QUESTION: Is It Wrong To Change Yourself To Stop Bullying?

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Fourteen-year-old Nadia Ilse has been trending like crazy on the Internet. But the sweet Georgia teenager isn’t an Olympic darling—she’s a bullying victim who got plastic surgery to help give her a new lease on life.

Everyone from Yahoo! News to Time.com has reported on this poor girl who got mercilessly teased about her big ears. “They said that I have the biggest ears that they’ve ever seen,” Ilse told Good Morning America. about her classmates.

The experience, she said, made her feel like “dirt.”

She had contemplated suicide, but the thought of devastating her mother—who is unemployed and caring for Ilse’s 9-year-old brother with cerebral palsy—kept her from doing anything drastic.

The reason why Ilse is making headlines, though, is through the intervention of the nonprofit Little Baby Face Foundation, her family was able to get her plastic surgery to pin back her ears, and give her a new nose and chin. Some $40,000-worth of cosmetic surgery done for free.

Now. as she readies to start school with her new face, Ilse is clearly more confident and positive: “I see a new me. A beautiful girl,” she tells GMA. And that’s a blessing.

Maybe a child in crisis needs to use all the tools at her disposal.

But is it the answer?

Bullying has obviously become a very sensitive issue for the LGBT community and solutions are hard to come by. Is this a happy ending? Or is the message being sent by the media and Nadia’s parents (we’re not gonna judge a 14-year-old girl) that if someone doesn’t like you, change yourself so they will?

What if someone suggested a limp-wristed sissy who got tossed in his locker every day stiffened his walk and talked deeper if he wanted to end the abuse? Or that a baby dyke should grow out her hair and wear makeup if she didn’t want to get spitballs thrown at her.

What if Nadia’s classmates just find something else to torment her about—her plastic surgery, say.

Or maybe we’re reading too much into this. Maybe a child in crisis needs to use all the tools at her disposal to end years of misery.

There’s not clear-cut answer here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of opinions. Share yours in the comment section.

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  • Geno

    That story was awesome good for her ! Cosmetic surgery isn’t always a bad thing in fact if this young lady has a more pleasant outlook on life and increased self confidence , then I say good 4 her

  • Cam

    “”What if someone suggested a limp-wristed sissy who got tossed in his locker every day stiffened his walk and talked deeper if he wanted to end the abuse? Or that a baby dyke should grow out her hair and wear makeup if she didn’t want to get spitballs thrown at her.

    Are you joking? That is exactly what kids like that are told every day. Queerty itself has run stories about school principals who have said those very things.

    As for this girl, poor thing. The problem is, she is still going to that same school. Those nasty little GA. kids will most likely find something else to pick on her about.

  • skippy

    I’m not quite sure how i feel about this. On one hand I think that people should embrace who they are, but I can also see why someone would change how they look because of social pressure. The world is a flunked up judgemental place! The only thing I can do in my tiny cubicle of existence is to try and not perpetuate the BS that causes anyone to want and change themselves the way this girl did.

  • John

    I just graduated from high school about three months ago, and I don’t find this horrible at all. I understand why she got plastic surgery because I understand wanting to fit in and be beautiful. People act like it’s such a fucking big deal that a girl got a nose job, a chin implant, and her ears tucked back… It’s really not. If that’s going to give that girl the confidence she needs to feel beautiful then let her do it. Also, I think that you goofy ass adults sometimes forget what it’s like to be young, and especially now. The pressure of being thin, beautiful, and modelesque are higher than they’ve ever been. I suffered from an eating disorder in high school because I thought that the thinner I was, the more beautiful I became, and the more beautiful I was, the more I was loved. Obviously, I found out that my logic was flawed, but I also discovered that being thin and beautiful does make people stop fucking with you.
    *Cue “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera

  • shle896

    I see nothing wrong with it. Naturally we all have to accept ourselves for who we are and who God made us, but a little cosmetic help to make yourself feel better is never a bad thing. Some may criticize this girl for fixing her nose and ears, but I bet they wouldn’t dare go to school or out in public without makeup on or without styling their hair or without jewelry or deodorant. We put braces on our teenager’s teeth and girl’s dye their hair and get permanents, so I see no difference. It’s ALL cosmetic. Call me shallow, I don’t care.

