Spirit Day & #WhenIBegan


Spirit Day is an annual celebration organized by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (though in reality, they are so much more), as a day of solidarity against bullying and bigotry, and particularly for LGBTQ+ folks.

From GLAAD’s #SpiritDay launch page:

“Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”


From Cameron, Founder of Collage Colorado, LLC
Originally Published on Facebook October, 2014

I tell this story today in honor of #spiritday, a campaign against bullying. I’ve told this story in confidence to a small number of people in my life, but today for the first time I am going to share it publicly. I won’t name names. I don’t want pity. I made my peace with this event years ago.

TRIGGER WARNING: LGBT bullying, sexism, misogyny, physical assault, and some language. I want to warn you now that what I am about to describe is not pretty, and I will not censor it; that may be triggering for some, and if it is, I fully understand if you don’t keep reading.

All of my life I’ve been a small guy. Heck, I’m 5’5” NOW (and I ain’t growin’ any taller, let me assure you). In high school, I wasn’t just short, I was also pretty meek. I read a lot, raised my hand in class all the time, and spent as much time talking to teachers as I did talking to peers. I was a nerd.

I don’t know when he first targeted me. He was an upperclassman, a year or so ahead of me. At some point he decided I was gonna be his proverbial punching bag. I don’t know why. I don’t care. All I know is that we had Spanish together for a year, and sometime during that year he decided that I was the kid who was going to take his assaults.

At first, it was all verbal. Every day, he would find some reason to call me “gay” or “fag” or “queer”. I didn’t know how to respond. Once or twice maybe I told him to “f*** off”, but guaranteed that didn’t change a thing. The teacher apparently didn’t know how to respond either. If she overheard him calling me something, she’d meekly reprimand him, but that’s about it. It hurt me a lot (and yes, I am gay, I am queer, but that’s beside the point). I don’t know if I cried. I do know that at the time, it made me hate myself, and it made me hate going to class. But I had no choice. I wanted to go to college. I lived in a tiny little town, part of a regional district that took three whole towns to make one high school. My parents couldn’t afford private school. I had no options, I had to stay.

If it had stayed verbal, I probably could have dealt with the assaults. It didn’t. One day I came to class; like any other day I hiked the stairs of the old school, and got to class a little early (I never used my locker… I don’t even remember where it was, but it would have been a joke trying to get to it and then to class without being chewed out for being late). That day, the teacher wasn’t there yet, but he was, as well as most of the class. I think he was waiting for me. I got to the door and he was standing there in the frame. He wouldn’t let me in. I tried to push past him, but he was a good deal bigger than me. I got frustrated, and was about to walk away when he pulled the pointer out.

It was one of those old, three-and-a-half foot long wooden pointers with a bullet-shaped rubber tip, and a short nail in the back end to hang it on the wall, near the chalkboard. He scratched my arm with it. I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do. He scratched again, on my other arm. And again. I started to walk away… I don’t know where I thought I was going, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to stand there. When I turned around to leave, he scratched me, HARD, on the back of my neck. I was trying to walk away down the hall when the teacher walked up. She didn’t notice the scratches. I tried to tell her what happened, but she was flustered, and told me to go in and sit down. I did.

After Spanish class, I had lunch. There, my friends noticed the scratches, which were bleeding and swollen. I explained what happened. They told me to go to the nurse… I resisted a bit, but finally agreed and asked some teacher for permission to leave. The nurse was shocked. She put Neosporin on the cuts. She told me she had to tell the principal. I begged her not to; I was so scared. I went back to lunch, and then to my next class. Sometime during that class, I was called to the vice-rincipal’s office. I explained what happened. The vice-principal asked if I wanted to do anything about it. I said yes. His response? If I wanted him to do anything about it, I would have to sit and tell my “side” with the other kid there, next to me. I refused… I was so scared. He said if that was the case, there was nothing he could do. I left. I cried in my next class. Quietly.

When I got home, my parents noticed the cuts. They were really obvious. I told them what happened; my dad was furious. I’ve maybe never seen him so angry. He went into the other room and called the school. I remember him shouting really loudly. He told me when he came back that they’d promised to suspend the other kid. I didn’t feel much better. A little bit, maybe.

