Call me naïve or idealistic but I have this deeply rooted belief that evil does not exist. Not in a 'pure' form anyway. Just as darkness is the absence of light, what we judge as evil when it comes to human behaviour is nothing but a shortage of humanity, of love. How romantic, don't you think?
But it still hurts. Being bullied, laughed at, called names or physically abused hurts.
It hurt when a stranger forcefully grabbed my arm, in the middle of the day on Oxford Street, and asked if I was 'one of them faggots'. I managed to utter a shaky 'no' and ran the other way. At first I was afraid, I was petrified (I had to). He could've have knocked me unconscious. 'What if he follows me and beats me up in a corner?' Then the shame started to creep in. 'People must think I'm a sissy. I am a sissy. Not man enough to fight back and clearly dressed "too gay".' Guild swiftly followed. 'Why did I deny being gay? Why didn't I just stand up for myself and tell him off?'. Within minutes my sense of self-worth and identity were shaken to the core. And it had taken years to build them up.
It hurt when my own mother called me a 'pansy' and laughed at my Britney Spears posters, when classmates ridiculed me for not knowing how to play football and when family members told me to 'man up' and stop crying. Bullying happens everyday in myriad different ways, even from people who claim to love you. Often times it's so inconspicuous you don't even realise you're being bullied.
And I was a lucky one. LGBT people all over the world are beaten, abused, shunned, tortured and denied basic human rights on a daily basis.
We've seen in the news, homophobes throwing people off of buildings simply for being perceived as gay! All because we dare to love another human being. How can that be anything but evil?
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. You decide. How you view the world and how you respond to it is a choice you make. And maybe the temptation is to label the bully as evil, make him your enemy and fight until they're wiped out.
But what if you see the bully as just another soul whose light has run out? Maybe the guy who assaulted me had never felt love. Maybe he was himself gay and struggled all his life to make sense of it. Maybe my mom was just trying to protect me from a society that doesn't accept different. Maybe the bullies have been brainwashed and manipulated to the point where they don't know themselves anymore.
So shine your light on them. Don't fight the bully; understand the bully and learn to love the bully. And most importantly, be yourself. Be as gay as you want and have as many Britney Spears posters as you want. Be contagiously happy, loving and joyous. And maybe your flame will be enough to light up the darkness the bully lives in.
Learn more about Stonewall's #NoBystanders campaign and #AntiBullyingWeek research at www.nobystanders.org.uk