WARNING: This post includes graphic information — viewer discretion is advised.
The following post was written and shared by a Reddit member who says he was part responsible for bullying a gay teen when they were in high school. The post is extremely long and full of very graphic details, but we feel it is too powerful not to share.
We hope his candid story will open hearts and and transform souls:
I was a teenager during the 90s and grew up in a somewhat rural part of what is still a deep red part of the U.S. Life revolved around high school, sports, Sunday church, hunting and all that. Very Friday Night Lights. I was a good student but also in the jock crowd, and it was the nature of the beast that you gave shit to lessers at school.
When I was a senior, I hung out with two other boys I’ll call Joe and Rob. Joe was the ringleader, Rob and I pretty much followed his lead. I wasn’t confident enough to be a leader, so I was one of those middle-of-the-pack mooks who did what the leaders said. By that year we’d gotten into weed, and Joe was our hookup, so we were his friends.
Keep in mind this mix of things about me, not as an excuse for anything you’re about to read, but an explanation: 1) 17 year old boy, 2) ultra-conservative family, 3) rural America, 4) 20 years ago.
So you can guess how we felt about homosexuals: completely alien and inhuman to us. All we ever heard was that “fags” were child molesters, prancing sissies, communists, etc. They would go to Hell. It was pervasive in our world to despise gays. They weren’t people, and this was pretty much universally accepted.
When I was a senior, a new kid named Drew came into our school, his parents had moved from out-of-state. He was a sophomore so I’d guess 15 and an instant target. He was new and different. He was small, skinny, and pale. He was a quiet, shy nerd who wore uncool clothes. He was into Pogs (90s kids will know) and other stuff that was lame to us. But worst of all for him, he was effeminate and like the wolves we were we honed in on him. It wasn’t every day at first, but as the year went on we got worse to him. My guys weren’t the only ones who got him, but we were the worst.
“Fag, faggot, queer, homo, pervert, butt pirate, cocksucker, dicklicker,” and anything else you imagine were hurled at him, said as we coughed into our fist (we were clever eh?). Knocked him with our shoulders and bookbags. Gave him “friendly” punches to his arms that were meant to cause pain. Tripped him in the hallway. Threw his notebooks around. Gave him wet willies and asked him if it was like his boyfriend’s tongue. Let out the air in his bike tires. We’d get in our daily abuse and humiliation on him and feel satisfied with ourselves. We kept it just low-key enough at school that nobody ever stopped us. Teachers would warn us when we said shit to him in class, but that was it. He never complained to the school administrators.
I must stress: through all this, Drew never really fought back. He didn’t deny being gay, and that set us off. He would just take it when we called him names. He’d scurry away from us when we came near him. He was afraid of us, and we loved it. And the kid never ever EVER did a thing to deserve it. We did it because we thought it was fun and we’d get in our daily abuse on him and feel satisfied with ourselves. But in no way were we “just having fun” with him or believed what we were doing was harmless to him. He wasn’t human to us, he was a “fag” loser. We talked openly about how we wanted to make his life miserable so he’d go away.
The one day where Drew finally didn’t just take it from us is what led to the incident that guts me. Joe had been escalating the physical stuff—slamming into lockers, slapping his face and such. Drew snapped and tried to fight back. Skinny kid maybe 5’5” jumping on a 6’+ athlete and trying to pummel him. It was quickly broken up by a teacher. None of us were impressed by his fighting back, we thought it was hilarious and pathetic. But Joe was PISSED at him and we decided that the kid deserved a good beating for it.
The opportunity came a week or two later. There was a shitty mall in our town, and being bored teenagers we would hang out there when we didn’t have better things to do. As total douchebags, Joe, Rob and I would walk around in it and act like we were kings. On a Saturday night we happened to see Drew there, by himself.
‘I’ll stress: what you’re about to read was planned. The moment we saw him, the three of us coldly planned out how we were going to give him a beating. We laughed to each other about it being “smear the queer.” At no point during this did I have one ounce of misgiving about what we were going to do.
WARNING: I’m not going to hold back here. This is going to be horrible and brutal. I have to describe what we did to this kid because if I don’t, I am white-washing it. Writing this stuff out is the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.
We waited in Joe’s truck outside for Drew to exit and get on his bike. He took off down a back road we all knew that was about 2 miles through woods back to the part of town where he lived. We waited for him to get down the road some ways and then went after him.
First thing Joe did when we spotted Drew on his bike was to get right behind him and rev the engine. I don’t know if he realized who was behind him, but Joe had a big-ass truck. He tried to move to the shoulder, but Joe stayed with him. I told Joe to get as close as he could and try to “tap” his rear wheel. The kid was pedaling like crazy and we were laughing our asses off. Finally he veered his bike off into the grass and fell off it and Joe stopped the truck right away.
