When I reflect on how I was bullied in school, there’s never a specific episode that leaps to mind. What I remember is how I felt. Memories and emotions are one and the same to me. When I remember being bullied, I feel the same intense shame and guilt I did when I was a small child. Shame and guilt that was undeserved; shame and guilt I felt regardless, being a strange, reedy little kid who was an easy target.
We call it “bullying”, but that word belittles what’s happening. What I experienced throughout my schooling was not “bullying”, but rather a sustained campaign of harassment, intimidation, and physical violence designed to make me conform; to “toughen” me up, and turn me into a toxically masculine adult ready to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
I was — and remain — a nonconformist by nature. The treatment I received was part of a generational cycle of parental enablement that instilled conformist, heteronormative values in their children — and those children were avid practitioners of intimidation and violence to impose those values on me.
The culture of The United States is varied and rich, but there is a mean swath hewn in it by those who despise expressiveness, openness, and the relentless desire to be seen on the outside as we feel on the inside.
Conformity, heteronormativity, and repression are the tools used to achieve the white nationalist goals of fascism: If you don’t conform, you’re out of line. If you’re not straight and cisgender, you’re deviant. If you don’t repress yourself in order to align with what the fascists expect of you, you’re unworthy of life — and if you yourself decide you are, the fascists’ mission has been accomplished.
To minimize schoolyard malevolence as “bullying” or “boys being boys” is negligent at best and an endorsement of violence at worst. Yet, the fascist right wing has long insisted on intimidation and violence to achieve their goals. When their children see this behavior, they will — as children are so keen to do — model it.
The fascist right wing may say that their values are liberty and freedom, but in truth, it’s the freedom and liberty to stay within the lines their stifled culture has drawn. Indeed, the very meaning of the word “conservative” is to maintain “traditional values”. When the truth is in conflict with this goal, it not only becomes a casualty of fascism, but warped and twisted to fit the fascist narrative.
The tools of conformity, heteronormativity, and repression overlap. Where the demands are conformity and heteronormativity, there is authoritarianism; where the demand is conformity and the result is repression of the self, the outcome is racial and cultural intolerance; when heteronormativity is demanded of the repressed, there is homophobia and transphobia.
The nexus of all those things is white supremacy, and it’s the eventual goal of the political right: to keep women in thrall to male domination, repress and destroy transgendered people and their supportive parents, and systemically murder those who aren’t white in the name of installing a single, white nationalist identity.
It’s not “bullying”. It’s a generational practice to mold its practitioners into the intolerant adults their parents are, to coerce its victims into conformity, and destroy those who can’t bear it. Not a single person should have to bear it a moment longer, or we’ll all be consumed by it.