The next day, I went to school. The guy who’d cut me was there, too. In Spanish. Walking the halls. The next day, too. And the next. I don’t know who told me, but I asked someone (a teacher, maybe) what was going on. They told me his mom was on the school board, and that she had insisted there was “no way he could have done such a thing!” He was never suspended. He was never punished. I had physical scars for a year. I hated that guy for longer… more years than I’m proud to admit. I wanted some sort of retribution. At some point I let it go, but it tainted – it scarred – a part of my soul for a long time.

Please never take bullying lightly. I recovered. My scars healed, but so often, and for so many, they never do. So many beautiful lives are lost each year to the trauma of bullying. Please, no more. Never again.


#WhenIBegan

If you read all the way through our first-ever Revolutionary Read of the Month post a few days ago, or you’ve been looking around the site recently, you probably saw this mentioned. #WhenIBegan is a hashtag campaign that we’re starting at Collage Colorado… and it needs your help! If you haven’t already, check out the #WhenIBegan hashtag campaign page!

Watch the intro video below!

We’re Going Purple for Spirit Day!

Thursday, October 18th is Spirit Day this year, GLAAD’s day of solidarity against LGBTQ+ bullying, and to show our support we’re making our logo purple across the interwebs for the week, and we’d love to see you do the same! Join us in standing up for LGBTQ youth, and make your social media profiles purple, too.

Also, keep an eye out for a special Spirit Day article later this week!

The Shop is Officially Open!

Find it on Facebook!

Although our shop is not Collage’s primary focus, it is an important part of the work that we do; sales from our shop fund the classes and enrichment programs that we run in Denver Public Schools. Thank you so much for your interest in our work!

National Coming Out Day 2018

Happy National Coming Out Day Collage Fam!

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day this year. National Coming Out Day is a change for LGBTQ+ folks around the country to stand together in solidarity against bullying, bigotry, and oppression, by raising our voices loudly and declaring our queerness! It’s a big deal each year, particularly for people who are otherwise deeply marginalized (make no mistake, LGBTQ+ folks here and around the world face intense oppression every day, and it is only compounded by folks’ intersecting identities).

We take this holiday especially seriously here because LGBTQ folks make up much of the Collage Fam… in fact, both our founder and his partner Maníge outspokenly identify as queer!

Whether you’re out or not, this day is for you. If you feel or know that you cannot come out, this day is still for you. If you’re struggling to build the courage to come out, this day is definitely for you. No matter what though, stay safe. Owning your identity is liberating, but it should never be at the expense of your safety!

Even if you don’t identify on the LGBTQ spectrum, though, you can always be an ally. There are lots of ways to do this; you might:

  • Come out as straight! It might feel weird, but that feeling is nothing compared to what queer folks face coming out every day.
  • Wear a pride shirt, button, or other item to show solidarity.
  • Speak with your LGBTQ friends (if they’re comfortable, of course,) about their coming out experiences. Or just make space for them to share, if they choose.

Whatever you do, remember that this is a day for LGBTQ+ visibility; help make that a reality!

Cheers.


#WhenIBegan

As you may have seen elsewhere on the site or on social media, Collage Colorado, LLC is working to start a hashtag campaign for the hashtag #WhenIBegan. Watch the intro video above, and check out the #WhenIBegan launch page!

Revolutionary Read of the Month | October, 2018

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

As you may have heard, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is something we take very seriously here at Collage Colorado, and so we thought it was appropriate that this month we feature a book about feeling different, how scary that can be, and why maybe it doesn’t have to be so scary after all.

Jacqueline Woodson’s new children’s book The Day You Begin is phenomenal – a book that manages to really capture the feeling of realizing that you’re different from your peers, and that they don’t always see that as a good thing. The books is beautifully illustrated, with rich artwork accentuating numerous – anxious – perspectives. Fear not, though, as Woodson makes sure to end on a high note. Pick it up and check for yourself!

The Details:


#WhenIBegan

See our dedicated #WhenIBegan page for more details about the Instagram campaign inspired by this book!