  • Gauthier

    I don’t really think people will be criticizing this girl or her mom for going through with the surgery, and I can certainly understand where she was coming from because when I was a teenager I got teased about my big ears too, and even though it wasn’t really bullying, a few choice words by the wrong people can be enough to shatter your self-esteem.

    On the one hand, I grew up to love my ears and assigned the the opposite meaning, I decided they were sexy (to be honest, I myself always liked big ears on a man, so when the switch was made in my head it wasn’t hard to feel confident about it). I shaved the sides of my head and just went with it. Best decision of my life.

    On the other hand, I’m a guy, and it’s much more socially acceptable for guys to have big features than girls, sadly. I personally prefer smaller ears, but honestly couldn’t give two shits when it really comes down to it. Fourteen is a young age to undergo such drastic surgery, especially since she did the rest of her face too, because sooo many things can still happen, her features aren’t set yet, they’re going to move around, expand, shrink etc. It’s very possible that in another three years she would’ve had a perfectly proportioned face, fourteen is smack in the middle of “l’age ingrat”, as my mother used to call it in French.

    But then again, sometimes it’s all just too much, and it’s safer to just adjust yourself instead of waiting on Mother Nature. If she’d only had her ears done, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all, tons of people do it and it’s considered minor cosmetic correction. It’s the fact that she didn’t stop there that makes me iffy. Nosejobs I’m somewhat undecided about, but it’s going to become a staple of society anyway, I guess I can live with that. Boob implants will for me always be the vilest thing. I’m already not a fan of just knife-and chisel work, but anything beyond that just always looks crappy to me.

    All this to say, good on her if she feels better, but it’s a nuanced subject, and I think the whole discussion would be irrelevant if there was no more bullying, which is the most important problem that should be tackled in all this.

    And I don’t think Queerty’s examples are that apt for comparison, because these things are more about expression of character/gender/sexuality than physical appearance, and changing those brings about an entirely different slew of intricacies and nuances. Again, the most important cogwheel in this whole self-esteem mechanism is the eradication of bullying. And anyone who says it’s ‘natural’, or ‘a part of growing up’, or ‘a test of personality’ deserves a steel boot-punt to the balls/vagine uppercut, because that is ignorant nonsense.

  • Gauthier

    *I personally prefer smaller ears on girls I AM NOT A HYPOCRITE JUST A LAZY PROOFREADER lol

  • the other Greg

    @Cam: “”What if someone suggested a limp-wristed sissy who got tossed in his locker every day stiffened his walk and talked deeper if he wanted to end the abuse? Or that a baby dyke should grow out her hair and wear makeup if she didn’t want to get spitballs thrown at her.
    Are you joking? That is exactly what kids like that are told every day. Queerty itself has run stories about school principals who have said those very things.

    Worse than that – we’ve had long, long threads where Queerty commenters declare that the bullied kid should learn to beat up the bullies! At times Queerty seems to be full of gay gym / driver ed teachers.

    This girl was no doubt called a lesbian (even if she isn’t) so there is some overlap, but I’m not sure I see the relevance here to bullying of young LGBs (T transformations generally happening later than teenage years) or straight kids with normal-sized ears who are perceived to be “gay” for other reasons.

    Also, if it costs $40,000 to fix big ears and in general conform to conventional beauty, how much would it cost to change us typical nerdy gay boys into football studs so we won’t get bullied as teenagers? I’m kidding somewhat, but the analogy isn’t exact.

  • Biting Truth

    No, it isn’t wrong. The way I see it, you got 2 choices:

    1. Continue to be your individual, no matter how odd, self…and face criticism and taunts.
    2. Take a look at why you don’t fit in and alter your look/personality accordingly.

    If you choose #1, then more power to you…but just remember that no one has to like, respect or accept your so-called “uniqueness”.

  • dellisonly

    Good for her. Now they will make fun of her crooked nose. It doesn’t end. The hardest lesson in life is to be comfortable with the cards you were dealt.

  • Nat

    “Is It Wrong To Change Yourself To Stop Bullying?”

    It depends what you’re changing.

    I wish the girl didn’t do this to herself. But if this is absolutely the only thing that keeps her sane, then I wouldn’t stop it.

