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Nikki L., California

"Everyone thinks I have a problem. They blame me, they blame my mom. They want me to be quiet. But I'm a lesbian. I feel like I've always known it. But I didn't get into trouble `til seventh grade. I told a friend. Next thing I know, everyone seems to know. I got yelled at-on the playground, in gym, in the hall, in classes.

"Only one teacher ever did anything. Miss [Johnson], my English teacher-I love her-she made them stop it. I felt safe with her. I would go to her room for lunch and recess. She made me feel safe. She liked my poetry-encouraged me to write.

"But everywhere else was bad. I tried to defend myself. I'm little but I'm tough. When kids hit me, I hit back. I got suspended twice. Three days each. A group of boys tried to beat me up, but I kicked them. I was just defending myself, but the vice-principal thinks I have a reputation. He calls me a `hard ass.' I'm tough. I'm not gonna let anyone just push me around and hit me.

"But I got really sick of going to school. I would tell my mom I was feeling sick so I didn't have to go to school. Finally she called the school. The principal said I needed to document three incidents before they would do anything. There were about twenty to thirty kids, mostly boys, who harassed me. My grades dropped.

"Then one day I was walking home and some kids threw a brick at me. It hit me in the head. They were calling me a `fucking dyke.' I sorta lost consciousness and my head was bleeding. That did it. I decided to never go back to school. I'm too scared.

"Now I do independent study. My grades are back up. It's good. I don't have many friends. They are all a lot older than me. But that's okay-I like older people. They don't care if I am a dyke.

"I just wish they had suspended the guys who hit me. Adults don't pay attention. They should. Especially when kids act out."

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