She's not someone I've ever met and I doubt we ever will and, yet, I feel a strong kinship with her.
Well, she's a Star Wars fan. She loves those characters and adventures that take place in a galaxy far, far away.
No, that's not the only reason. She's been the target of bullying as a result of her love of Star Wars.
It seems some short-sighted little boys at her school think that Star Wars is the exclusive domain of humans with Y chromosomes. So, when they saw little Katie bring her Star Wars water bottle to school, they let her know their feelings. I'm not sure if any physical bullying occurred. But, in many cases, emotional and verbal bullying is just as, if not worse, than physical bullying. I know firsthand.
Throughout my childhood and early teen years, I was the victim of all three.
I was physically bullied because I was the tallest kid in a K-6 school when I was only in fourth grade. Kids thought that to prove their mettle, they had to beat up on me. And that they did. Until I learned to appropriately defend myself (thank you to my Kenpo senseis and my parents for help with that one).
I was verbally bullied when I would express my love and appreciation of certain musicians or movies or TV shows or toys by having pictures in my locker or wearing T-shirts or talking about them. If these bullies in my school didn't also like them, then I wasn't allowed to. Heck, even if they did like them, they often didn't want to share and I still wasn't allowed.
I was emotionally bullied by being told what I could and could not do, what I could and could not like, who I could and could not be, and being told that I just wasn't good enough.
Katie, you're not alone out there. It happens to just about all of us whether we admit it or not.
But, I'm also here to tell you that you will get through it and you will be a better person as a result of it. Make not of how these bullies are treating you. Listen to what they say and watch what they do. And then make yourself a promise that you will never treat other people the same way that they are treating you. If you can do that, then you have won. You will be a much better and much stronger person.
And, by the way, don't ever let them or anyone tell you what you can't do or can't be or can't like. Us Star Wars fans welcome you to the club with open arms. The idea that there are girls out there that love and know Star Wars and it's universe of diverse characters as much as us boys is just plain awesome.
So keep on being you and don't ever be anyone else.
In honor of you and of anyone else suffering at the hands of bullying, I'm wearing a Star Wars T-shirt to today.
Pride, my friends. Pride.