs with his two side-kicks forcing people in front or coming the other way out of their way. I forget what the circumstances, but I was starting to become the sort of person who didn’t get out of the way. I know the guy had been riding me for a while before this, as he tried to establish himself as the school bully. Something was said, and I turned and flew at the guy, catching him in a corner on the stairwell, his cronies either side, but too constrained to intervene. I had room to move, they didn’t, I pulled my arm back and landed the first and last punch I ever made, right on his chin. There was a fire extinguisher behind his head, and my blow sent his head back against the fire extinguisher, as he jolted his head sideways to avoid it coming back on my fist, it hit the wall, in pain he jolted it the other way, only to hit the other wall, automatically his head jolted forwards, making contact with my now stationary fist again, only to fall back and and hit the fire extinguisher as his legs slowly gave way, and his two friends watched him sink to the floor. What happened next I have no idea, as far as I was concerned, the problem was dealt with, and I carried on to my class. What I do remember is that I was never bullied again at school, and he actually started to become a much nicer guy.
Ever since then, I have always stood up to bullies, even though it has got me into trouble in jobs where there’s a bullying boss. People who have got away with bullying through childhood and into adulthood find it really hard when they are challenged. But, they have to be stood up to, otherwise they will make life a misery. I have to be quite careful, because being somebody who stands up to bullies, I can get it wrong. Sometimes I stand up to somebody, and they might not actually be a bully, but have poor communication skills, have some issue about the way they say things, or be compensating for low-self esteem, and treating the wrong person like a bully can be a bit like bullying itself. And, if you are not careful, you see potential bullies everywhere.
But, if I think I see a bully, I cannot help myself, I have to have a go. So, if ever you think I am bullying you, please let me know, because it may well be because I think you are a bully.
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