Some names have been changed
Going into high school, I had my guard up. I was just coming home from two years in foster care and I was quiet and slow to trust. I was able to make friends, but I suffered a few betrayals. The first one was by a “friend” named Dustine.
Since I was 11, I knew that I was attracted to girls. In 6th grade, I had my first girlfriend. To keep our secret, my girlfriend and I wrote to each other in a diary we passed back and forth.
But one day, Dustine took the book from me and read it to our whole class. Some kids were grossed out that two girls had kissed.
This wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My grandma had already told me she loved me no matter what gender I loved, and that gave me confidence about being gay. In the end, I didn’t lose friends over it. But I knew that people who I thought were my friends could do mean things like Dustine did. Making friends became hard over time.
I started high school at Urban Assembly for Music and Art, an alternative school, with smaller classes than at my middle school. At lunch, I sat by myself or went to the bathroom or an empty classroom until it was over.
Settling for the Wrong Friends
As the months went by, I made friends with people I had known back in middle school. I became part of a tight group with four other 9th grade girls: Shameka, Margol, Ruby, and Dustine. Yes, the same Dustine who’d read my diary to the class. I decided I could be friends with her again, but I still didn’t fully trust her.
Soon, however, I learned that they were mean and gossipy. I didn’t trust them. But I didn’t have other friends so I stuck with them.
In March of 9th grade, we decided to dance together as a group at a program after school. While we were dancing, Shameka said, “Someone here needs a shower.” She said it loud enough for everyone to hear.
I laughed along with the group. But once the class ended, I went to the bathroom to cry. I knew they were talking about me. Real friends would tell you nicely and in private about something like body odor. Instead, Shameka humiliated me in front of other people.
Then the four girls stopped making room for me at the lunch table. Soon, they stopped even acknowledging me, as if I was nothing to them. I was hurt and confused. I didn’t know why they had turned on me.
Verbal Bullying Turns Physical
A few weeks after I started eating alone, Dustine came up to me in the staircase at school—the one with no cameras—and said, “You called me fake?” She had a large crowd behind her.
I was confused, shocked and afraid, but I answered that I didn’t call her fake, and she walked away without doing anything.
I felt great that I stood up for myself, but it didn’t last long. After school I saw her again but this time she was with the three other girls. Dustine got in my face and a huge fight ensued. I blacked out. When I came back to my senses, we were lying on the concrete, each other’s hair tangled between our knuckles. My shoes were off.
After this fight, my counselor and I discussed my options, and I decided to transfer to Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts for my sophomore year.
Unfortunately, the problem of fighting transferred with me. I stayed to myself, but people kept picking on me. I resisted fighting back until a few months into the semester when a girl named Kalee said something to me in the hall. She had been glaring at me for a couple days and I was getting judged and talked about before anyone got to know me. We punched and kicked, and when we fell to the floor I repeatedly kicked her in her face as she grabbed and pulled my hair. Other kids joined in.
When the fight finally ended, patches of my dyed bright red hair were scattered across the floor. A lot of the juniors and seniors got suspended, and so did I.
Someone to Trust
By my senior year, I had stopped going regularly and began smoking a lot of weed, and then I met Danny. Though we’d just met, she comforted me and supported me. She told me she’d lived in a shelter for a year and that she was scared. Her opening up helped us get closer. I finally found someone my own age I could trust.
I moved in with Danny and her parents. Danny encouraged me to go back to school, so I enrolled in Downtown Brooklyn YABC (Young Adult Borough Center). Now, I want to pursue my dream of being a writer or journalist, so I can have a voice.
Ever since I was young I felt silenced by most people. But when I write in my diary, I feel free to express myself.
Going into foster care and getting bullied built up so much sadness and rage in me. And having to fight my old friends hurt.
But telling Danny what I was going through and how I was feeling helped me. Danny tells me she’s proud of me when I try new things. She’s also proud of me for not giving up on my writing.
I still have trouble trusting people, but I’ve benefited from opening up to the right people. Even if someone can’t solve the problem, it still helps to talk.