I can remember every single time I’ve been bullied.  


Growing up a skinny, scrawny army brat with scholastic aptitude, I was always different.  And moving into the inner city of St. Louis for the first time, I was always shown just how different I was.  


I can never forget the time I was bullied and taunted for wearing an all yellow Nautica shorts outfit (it was my favorite outfit at the time), and I can remember being followed and taunted by the boys in my neighborhood all the way home, and having to redirect my route home after school to avoid further confrontation.  


When you become prey for vicious predators, you learn coping methods, and more importantly, methods to blend in.  But you learn that being a black LGBT kid in the ‘hood, you can’t blend in.  And so you wait, hope, and pray, that another target appears.  


I’ve called every name, I’ve been spit on, been laughed at, and been ridiculed.  Being bullied changes you; it takes away from the joy of everyday life and replaces it with anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame.  You are on edge, and on constant defense.  


Being bullied as an LGBT youth of color, the only thing you learn is how hateful people are.  You realize that bullying is not a rite of passage, and a lot of time, it does not go away, and only intensifies and gets worse.  


Several years after my middle school bullying, I was a college graduate, living in LA, and on the train with one of my best friends who was in town visiting.  Because of my gender identity and expression, we were ridiculed, name called by nearly an entire traincar.  And those who weren’t engaging in the bullying did not come to our aid or defense.  Their silence spoke to their complacency.  I can still feel the bottle of water that was thrown at us as everyone laughed and heckled. 


That experience changed everything for me; from what times I rode the Metro train to even where I sat on the train.  


They say that bullying is an adolescent rite of passage; that you’re ‘made fun of’, you get tough skin, and then you grow up.  That you learn from it.  I was once bright and vibrant, but the years of bullying hollowed me out some; making me a little more distant and closed-off.  I grew thicker skin and learned to be more alert and aware.  I also realized that other’s perceptions of me do not define me nor control my life or existence.



I wish Nigel Shelby could’ve gotten to the other side.  I wish he could’ve been able to see that while this world may not get or be better, he deserved every opportunity in life to experience the world and make it his own.  


We are losing too many of our kids, and our youth to bullying.  Too many of our LGBT babies, our little brothers and sisters are dying; when it’s not at the hands of hate and bigotry, it’s at their own hands.  


Bullying, hate, and bigotry isn’t an LGTB problem.  It’s a universal problem; one that affects everyone.  Nigel Shelby isn’t the first and won’t be the last if we don’t get to the root of the hate and bigotry that continues to separate and divide.  Until then, we must live for Nigel Shelby, and those gone too soon.  

Rest in peace, Nigel Shelby