michael king

stack of stained pages, redacted love letters, spilling ink, pressing it into tomorrow

on bullies and bruises.

I’ve written very little on my experiences with being bullied. I have explored the topic from a distance, devoting my graduate thesis to undergraduate men’s bullying narratives, but the act of writing it out – airing the old wounds and sharing their scars – is something I have, to this point, avoided.

It’s a reality I think I owe to an age-old issue: my refusal to let my problems take up anybody’s space. But that’s a wrong impulse, I’ve learned, and it does nothing to shed light on the paths of people still struggling. It’s October, and anti-bullying messages have been part of the conversation this month, and so I’ll bare my bruises and share my story. Here goes.

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if i could change #7.

pink

“I always had intermittent feelings for guys or girls throughout high school. I was never sure which was the ‘right’ way to feel, but it was just high school, so I figured I would find out soon enough. When a boy I liked egged me on ‘as a joke,’ I did get rather upset. I thought we had a great connection, but since it never came to anything, it didn’t matter.

A lot of things in my life, I reduce to ‘not mattering.’

“As much as I spoke about liking girls, I never really pined over them the same way I did guys. When I finally met the ‘right guy’ and felt comfortable coming out to my mom, I did so.

And that’s when I wanted to change myself.

“My mom seemed so angry, and I felt like such a disappointment. Who wants a gay son? So, whenever my relationship ended, I felt like it was the perfect time to take a step back. I started talking about women, working to convince everyone I was straight – or at least bi. Who knows if it worked? It messed around with my mind a bit, though –– having feelings that didn’t match up with my words.

“Maybe I’ve wasted the last few years of my life, but a recent conversation with my mom really cleared up my brain. I don’t have to be something I’m not. And who knows, maybe being straight would be the easy way out.

“But I’m not about the easy way anymore. I’ve spent enough time trying to be someone straight. It’s time to be me – to embrace the feelings inside.”

– J

when i knew #40.

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“I would lie if I said I didn’t somewhat know when I was 12-years-old, when I was surfing the Internet and, one miraculous day, dozens of gay porn pop-ups hit me all at once. I supposed straight boys ought to find it grotesque, and yet I didn’t immediately turn away. But I wouldn’t say I knew then and there. Don’t all young boys have gay phases?

“The high school locker rooms pretty much cemented it for me. I knew it when I saw it. There was something alluring about the male form that the female form didn’t do for me. No matter how hard I tried, it would always be the male form.”

– J