Exposure Therapy: Caroline

Caroline Gruenstein, Guest Writer

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Eden Prairie schools have somewhat of a reputation to uphold, being that we are a very diverse, kind, and accepting community. For the most part, I agree with this. I’ve certainly never been slammed into lockers, gotten my lunch money stolen, or been punched in the face, all because I’m different. I think that we would all like to think that our school is better than this. Better than bullies. 

Though there are the many who dread showing their faces in school, due to fear of having the words “loser” or “faggot” screamed at them every time they pass “the wall”, they are few and far apart. I, amongst many others, receive this discrimination in a different, more covert way.

When I was in seventh grade, it wasn’t totally unknown that I was not straight. Up until that point, no one had ever made fun of me or made me feel different because of it. Then, in first-quarter gym, I began receiving notes in my gym locker. At first, they weren’t all that bad. They were things like “you’re dumb” or “I hate you.” Throughout the quarter, they got progressively more hurtful and personal. I started to get notes that said things like “you’re a fag,” “you should kill yourself,” “everyone hates you,” and “dumb gay.”

I decided to bring this to the attention of my dean. I gave her some of the notes and told her that they were from someone in my gym class. She picked one of the ones that called me a fag. She read it out loud, looked at me, and said, “well, are you?” To which I responded, “uh, am I what?” In a very stern voice, she said to me “are you a lesbian?” I laughed and just said “like am I a ‘fag’? Are you seriously asking me to clarify whether or not the notes are true?” She said yes. I told her that I was in fact, technically a “fag,” though I did not see how that could possibly be relevant to the fact that she needed to help me. She told me that if the notes were telling the truth, I could not go to her and tell her that I was being bullied because bullies could call you names and lies and “this student was just stating facts about you.” She threw away the notes, smiled at me, and told me we were done. 

Not once, since this day, have I gone to someone and asked for help when someone was treating me unkindly. I’ve been too scared and too embarrassed to ask for help. I’ve feared rejection and invalidation. Eden Prairie Schools may have great sports teams, high funds, and peppy students, but it is not the wonderful, accepting school that it is made out to be.