Trigger Warning: appropriation, bullying, violence, suicide, depression
Okay, I was talking with someone, and they said something that let me figure out why a lot of wannabe outcasts (often but not always hipsters) piss me off.
Wannabe outcasts (and geek chic shit in general) piss me off because they appropriate what I was in school. They’re all, “I was totes the unpopular kid in school!” and I’m sitting there thinking, uh, no. No, you weren’t. I can tell you weren’t because you treat bullying as if it’s no biggie, and if you were really the outcast you claim you were, you wouldn’t be able to pretend that shit is no biggie. If you were really the outcast you claim you were, there would be an undercurrent of anger/hurt/fear/rage/sadness/resignation in your language whenever you talk about it. If you were really the outcast you claim you were, you wouldn’t be shocked when I’m all, “Yeah, you just have to put stuff like having your head slammed in the locker and people beat you when you fall down behind you, amirite?” You wouldn’t be all, “That happened?! No way, that doesn’t happen in school!” You would be, “Yeah, sounds familiar.”
Because shit like that fucking well does happen in school. You don’t realize it does, because you weren’t the outcast you claim you were, you appropriative fuckhead.
Now, to clarify: I’m talking about the hipsters and wannabe outcasts and adult geeks who are so into their “popular stuff is bad” that they have to appropriate a social status they’ve never had in their life. I have no problem with those who actually were what they say they were. I also have no problem with people being pretentious. Here’s the thing: Pretension itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Pretension has allowed a lot of my favorite bands to do some really awesome things with music, like substituting autotune for a guitar solo, or substituting a violin for guitar in alternative rock. Pretension, used appropriately, can be a force for good. So I’m not criticizing the ones who are merely pretentious.
No, I’m criticizing the ones who appropriate an outcast status they have no right – or real desire – to claim. Everyone wants to be a geeky outcast. Nobody wants to deal with the emotional baggage of the bullying and abuse that comes with it.
It pisses me the fuck off, because here’s Mx I-was-on-the-hockey-team-in-a-Canadian-high-school pretensioning at me that they have this cool band that I’ve probably never heard of (I have because I’m friends with a bunch of music nerds) but speaks to their soul because they were the outcast in high school when they’ve probably never experienced peer bullying to the extent that outcasts do in their life.
As someone who was actually an outcast in school, here’s a protip: If you were never beaten up in front of a teacher and had the teacher do nothing because getting beaten up will teach you to try to fit in more, if you ever had someone hit you for literally no reason and had another kid laugh and tell them to do it again, if you never had other kids call you by the wrong pronouns maliciously because you weren’t gender-conforming enough or because they thought they knew your gender better than you and the teachers thought it was funny, if you never had your lunch ruined just for shits and giggles every day of a week until you went outside to eat in -30C weather, if you never went the long way because you saw one of your bullies in the hall, if you never threw up in the morning before school because the thought of going made your stomach want to tie itself into a pretzel, if you regularly went more than a day or two without having some slur or another hurled at you, if you never ate lunch in the bathroom, if you never hid in the library, if you never had the librarian kick you out because “you have to learn how to deal with your problems” when she realized you came to the library on lunch as much because it was safe as because you liked books, if you never were the kid that other kids would be teased if they talked to, if you never had the entire class insult you for hours just to see if they could make you cry and then have your parents tell you you need to be less sensitive when the teacher called to get them to pick you up because you were sobbing uncontrollably and unable to talk and the teacher claimed to not know what was wrong even though they were right fucking there, if you never hated your classmates so much that you fantasized about horrible things happening to them and were terrified that you were turning into a monster, if you never had another kid give you a new and insulting name and have that become your name for the next three years and even the teachers called you by it sometimes, if you never went through your entire school career being able to count your friends on one hand and have at least four fingers left over, if you never knew that nobody would help you ever even if your friend was right there when they started in on you, if you never had anything even approaching that level of severity happen to you and if that level of severity of bullying and the apathy in response to it is at all shocking to you…
… I can pretty much guarantee you weren’t your school’s outcast.
That is not to say that no hipsters, geeks and outcasts ever experienced what they claim. I know for a fact that’s not true. Some of them I know have. But, what I’m saying is: If the paragraph above seems unbelievable to you, you probably weren’t your school’s outcast. Because that? That’s the outcast experience right there. It’s not “they just don’t understand my brilliance!” It’s “they are literally trying to bully me into suicide because they think it would be funny for me to die that way. And I’m so desperate and exhausted and scared that I just might give in and do it because I can’t fucking well take it anymore.”
So, if you weren’t the outcast, if the above paragraph is mind-boggling and unbelievable to you, if the previous sentence contains a mindset alien to you, don’t claim you were. When you do, it cheapens my experiences and the experiences of my fellow outcasts. Don’t do that. We had enough shit stolen from us growing up. We don’t need you to steal our stories and cheapen our experiences, too.
To those who were outcasts: Sympathy and camaraderie. Like Shane Koyczan says in his poem, “We are graduating members of the class of fuck off we made it.”
To those who are currently outcasts: Survive. Make it. Get to university or college or work or wherever and find your people. You are better than those who torture you for their amusement. You do not deserve this. You can make it. You’ve made it this far, through fire and struggle and pain that nobody should have to deal with.
Here is an incomplete list of anti-bullying organizations, for victims, friends and relatives that I started to compile in response to the Rehtaeh Parsons case. If you know of an organization not already listed there, leave a comment here and I’ll add it. I’m especially deficient in non-English resources.