We hopped out and before Drew could get up we grabbed him and threw his bike into the truck bed and pushed him into the truck cabin. He was clearly terrified and shaking as I held him and we drove to an entry drive to an industrial yard just off the road. I remember he didn’t say a word as we drove, while Joe outright told him we were going to give him a beating for his behavior, especially his attempt to fight back earlier.
After we parked, I hauled him out and one of the others grabbed his bike and threw it on the ground. First thing the other 2 did was stomp on his bike some and bend the wheels. Drew didn’t say a thing, I kept holding him. I remember having his arm in my grip and he was trembling.
Joe then took the lead. He started lightly slapping Drew across the face and taunting him for being a faggot, a pervert and for thinking he could fight him. Told him to go ahead and start fighting him if he wanted to. If he wanted to ever be a man, he’d have to prove it. Harder slaps. Grabbing his hair and pulling it. Joe slugged him in the stomach and I let him drop to the ground.
By this time Drew was crying, pleading for Joe to stop and finally trying to squirm away. Joe told me to get his legs, and I did. Joe then began punching him in his face while he was on the ground. Rob and I kicked his legs. We kicked his sides. We kicked his stomach. I know my foot made contact with his groin at least once. Drew shrieked and bawled. He rolled over, tried to crawl. We were a mass of kicking and punching then. We spat on him, called him “fag” and “faggot” and “queer” over and over. My adrenaline was pumping, it was like I was out of my own body. I got in my own punches. I don’t know how long this lasted, but less than five minutes. Three 6’+ tall guys wailing on a 15-year-old half our size without giving a damn.
Rob was the one who said he’d had enough and we stopped. We were all heaving like animals surrounding a kill we’d hunted. We let Drew roll around crying and moaning on the ground. His face was a mass of blood and tears and spit. Joe told us to stand him up and we did. If there is a tiny, eensy sliver of humanity here, it’s that we wanted to make sure he could still walk so he could go home.
Joe grabbed his throat and said that Drew would tell his momma that he got jumped by someone he didn’t know who robbed him. He actually pulled the kid’s wallet out of his pants and took his money. That’s right, we fucking robbed him of a few bucks we didn’t need to cover our tracks. If Drew told anyone we did this, the threat was clear: he’d die. We then got in the truck and tore off, leaving Drew in the dark a mile from anywhere.
The rest of the night is a blur for me. I was coming down from the adrenaline high. But I remember thinking that it must be like a soldier who is in combat the first time. I’d never fought much before, and never delivered a beating like that. It was exhilarating. We laughed. I remember seeing I had some blood on my knuckles, and some on my sneaker. There was a joke about catching AIDS.
I slept just fine that night, and was almost certainly in Church the next day with my parents. I don’t remember thinking anything much about what we’d done. That week at school was back to normal for us, except Drew wasn’t there. At some point word got out he’d gotten jumped, robbed and beaten bad enough to need to go to the ER. Joe, Rob and I didn’t say a word to anyone about it, as we were nervous we’d get in trouble (not arrested mind you—didn’t think anything we did to a “queer” would be something the law would care about). But we never did. I don’t know if others suspected us in the attack, but honestly after a couple days nobody even talked about it. Nobody seemed to care.
Drew never came back to school, and we barely noticed. As far as we were concerned we’d made the point to him, gotten it out of our system and were glad he was gone. I assumed his family moved, I never bothered to find out. Life went on. Later in the year Joe, Rob and I got caught for smoking pot at the school and suspended. My parents flipped and that was when I pretty much had to end my friendship with them.
I went to college at a school with a reputation for being fairly liberal. That was when I begin to have my change in views and outlook. I vividly remember at freshman orientation I made some comment to a group I was hanging with about someone I saw being a “faggot,” and getting looks of horror and glares. I was called out on it, and I quickly backpedaled. As I’ve said, I was a follower, and once I realized I was in a different social world, my attitude changed quickly. Surrounded by more open-mindedness, I adapted.
And I met gay people in this world, and had to interact with them as normal human beings. There still weren’t a whole lot of openly homosexual people back then, but they were a visible group on a small-ish campus. I was repulsed and stand-offish at first, but as I became more familiar it just stopped being something that bothered me. At points I hung around gay guys, even flamboyant ones, at parties.
How could I do this after what I did? Because by that point, believe it or not, I’d mostly forgotten the whole thing. I’d say I suppressed it, but that sounds like I was somehow traumatized and blocking it out. But that’s not accurate. Drew had been so insignificant to me that it just didn’t matter, it registered about as much as swatting a fly.
