Edgar Gierbolini was bullied in High School (Photo: I’m From Driftwood)
If you’ve ever been bullied you might relate to this tale. I’m From Driftwood is an online archive of videos from LGBTI people sharing their memories and experiences. The latest person to contribute to the archive is Edgar Gierbolini from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Gierbolini recounts his experiences of being bullied at high school – and how he got his own back on his tormentor.
It’s a story that will strike a chord with many. According to a 2013 HRC survey, LGBT youth are nearly nearly twice as likely to be called names, verbally harassed or physically assaulted at school compared to their non-LGBT peers.
In the UK, the findings of a survey released this week found that 62% of LGBT people had contemplated suicide as a result of bullying. Forty-three percent of the young LGBT people surveyed said they had been bullied in the previous 12 months
High school and bullied for being different
Gierbolini recalls that going from middle school to high school proved something of culture shock.
‘It was such a huge, different world. We went to a big high school and we had to big quad where everyone had to cross across this, like, park/garden area to get to everyone’s classes. There was this group of folks we always – we called “The Kickers” because of the cowboy boots that they wore.
‘They huddled, kind of in a corner, and every time people would pass through the quad, they would just catcall people and especially me, either because I swished or I walked a little bit or I talked a bit with a lisp.’
Gierbolini remembers that one guy in particular would pick on him, calling him a ‘faggot’.
‘It drove me crazy. I would tell my friends and I really wasn’t sure what to do about it. I lived in kind of this weird fear and shame because of it.’
One day, during an environmental classes lesson, a friend, Erica, pulled him aside and suggested they take action. She pulled out a roll of duct tape and told him to get a hall pass.
Taping up his locker and padlock
‘So I get a hall pass and I meet her outside and she goes, “Follow me.”
‘We ended up at his locker and she pulled out the tape. She says, “We’re going to tape up his locker.” So we started taping up his lock, on the lock, and by the time we were done – and it took both of us, so there’s always – one of us was watching the hallway while the other one kept wrapping his lock. By the time we were done, there was this huge ball around, surrounding this lock.’
Gierbolini returned to class. However, when the bell rang for recess, they found themselves a spot where they could watch what happened. The bully soon returned to find his locker and duly exploded when realized he’d been pranked. He at first accused his buddies of the joke, but slowly realized it was someone else that wanted to send him a message.
‘I remember feeling relieved and also empowered. It was the first time in my life I had taken a stand against someone that had done something against me.
‘He never bullied anybody else after that. He would look at me and either he found out that I was a part of what happened to his locker, but he would look away.
‘The catcalling stopped in the quad and nobody else got bullied by him and his group.
‘I think everyone has a bullying story, especially in our community. I think it’s important for those people that are just now facing bullying to understand that, unfortunately, it’s a universal problem. Everyone faces that. It’s all about what your reaction to the action is. And to this day I can’t see a roll of duct tape without smiling and laughing and thinking it’s kind of a symbol of my own empowerment.’
For more I’m From Driftwood stories, check out the site.