Hi, I really need help. At school I’m constantly bullied for being a furry, it has be happening for 4 months. A whole sixth-grade class will bully me when they leave the cafeteria. They supervisors helped on the 3rd month, but they still bully me. Whenever they walk past my lunch table I always get quiet and fell very uncomfortable. It has also been making extremely emotional lately. Do you have any advice?
Skyla (age 11)
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I won't ask how the entire school discovered you are a furry. They know, so now you need to deal with that. You have done the right thing by telling the school about the bullying (and I hope you have also told your parents). Keeping adults informed of what is going on is important. You should also keep track of bullying that happens to you, either by writing it down (include people's names when you know them) or taking pictures of video with your phone (if you have one). If you are being bullied online or on your phone, block all bullies. Do not interact with them; do not reply to them. Just block them. Bullies thrive on knowing they are bothering you, and they slink away like wounded weasels when they know they can't affect you.
This brings us to the most important way to fight bullying. It's not fighting, of course (if you are being physically threatened, report it immediately to the school, your family, and even police). No, the way to fight bullies is to show that what they do doesn't bother you. By this, I don't mean doing what you described where you "get quiet and feel very uncomfortable." That is exactly the kind of reaction bullies like because they know they are getting to you. Bullies do what they do because they can only feel better about themselves by putting other people down and making them feel bad. Groups of bullies (like that 6th grade class) bully a kid that they feel is weak; groups do this as a way to bond socially with each other (they have something in common in that they make fun of a kid they all think is below them). This is wrong, but this is how a lot of immature people behave.
If you feel confident about yourself and who you are, then bullies can't affect you. For this to work, you have to be comfortable with being a furry. Since you are just 11 years old, I have to guess that you are a furry because you simply enjoy cartoon and animated animals and like the idea of pretending to be like one of these characters, right? There is nothing wrong with that. Liking anthropomorphic (humanlike animal) characters is something that millions of children and adults enjoy. That's why animated movies like Sing, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and Zootopia are so popular, as well as cartoons like Sonic the Hedgehog, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and PAW Patrol and book characters like Winnie-the-Pooh and the heroes in the Redwall stories. There are a lot of reasons why people of all ages like stories featuring animals who talk and act like people, but it would take too long to describe them here in this column, so let's just acknowledge that millions of people read and watch such stories.
If kids at your school ask you why you are a furry, just say, "Well, I just like cartoons and movies and stuff (like the ones I mentioned), like a lot of people do. I even bet you like them, too, right?" Ask them to mention some shows they like, and I bet at least some of them have furry characters in them. And if they ask if you pretend to be a character like that, just say that this isn't weird either. People dress up as monsters for Halloween or Marvel and DC Comics heroes at Comicon. People also like to play video games in which they pretend to be comic book heroes or even (shocking!) furry characters like Sonic, Angry Birds, Spyro the Dragon, Starfox, or Crash Bandicoot. Ask them if they have ever played one of these, and if they have, well, they have enjoyed a furry game!
Once you see that you have nothing to be ashamed about, then their teasing will be senseless and have no power over you. Now, I realize that part of the problem, too, is that you want to be accepted by your schoolmates and not mocked by them, right? Everyone wants to be accepted. But you should only want to be accepted by people who are dope. If you talk to people, you will get to know who is awesome and who isn't. Bullies are phony, and you don't want them as friends. If bullies tease you, my reply is always, "Wow, that would really hurt my feelings if I cared about your opinion or who you are." See, you have to take away their power. You do that by not caring who they are or what their opinions are. People who are mean just to hurt people are not worth your time.
To summarize, this is how to deal with this problem:
One last thing, if the bullying gets really bad, call the Stop Bullying Now Hotline at 800-273-8255.
Remember, the special people in the world are not normal. Dare to be weird!
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