A Response to Optimism

In advance, I would like to sincerely thank the Trevor Project, GLSEN, Out Magazine, Capital Pride-D.C, my friends, and most importantly my family for the roles they have played in my life. 

Originally when writing up this particular piece months ago, I didn’t really know where I should start, continue, or even end. I don’t even remember under what circumstances I wrote the piece of writing below and why I felt the need to express myself in such a way. It may have been some random day with a random thought where I was like “Time to write!”. Maybe I was going through something and felt like it was the best way to express myself. Nonetheless, after toying with the idea for a while, I finally want to share with you all what was on my mind that day.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Zach Bomberger

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ~Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

As a child of the 90s, I was born into an era with many different ideas, forms of media, and people that were shaping society. These included Nickelodeon’s Spongebob SquarePants, Saturday Night Live, Michael Jordan, Saved by the Bell, MTV, Mrs. Doubtfire, Pokémon, and Disney movies being produced at a rapid-fire rate.

Furthermore, the invention of cable during this era drew everyone together to spend time and socialize, but as can be assumed with every new advancement, another would be in the process of being developed. The World Wide Web, otherwise known as the Internet, invented in the early 90s ushered the world into the Information Age. This would be a primary cause for the later creation of many other digital platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, Instagram, Twitter, and so on. It would also become the place where I could discover myself and find support as I was coming out during high school. However, before reaching that point, the moments up until that point needed to be shared. 

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

In the beginning years of my life, I didn’t often appreciate how lucky I was to be born into a loving and supportive nuclear family consisting of 4 people: My mom, dad, younger brother, and myself. Including my immediate family, I also have a large extended family that includes a half-sister, maternal grandparents, an aunt, many cousins, nephews, nieces, and others on my mom and dad’s side; all of who are quite equally as loving as is my nuclear family. It didn’t matter whether there were good times or bad, they have all been by my side and I am forever in their debt. Without them, I would not be where I am today standing this strong. Perhaps, I wouldn’t even be alive.

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As I entered middle and high school respectively, I wasn’t an especially popular kid. I did have a few friends and had many good moments with them, but that wasn’t until high school. When I moved from Derby, Kansas to a small town near Manhattan, the first thing I did upon my arrival was enrolling in the local school. When we move to a new school we are all worried as kids about whether we can make friends and fit in, right? My concerns were precisely the same as yours would’ve been.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I was one of the lucky ones upon my start in middle school back in 2004. Within the course of three days, my classmates had already started to consider me “different” or “strange” and that is when the pre-conceptions started to form. From that moment on, I was an outcast and someone with whom people did not want to interact. From elementary to high school, I couldn’t escape it. So as I entered middle school and within that first week, it all started and just gradually got worse.

“It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

My fellow students, with little or no help from our school administration, picked on me relentlessly and on a daily basis, with nothing but the preconceived notion that I was attracted to men and wanted to have sex with each male student in my sight. It didn’t help that at the time the understanding of sexuality wasn’t as modern as it is now, but kids at that age don’t often care about facts or adult thought processes.

These classmates were operating on nothing but their own fears about those who are different and what each of their families or friends said about gay individuals. Backing up a little bit to offer clarification, at this time in my life I did not consider myself attracted to the same sex and wasn’t even sure what sexuality truly was as a concept. The only thing I did know was that for whatever reason, my peers would torment me and call me derogatory names such as faggot, queer, homo, sodomite, deviant, perverted, and fag, by people who seemingly knew no better. 

Before continuing, let me offer a bit of context for those that may not be quite familiar with United States geography. The State of Kansas is located in the United State’s Heartland otherwise known as the Midwest and ironically is also located right in the middle of the country. With that, you might be wondering: What was that experience like?

