On Saturday October 31, 1992, I sat down in my Batman PJs in front of my TV ready for my traditional Saturday morning cartoon marathon. Eight year old me was elated with joy and intrigue as a new show aired, X-Men: The Animated Series. I was drawn in instantly by the amazing 90’s guitar driven intro and the flash and sparkle of the introduction of all the characters. However, after that intro things began to change. What started off looking like a typical action-packed villain of the week type of show turned into a deep and serious conversational one. I found myself completely invested in the story as it followed a young girl named Jubilee and her new friends who were out just to help her. They just wanted her to be safe in a school called Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
My Origin Story
I was born with what’s known as Bilateral clubbed feet. It’s a deformity where one foot or both appear to have been rotated internally at the ankle. Without treatment, people with club feet often appear to walk on their ankles or on the sides of their feet. Being bilateral, I had both feet rotated. After many years of surgery, special shoes, and inserts, I had gotten to the point where I could walk, but it was certainly on the sides of my feet most of the time. This condition made typical kid stuff like running, hiking, etc. difficult to do.
Because I couldn’t do what the other boys were doing, I was instantly an outcast. I was an easy target for other eight year olds and school ground bullies. While my mom was always there for me, sadly my step-father (who I’ve always looked up to as the manliness man I’ve known) did not have much patience for me. At age eight things weren’t too terrible, but still the feelings of being an outcast were real and to find a show that highlighted that emotion was intriguing.
Shortly after discovering the X-Men, my new heroes, my family moved to a small town in Missouri. It was here the bullying escalated. Most of the kids around me were farm children or super athletic. They found their identity in what was around them and they flourished. Sadly, I was about as opposite from all of that as one could be. I didn’t like running; I liked watching movies like Logan’s Run (1976). I didn’t like sports, but I liked comics about intergalactic games that held the fate of the universe!
Much like Jubliee and the other young mutants, I knew I was different; I just didn’t understand why so many people had an issue with it. Now I want to make a disclaimer here, while I was bullied greatly, it wasn’t by everyone in this town or even in my class. There are great deal of fantastic people who went to school with me and lived in that town, but those who did bully me… they felt like Senator Kelly’s mob protesting and crying out for the Mutant Registration Act.
As I walked the halls, I was called things I wouldn’t want to put on paper. I was pushed and mocked on the playground. I had things taken away from me and I was taunted because I wasn’t strong or fast enough to get them back. I longed to be like Nightcrawler in those days, to be able to teleport out of the situation or slide into a dark corner and simply disappear. I longed to have a Professor X roll up to my school and invite me to a special school for gifted children so I could feel safe, accepted, and taught that what made me different was a gift and not something to be shunned.
Flash forward many years later, I’m proud to say I’ve been through the danger room at Xavier’s and am currently residing on one of the many teams that make up the X-Men. My mission is to help find other young, lone mutants who have yet to discover the gates of Xavier’s Institute. But what do you do in the mean time? What do you do if you’ve yet to find others like yourself? What about those of you who were never a lone “mutant” who was bullied and felt out of place? What can you do?
Well, the rest of the article is for you guys.
To the Lone Mutant
I reached out to a real life Professor Xavier, Jody Dyess of Say Something School Assemblies. His job is to literally go into schools and find the outcasts and help them. His personal team of X-Men travel the nation doing school assemblies that raise awareness about bullying and human trafficking, a common end result of people who don’t get the help they need. I asked Jody what the most important thing he would say to someone struggling with bullying is:
“Don’t hold it in silence… talk to somebody. Talk to somebody you love and respect that will listen to you. One of the biggest lies out there is sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you. It’s a big lie. They [words] stack up on you big and will destroy you.”
The most important thing you can do is be vocal and let people you trust in your life know you need help. Jody comes at this from a very personal direction. His daughter was bullied to the point that she had attempted to commit suicide. The problem wasn’t that no one listened to her; it was that she never told anyone. She would delete messages and hide posts so her parents and those in her life who could help her would not see them.
My fellow lone mutant, I know it’s scary to lift your voice at times. You worry that some Sentinel is going to come out of the sky in the form of an Instagram post, Snapchat, or in personal confrontation and wipe you out if you say anything at all. But don’t let that fear stop you. There are those in your life who can help, but they can’t if they don’t know you need help.
Don’t feel like you can trust teachers, friends, or family? Reach out to groups like Say Something Assemblies or if you are really on the edge and are afraid you are going to hurt yourself, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You’re not alone. There are those who can help you get through this situation.
To Those Who Have Been Through Xavier’s and Those Who Aren’t Mutants
It’s time to strap an X to your chest and move out. Statistics tell us 1 in 3 young people have reported being bullied at school. While many of it takes place in person, with the rise of social media and the peer pressure to ask people to anonymously rate/comment on you, cyber bullying has been on the rise. These people need our help; they need us to stand in the gap and show them there’s a way out.
Sadly, sometimes people who are bullied end up like the Morlocks, the group of mutants who instead of taking a stand have hidden themselves away in the darkness. True they are caring for each other, but they are still hurting and aren’t getting the healing they need. Often in these groups you will hear them say, “well I told them not to say anything” or “let’s just keep it between us” thinking the shared pain will help in the end. But according to Jody Dyess, the old saying of “Silence is Golden” is a lie. Silence only helps to encourage the bullying and oppress the bullied.
Look for signs of bullying. Is someone suddenly making major changes to the way they act, dress, or talk? Are they hiding themselves away when in groups of people? Are they suddenly very secretive when before they were very open?
They need a Xavier to step into their lives and not only offer camaraderie, but also a place of healing; to teach them how to get through life and then on the flip side, help others who need help. Often times if someone would step in and confront the bully, it’s discovered that the bully is only reflecting what he’s been through. Many bullies are more like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (a group of mutants that band together and push around those who don’t see things their way) than they realize. Out of their pain they have decided to hurt others.
End of Class
At the end of my conversation with Jody, he mentioned a few practical things to me. First was the fact there are groups out there people can get hold of if they need help. I’ve mentioned those earlier. I want to encourage you that if you are being bullied, know someone who is being bullied, or maybe you are a leader in your community and you know the seriousness of the situation in your community, contact those who can help make a change. It’s never too late until it’s actually too late.
Something interesting he told me was bullying isn’t just about the person doing the hurting and the hurt. It opens many doors that have major ramifications. If someone is bullied to the point of suicide, then the bully has not only hurt one person, but now they have hurt entire families and communities. Another major issue rarely brought up is those who are bullied have such low self esteem, they find themselves responding to anyone who will give them positive attention. Sadly, this is a major way many young girls and boys are brought into human slavery. They find themselves trapped by people who make them do horrible things because that person was the only person to show them any kind of positive attention. In turn, they believe the lie that they deserve nothing better and can get nothing better.
The final thing he told me that I had no idea about was here in my state of Louisiana and many others across the nation, it’s a felony to cyber-bully. He encourages people to look at their local laws and see if they are living in one of these states and make sure your local schools know the seriousness of bullying and cyber-bullying. If you do not live in one of those states, please contact your local government officials and get the ball rolling on helping those who need help.
Be the Professor Xavier to the thousands of hurting people in need of hope.
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