Rebel Who Found Her Cause

“You must never be fearful when what you are doing is right”  ~Rosa Parks~ 

When thinking about what to write for this blog, I was faced with a decision. Do I really want people to know the “real” me?? I so often use humor and sarcasm to keep people at a “safe distance”, emotionally speaking. Do I really wanna let people “in” or should I just amuse them with jokes and move on? What people fail to realize, is the people that make you laugh the hardest, are quite often masking a deep sadness. Hmmm…………decisions, decisions. I finally decided on the latter, so here goes nothin’.

If you would’ve asked me at any point in my life if I thought I would be an anti-bullying/equality advocate, I would have laughed hysterically. In fact, a frequent victim of bullying as a child, I became full of rage and set on vengeance. I can tell you the exact point in my life when this transformation occurred. I was in 5th grade, my brother in 3rd. We had moved quite a bit during my childhood and this is extremely difficult under normal circumstances, but we also happened to be poor. My mother gave birth to me when she was 15 years old and just 17 when she had my brother. We struggled, we moved a lot (I went to 6 different elementary schools by 5th grade), my dad left us when I was 10. So, needless to say my brother and I were perfect targets for bullies. Making friends is difficult at that age, especially when you don’t have cool clothes or all the “in” toys, or couldn’t afford a telephone or cable. So my brother and I got a constant string of laughs, comments, teasing, and just plain ignorance.

It all came to a head one day in 5th grade. It was shortly after transferring to another school, in the middle of the year, I might add! My brother and I were walking home from school (we actually did that in the old days). Two older boys were walking behind us calling us names, nothing new there. Well, the boys decided to take it even further and started shoving us around. Before I knew it, they had my brother on the ground beating him and kicking him. I ran home crying as fast as I could to get help. When we got back to my brother, the boys were gone. I was still crying, but this time my insides felt like they were on fire! I remember thinking, “I’m so sick of this, I will be damned if it happens again”. Seriously it was like my entire personality changed. I was shaken to the core and I wanted to make people pay!

From that day on I BECAME THE BULLY. I got into fights almost daily. I picked on people, hit people, made anyone and everyone feel the pain that I had experienced for so long. I became a “problem student”, a smart alek, a teacher’s worst nightmare. As each grade passed I became more and consumed with anger and rage. Before long I was no longer in control of my anger, it was in control of me. It was blinding me. It was getting in the way of my relationship with my mom, my friends, everyone. I got kicked out of school, was constantly grounded, and all the while becoming more and more angry. The thing is, if people are afraid of you, they do not pick on you.  I do not even remember many of the fights I got in. I have been reminded years later by the victims of my rage. Thankfully, as adults most have been able to move past my indiscretions.

You may be wondering what made me change my deviant ways. Well it wasn’t a what, it was a who. A softball coach. She refused to believe that I was this “bad” kid that I worked so hard become. She believed in me. I hadn’t felt like someone believed in me for a long time. It felt good. I wouldn’t let her know that though. I tried to push her away, say mean things, hurt her feelings, but she was still there for me. She still believed in me. “Is this lady an idiot or does she like to be abused”, is what I would think all the time. It turns out, neither was true. She was just a kind, loving person who really did believe in me. It’s strange, but just knowing this somehow made me feel less angry. Of course, this wasn’t the only changing factor, but it was a huge part of it.

My mother did her best, but she worked full time and was raising 3 kids, she had my sister when I was 10. So, while I knew she loved me (she’s my best friend now), she struggled to handle all of my “attitude”! So, I wanted to be as involved with my kids as I could. That was one of my goals as a Scout Leader. I wanted to be part of my son’s life and share all the great bonding experiences that scouting offers. I wanted a chance to be that guiding force for some kid who maybe just needed to know someone believed in him. I truly felt like I was making a difference  in these boys’ lives. Then, it was ripped out from under me, not because I wasn’t leader material, I had been told repeatedly that I was exceptional at it, but because I was gay. I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. I was being denied this amazing bonding experience with my son, something no parent should ever be denied. Well that wasn’t ok with me. I felt like a kid, right back in fifth grade. I was being BULLIED again!! The difference this time was it is totally LEGAL for the BSA to bully people who are gay.

Well, I am much, much older than I was in fifth grade and much more capable of handling my anger, usually. That is why I, along with many, many others backing me, set out to change this damaging BSA policy. Because I know for a fact, that a child feeling as though they don’t belong or aren’t good enough, can have very negative effects on a child’s fragile psyche. Join me in my fight for equality at No child should ever be left out.


Jennifer Tyrrell


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  • Jen – I love that you are so blunt about being a bully as a kid AND the reasons you made that survival choice. It really speaks to how much of an impact adults can have. Thanks for a powerhouse post. Looking forward to your next bit …

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