I’m reading THE CHOCOLATE WARS by Robert Cormier, first published in 1974. It was banned but also received high praise and numerous awards. It is dark, but FANTASTIC. Some of the characters are cruel. A teacher publicly humiliates a student by whipping him across the face. The teens tease each other relentlessly.
Back in high school, kids played practical jokes and teased anyone who was different. I never had cruel teachers, but I watched kids being cruel to each other and was teased myself for being small ("shrimp") and smart ("brain") and Jewish ("kike").
But I remember the most common derogatory remark was: “you’re gay.”
One kid almost got beat up by a lesbian at the beach when he yelled “dikes” at two women kissing. (We knew there was a gay beach just past the vollyball courts.) One of then women came over and screamed, towering over his beach chair. We’d been drinking. I doubt that kid ever forgot that day. You could see the fear on his face.
Most teenagers lack the confidence of that woman. Teenagers hate being singled out as different and many are so confused, they don’t even admit to themselves they are gay. Thus, the high suicide rate among gay teens.
Recent Young Adult novels on homosexuality help gays teens come out of the closet, or at least be more comfortable with themselves. It is easy to forget, living next door to West Hollywood, how dangerous being gay can be in many parts of the country.
What were you teased about when you were a kid or a teen? If you saw two teens beating up another teen in the park, what would you do?