I wish I could say the worst bullying I ever got was in high school. I had braces, very thick glasses, was pudgy, had acne, a lisp and a stutter. When I was fifteen, I decided to embark on a self improvement program, and ticked off a list of flaws to address to transform myself before my 16th birthday. I attacked each item like I was on a military mission. Braces off, lost weight, got contact lenses, and saw a doctor for my skin (scarred from both acne and a bike accident that sent me dragging down the road for 20 feet on my face). My school sent me to a speech therapist. I spent hours every day working on my new person, which included reading books about how to be less introverted. When I came back from summer vacation, old friends didn’t even recognize me.

I went from ugly duckling to Senior Superlative. It was nice, but disorienting. Same person, different look. I was treated differently by almost everyone.

Especially in fandom, where the assessment of my IQ immediately dropped by 40 points based solely on my appearance.

I got a taste of real bullying in fandom. Some fan groups with which I once associated made high school seem like Nirvana.

Fandom doesn’t like to admit bullying is a problem, or sexual abuse at conventions is a problem, or fannish politics are a problem, or that is has any problems at all. While most fandoms are very cool, supportive, and full of fun, just like high school, some aspects of fandom aren’t so nice. And because the once-bullied-in-high-school sometimes feel pretty sensitive to their image (even thirty years after high school,) fandom has a tendency to cover up and equivocate, rather than address real problems. (If you don’t read any other link here, read that last one.)

The good news is, for those being bullied…gang, it gets better. Just like high school, this too shall pass. Better yet, the great thing about a fan group that isn’t very nice is, you don’t have to pass a test to graduate and get out. You can just pack up and walk. Any time you like. Really. And believe it or not, absolutely nothing will happen to you! Outside of these little fiefdoms, these people have absolutely no power. No power over real life, no power over your professional aspirations, no power over you. At all. The only real problem you will ever have with these people is between your ears. If you don’t want to play in their sandbox fiefdom by their bizarro rules, find another sandbox. There are lots of them. And when enough people finally get tired of dealing with their B.S., their fiefdoms will die.

There are better fan groups, better fandoms, better people.

Find them.

There’s nothing “limiting” about not associating with people who don’t know how to treat their fellow human beings with respect and decency. There is something terribly limiting about thinking an abusive group of people is something you have to tolerate out of some kind of misguided ideal about “inclusion”.

Here’s some satisfaction; everyone who ever gave me a hard time isn’t doing so great now. I got everything I ever dreamed of.

All they ever got to be is mean.

Walk away.

Be happy.

Make things.

Read great books.

Watch movies.

Laugh with friends.

Listen to music.