In the fifth grade, I had a friend named Gwendolyn. We stuck together at school and hung out in the afternoons. Gwendolyn was tall, athletic, kind of a big girl. We were alike in a lot of ways; butchy, indifferent to what the other girls seemed to care about, and, the big one, uninterested in boys. But when one boy teased us, saying we were "tomboys together," Gwendolyn turned to me and said, "No way!" and pushed me. She chased me home until she caught me. She told me she wasn't my friend anymore and hit me in the face. I didn't understand what I had done, but I felt terrible about myself. It felt like something must be really wrong with me if Gwendolyn, who I thought I shared a lot in common with, didn't want to be my friend any more than the other kids who seemed so different from me.
I was afraid to make friends after Gwendolyn.
Meshell Ndegoecello is one of the many writers, artists, activists who contributed an original essay to It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, which will be released on March 22. You can pre-order a copy at Amazon, through ItGetsBetter.org, or at your favorite local bookstore. It Gets Better event in Seattle at Town Hall on Tuesday March 29. Tickets and info here.