I graduated, started a career, married and had a kid. The first inklings I had in my mind of something wrong came from watching my son grow up. If you’re a dad you know what I mean when I say having your own kid can totally change how you are about things. I obsessed over what I’d do if anyone ever tried to harm him, and I began to have flashes in my mind of another poor kid who someone did harm pretty fucking badly.
I tried to not remember, but I couldn’t shake it. So I then tried to rationalize things: I was a just a dumb kid who didn’t know any better, it was a different time, it was about the society I was in. Worst of all, I thought maybe what we did wasn’t really that bad, no doubt Drew got over it quickly and was just fine. No amount of this stopped me from thinking about it. More and more. Like a veil slowly lifting, the details of that night and what I did came back. Vividly, piece by piece.
My marriage was already not good as I tended to work non-stop and there were other issues between my wife and I. Now I was becoming riddled with anxiety whenever I wasn’t occupied by something. And the rationalizations chipped away. I would look at myself in the mirror and see someone who wasn’t what I’d thought. Someone I hated.
One night I sat in my home office and I had the clear realization that I was an utter piece of shit. I stopped in anyway trying to brush it off and rationalize, I just fucking accepted it. I bawled. I just collapsed. I admitted to myself the fact that I had done something so inhumane to someone who didn’t deserve a bit of it.
Briefly, as this is already too long: I’m now in my upper 30s and divorced, with joint custody of my boy. My existence is consumed by three things: work, being a dad, and living with the crushing guilt of what I’ve done. I wake up thinking about Drew. I imagine his terror, his pain, his humiliation, his sadness. I go to sleep with him in my mind. I look at my hand and see his blood on it. I see his gory face. I hear his shrieks. And it’s not just the guilt over the beating, it’s not just the guilt over everything else I did to him before that. It’s the guilt that I never felt a bit bad about it for nearly 20 years.
For a brief time I tried to search for anything I could find online about Drew. I don’t remember his last name, where he lived, what his family did or anything. I know almost nothing about him. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I ever found him. I wanted to know he was alive and well and living better than I am right now. And yes, I know why that’s self-serving. Like I said, piece of shit. I also looked for my accomplices. I’d heard even while I was in college that Joe was in jail, no sign of him. I found Rob through his family back home, he has ignored my contact attempts.
Would Drew even want to hear from me? Have me apologize to him? What triggered this entire confession is that I began reading reddit pages where former bullies stated their remorse and discussions about apologies. There are news stories of former bullies making up with those they hurt. But what I did was so monstrous the notion of an apology is fucking absurd, insulting. And my great fear would be that he’s moved on and blocked it out, and turning up would traumatize him again. Last thing I want. And many comments in reddit threads I read reinforced this.
Also, purely selfish and cowardly: I have my son to raise, and I am confessing this anonymously because I don’t want to in any way jeopardize my career and family. I should be in prison for what I did, and while I know it was too long ago to be held against me legally, the consequences of being exposed for this are just too much. I’m a hypocrite too, as I’ve made every effort to raise my boy to respect everyone and never hate. If he knew his true dad…
I could also point out that I am now 100% pro-equality, support gay marriage, etc. That’s nice of me, right? Except I haven’t actually lifted a goddamned finger for any of that. And even if I had, it would not come even close to making up for what I did.
I don’t say any of that to get sympathy from anyone. I deserve NOTHING. I deserve worse than nothing. I say all of this because I want people to know just how inhumane guys like me were, and let any young people out there who think what they do to others is OK if it’s fun that they will BURN for it. I’m not religious anymore, but I sometimes think there should be a Hell for someone like me. You will come to regret doing bad things to people every fucking day of your life. I originally titled this “I Was A Gay Basher,” but I’m not letting myself off the hook. I don’t get to erase that from my identity.
I am sorry to all of you out there who were harassed, bullied and beaten up for being different when you were young. It was not ever OK. Anyone who tries to downplay the trauma you experienced is a piece of shit like me. You did not deserve it.
And To Drew: Sweet Jesus, Drew, I am sorry. I am so, so, so fucking sorry. You never did a thing to deserve anything I or anyone else did to you. You aren’t the inhuman one, I am. There was never anything wrong with you, it was us. Nothing I could ever say or do could come close to in any way atoning for what I did. I’d grovel at your feet and you’d be right to spit on me. I will go to my grave with remorse, I am ashamed of myself beyond words. I don’t in any way ask for your forgiveness, I have no damned right. I desperately hope you are living a good life and can be happy. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
The author of the post later said in the comments section that he would never contact Drew, but it appears he found some sort of healing by sharing his thoughts.