“Not being heard is no reason for silence.”
― Hugo, Victor, Les Misérables

From my experience, growing up in Kansas was unique. As you might imagine, because of Kansas’ location in the Midwest, the demographic composition is not very diverse. According to the most recent US Census in 2018, Kansas racial composition was 86.5 percent White, while other races made up the remaining 13.5 percent. In addition, a large majority of the State’s population were conservative and religious with evangelical Christianity being the dominant religion. This is still the case even today, but my lovely Kansas has started down the long, often divided road, of becoming more open-minded and tolerant of diversity. Looking back, at that time about ten to 30 years ago it could be assumed that someone discovering their sexuality might feel a little confusion and shame. Moreover, imagine what it might feel like if you feel alienated from your family and the channels of communication are therefore absent. Luckily I could talk to mine, but the next obstacle would present itself: Religion.

From my perspective, a major cause of my torment and feelings of shame, or confusion was in part because many Christians would tell me, “You’re going to hell because God doesn’t accept people like you,” or some abhorrent variation. You tell me: How is a child supposed to react to others telling them who they are, how they are feeling, or simply stating something they seem to resemble is wrong? I understand that many Christians may believe they are doing “God’s Work” and I respect those who wish to have a religion. However, by announcing to others that God doesn’t love all of his children; isn’t that itself against God and what Jesus shared with us in the New Testament?

Their narrow-minded definition of what the Bible states, regarding same-sex relationships and men sleeping with other men, in itself is blasphemy and poppycock. However, this was my reality and I couldn’t escape it. So in response, this would lead me to research and understand what the Bible truly says with regards to same-sex marriage. As can be imagined back then, when I would start school, these issues coupled with bullying from my peers would arise. This is when my mental health started to take a hit.

To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

As the bullying and harassment continued, my parents and younger brother did their best to support me and help me fight what seemed to be a battle I couldn’t win. They tried their best to stand up for me and put an end to the harassment. They would tirelessly defend me and do what they could to get the administration to act, but in vain.

As a result, my self-esteem, grades, and self-worth started to suffer and would eventually drive me to attempt suicide -not once but twice – in 2008 as an 8th grader. Fortunately, I survived. Even though I knew my parents and young brother were always by my side, due to the torment I did what any child would probably do and started to create a little world in which I could find refuge and protection. This resulted in me joining an online platform set up by the Trevor Project, called Trevor Space. This network of fellow LGBT individuals gave me the lifeline I needed to reach out for suggestions, support, and friendship. At that moment, I didn’t feel so alone. 

“If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!”
― victor hugos, Les Misérables

Looking back on that time in my life, it is one that I am glad and thankful that I got through. I tried to kill myself because I felt hopeless and I thought I was struggling through my plight alone, but that was never the case. As a 12-year-old, I had a basic understanding of the world, and the only thing I truly understood was my perplexed feelings. Simultaneously, the Internet was rapidly developing, and it was there where I found assistance away from people who feared me because of their lack of understanding.

This online TrevorSpace community is where I came across people who had been through similar or worse experiences than me and instead of immediately judging me, they supported me through positive advice. I credit this online community coupled with my family for saving my life at a time when I felt lost and alone. Now in 2021, there are so many positively supportive people, groups, and media organizations that work hard for those who are feeling like I did. It’s important for each of us to acknowledge their impacts in our lives and the roles they have in bringing about positive change in the world.

“We can choose to wake up and grumble all day and be bitter and angry and judge others and find satisfaction in others doing bad instead of good. Or we can we wake up with optimism and love and say, ‘Just what is this beautiful day going to bring me?’” – Margaret Trudeau

Photos: Unsplash

Published by thewonderfulweirdo

It needs to be said and heard: it's OK to be who you are. -Hailee Steinfeld

2 thoughts on “A Response to Optimism

  1. Other people can bitchy/make harsh commons on us, that’s because they can only use this way to cover their unsatisfying/miserable/pathetic life. What we need to do is to open our arms and welcome all the good and bad things, good things will leave a tract which will remind us how beautiful this world is, and the bad ones can do nothing but hone our tenacity.


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