Michael Greechan

photo of Michael Greechan

The nation marks anti-bullying week from November 17-21. Meet Glasgow man Michael Greechan (44), who has gained the confidence after decades of abuse to stand up to the bullies who think it’s amusing to poke fun of him.

I grew up in Carmyle, Glasgow. When I was aged just 12, I got on my bike to go to the shop to get messages for my mum.

A bunch of local lads circled me. They let down my tyres and pulled down my trousers. They called me “spazzie.” They thought it was a right laugh. I was frightened, but I couldn’t stand up to them because I knew if I did, the police would get involved and then I’d be in trouble. Anyway, I am not a violent person.

I had to walk back home and tell my mum. I knew who the boys were, but I have never been good with names and so I couldn’t tell her who did it. She wasn’t pleased and hated seeing me frightened and upset, but there was nothing she could do. I could have gone to their doors and told their mum and dad, but I didn’t have the bottle – and I am not a grass.

People can tell by the way I walk that I have a disability.

When I was in my mid-30s, a friend phoned me and invited me to the cinema. I was walking through the Saltmarket when a couple of junkies approached and ordered me to give them my wallet, or they would stab me.

I ran at first, but they grabbed me and kicked me in the head. They shouted names at me – names I don’t want to repeat. They took my mobile phone and my wallet containing £30. I was lying on the bridge, and everybody was driving by. One man stopped and asked if I was alright. I asked him to phone the police and my mam.

I was injured, but I didn’t want to go to hospital. I was more embarrassed than hurt.

Since I was a kid, I’ve learned to turn the other cheek – to take it with a pinch of salt, take it on the chin.

The boys who bullied me when I was 12 are grown up, and now they show me respect. I see them when I go to my local pub in Carmyle to play dominoes and they now treat me like a human being. They know they messed up back then.

People do still call me names – mainly young ones who do not realise the harm they do, and that is the problem. That is why I have given talks in schools to help them understand that these words are bad.

I do not see someone with a disability: I see a person. I see someone who is equal, like me.

I will do as much as I can for ENABLE Scotland’s #bethechange campaign. I have been through a lot, but I have come out at the other end of it. I am not speaking for myself: I am speaking out to help other people. Do not judge – it is the wrong thing to do.

I want society to say that people who are disabled are normal. Michael is normal. My mates in the pub do not treat me differently. They do not call me ‘stupid.’ They look out for me if they have to.

The one thing I’d say to people who use these offensive words is: we are people with feelings. We are just the same as you. Disability hate crime has to stop.