KGOU Pledge Online Today!Follow Us at FacebookLive Streaming
StoryCorps in Oklahoma: Looking Back at the "Tremendous Hate" of Bullies (ENCORE) (Feb 24, 2012)

Recent stories about bullying — and the people who have spoken out publicly against it — inspired Rob Littlefield to tell his own story of abuse, and how it affected his family.  While he was in junior high school, his classmates learned that Littlefield was gay.

Rob Littlefield: “I was born in Duluth, MN in 1955. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I recognized something different about me.”

Lizz Straight (MobileBooth facilitator): “What was it that made you say something’s different?”

RL: “It was a feeling more so than anything else. There was just something about my inner self that seemed…not the norm. And it wasn’t frightening. It wasn’t anything that was a problem or an issue for me. It was a very exciting period in my life. But I just knew when I looked at a guy, ‘Wow, there’s something fascinating about it.’” But at that age, I was completely unaware physically and unable to identify what it was.”

LS: “Did you talk to anyone about it?”

RL: “No, I never talked to anybody. I just lived my life and I enjoyed it.

I had an experience when I was 13 years old, and it was intimate. We knew each other, and we were best friends, and we depended on each other. But something went horribly wrong. We got caught.”

LS: “Wow. And how did that strike you?”

RL: “Well how it struck me was that I didn’t realize we’d been caught until I went to school the next day. It was like hot water hitting your face. It was hate. Tremendous hate that I had never experienced in entire life.”

LS: “So you went to school thinking everything was cool, and fine. Do you remember what made you think, ‘Somebody obviously knows what happened?’”

RL: “Comments. People called me 'fag'. People pointed at me. There was an event at school, and I’ve blocked out what it was, but those kids teamed up and found a way to smash my hand in a car door. And I lost the end of one of my fingers.”

LS: “Wow.”

RL: “It was just unbelievable. And this poor other guy. My God, his poor life. We were just destroyed as friends, we were destroyed as young individual men. It was a cruel, cruel thing. And it went on, and it went on, and it went on, this harassment. On the school bus, in the classroom, outside the classroom, in my neighborhood. I wanted to kill myself.

At that age you’re scared to death. You just don’t want to talk about it. There’s no support to talk about it. And quite frankly, at that age, you don’t really understand it yourself.”

LS: “So did your sister know? Since you went to the same school?”

RL: “I often wonder. I don’t think so. She knew that there was harassment and bullying going on in my life. Then my dad came home from work one day, and he said, ‘Well, we’re moving to Houston.’ So they moved, and I stayed. When I graduated from high school I went down to Houston, TX for the summer. This older sister of mine that lived in Colorado flew down to Houston for a brief visit that summer.

One night, I was lying in my bedroom, and she walked in to say goodnight to me. And I don’t know what inspired me or where the compulsion came from, but I remember her standing there in my bedroom door, at 18 years old, and I looked her and said, ‘Mary, I think I might be gay.’”

And she looked at me, and she said, ‘That’s awesome! Just live your life. You’ve got to be who you are.’

Keep in mind now, this was the 1970s. And that sister was the first person that I ever talked to about that.”

LS: “Did you guys talk further that evening?”

RL: “That was it. What that did to me was it was 18 years of wondering, all of a sudden some instantaneous, positive support and recognition. From my adulthood, with this experience of being gay, a blessing. I do a lot of public work here in Oklahoma City, and I can honestly tell you, I’ve never been discriminated against. I’ve never been harassed. I haven’t had any of my fingers smashed. I’ve never been turned down for a job. I have never been turned down for an apartment or credit. It’s because I’m proud of who I am, I respect who I am, and I treat other people the way I want to be treated.”

At 55 years old, I look at this finger still all the time. I can’t but help but look at that finger, and I think to myself, ‘I can remember the names of those kids when I was 13, and I think to myself ‘They’re 55 now. I wonder what they think of their gay grandson, or their gay son.’ I just wonder how they’re living their lives today. Because if you treat people that way, what kind of life do you live?”

LS: “Did you ever talk to your family more about it?”

RL: “I did. My mom and I are absolutely incredible best friends, and we have been for years. She broke the ice with me back in my post-college years. She was able to bring it up, and I was able to go, ‘Yes, of course.’”

LS: “Did your mom end up being the one to tell your dad, or did you talk to him?”

RL: “I don’t think anybody ever had to tell my dad. My father was a very conservative man. Last December he died. A couple of days before he died, from his bed, he raised his head up to the side of my face, and said, ‘Robbie, you’re a good boy.’ It took a lifetime, but he loved me.”

Produced for KGOU by Brian Hardzinski, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

Play Listen
« back


High Speed Low Speed streaming issues High Speed Low Speed streaming issues