Kevin Nadal shares in new book the ‘immense pain’ of being gay and bullied

gay bookBy Dr. Kevin Nadal

When I was 7 years old and struggling with my gay identity, I often wondered if I could ever be happy. Here I was — the only gay person I knew in my family and community. As a child of immigrants who grew up in a huge Filipino American and Catholic family, I had no idea that LGBT — that is, lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender — people existed.

Sure I had seen some on TV, but they were often portrayed negatively, and my family definitely did not seem to like them. So when I started to feel that I was different — that I liked “girly” things (e.g., musical theater, beauty pageants, figure skating) and that I was attracted to boys – I felt lost and hopeless. I felt like God was punishing me for something. I felt like I was bad, dirty and deficient. I felt like my family could never love me and that they would disown me. Worst of all, I felt like I was the only one.

Bullied, bothered and bewildered

Bullied, bothered and bewildered

When I was 14, I was bullied, which definitely made things worse. Some kids at my high school must have thought that I was too effeminate or that my voice was too high-pitched. Or maybe they were just jealous that I went to all of the school dances with pretty girls (as friends of course). I heard the word faggot at least once a day, but usually three or four times. Some of the boys made weird high-pitched noises as I walked down the hall, which I discovered was their way of mocking my voice. On a daily basis, these boys asked my female friends if I was gay, why I was gay, and why I just didn’t tell everyone.

My female friends would tell me, and I would just laugh it off. If I couldn’t even admit to myself that I was gay, how would I ever admit to anyone else and tell the teachers that I was being harassed? I’d have to tell them that the boys called me a faggot, which in my head, meant that I would be admitting to being something I wasn’t ready to face.

There were times when I didn’t think I could go on. I had no one to turn to. I had no LGBT role models. Everyone just assumed that because I was a smart Filipino kid I was fine. No one knew that a part of me was dying inside every single day. No one knew that each day I had to convince myself that it would be worth it to make it to the next. No one knew that I easily could have been an LGBT teen suicide statistic.

I honestly can’t tell you how I got through this dark part of my life. The bullying eventually stopped, and the rest of my high school years actually ended up being quite pleasant. But perhaps I went through this daily experience of physically and psychologically feeling the immense pain and sorrow of being victimized so that I would have the opportunity to gain my passion for social justice and equal rights. Perhaps I needed to endure this so that, as an adult, I could feel compassion and empathy for kids whose reality is daily bullying. Perhaps this needed to be part of my history so that I could help to change the future.

Dr. Kevin Nadal wrote this preface, excerpted here, to his latest book “That’s So Gay!: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community.” There will be a reading and launch party on February 22nd at 6:30 p.m. at John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City at 524 W. 59th Street, between 10th/11th Avenue, 9th Floor Event Space. Please RSVP here..


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