  • Kris

    I think the big ears issue for this girl wasn’t so much integral to her identity. I mean, it’s likely the little assholes who were bullying her will do so on any other issue–something she’ll learn about bullies is that there’s not always a “why”–but it’s a little different than LGBT bullying. Yes, both are born with it, but big ears don’t really define your person in the same way. If she’s happy, it’s no different than anyone else getting cosmetic surgery for non-bullying related reasons.

  • Kev C

    In this case, she is happier with herself now than before. If altering behavior or appearance causes unhappiness, it really sucks. And anytime the victim gets revenge on their bullies, it’s a happy ending.

  • Clockwork


    People change their appearance every day to improve their self esteem and avoid
    ridicule or feelings of being outcast.

    From hair changes, working out to get a better physique, eyebrow tweezing, tanning.

    Children with the guidance of an adult should be allowed to develop an appearance that
    gives them confidence to be all they can be.

    By the way I am a transwoman, and have had cosmetic surgery.


    kate bornstein: “do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living, just don’t be mean.”

  • adam

    sorry, no. thousands of dollars in surgery went toward telling the original bully or he she was right. the surgery validated the meanness and told the bully he or she was correct in calling out someone who didn’t look perfect enough for his or her tastes. what’s to stop the girl from changing herself again, the next time someone picks on a bodily imperfection? what a waste of money, spent on refashioning someone’s appearance, when it could have gone toward strengthening her self esteem, imperfections and all. we can’t keep changing ourselves whenever someone out there appoints themselves officers of the “normal patrol,” especially when those officers should just mind their own damn business as to the imperfections of people around them. wrong call, bad parenting, misplaced priorities, and a girl who’s eventually going to regret what she started, when she starts wanting to change herself again.

  • Derek Williams

    It is the bullies who have to change. Period.

  • GraciesDaddy

    I’m glad Nadia was able to have surgery that makes HER feel better. I just hope she’s able to follow it up with counseling to address the changes… and to address that the changes just might NOT stop the bullying. I hope she does well in school… and can perhaps become a noted doctor or professor or whatever she wants to become and prove to the assholes in her school that having a certain “look” is not necessary to achieve one’s goals.

    Onward and upward, My dear!

  • LadyL

    And what if your parents don’t have thousands of dollars to buy a prettier you?
    What if the changes aren’t enough to stop the bullying?
    What if the changes actually trigger more bullying? Where do we go from there?
    I can’t crticize this poor kid (or her family), but I am really bothered with what appears to be the moral of this story, especially as it concerns kids–both the vulnerable ones and the bullies
    And as a woman I am really offended by the idea that if you are picked on for not being beautiful, or even just conventionally cute, the problem is you.

  • dvlaries

    >What if Nadia’s classmates just find something else to torment her about—her plastic surgery, say.<
    Count on it! When teenagers want to bully, they will. Among their own, they have no restraint. Don't think for the minute that the superficial and cosmetic changes this girl has been treated to has purged the underlying rage she hasn't forgotten. What would be worth watching for now is whether she chooses some victims of her own.

  • dvlaries

    A couple generations ago, I wonder if Mitt Romney would have shaved this girl’s head, while his little future yes-men buddies held her down…?

  • JohnnyBoy

    @John: That’s BS. Being thin and beautiful comes with it’s own set of problems. Just talk to someone who is thin and beautiful. You’ll see. People that get bullied usually act like victims and bullies can smell fear. I’ve seen fat people who were popular and did not get bullied at all because they were outgoing. People liked them and liked to be around them. It’s all about how you carry yourself. The girl that got plastic surgery is gonna be a sad case if students still continue to tease her. I wouldn’t be surprised. She just gave the bullies more material to use against her. I can see it now.

  • CoffeeStar1118

    @the other Greg: Just because many trans kids don’t transition at a young age doesn’t mean we didn’t face bullying for being trans. Some trans kids don’t stand out, but I’d wager most do. As an mtf, I faced a lot of “gay” bullying even though I’ve always liked girls because I’ve always come accross as more feminine than I was “allowed” to be. And most (if not all) ftms that I know faced a lot of “dyke” bullying regardless of sexual preference because they had a more masculine expression of themselves than was “allowed”.

    As for getting plastic surgery? I figure our bodies are our own, so we should be able to do what we want with them. They’re plastic by nature anyway. Our bodies are constantly changing throughout our entire lives, so who cares if we change them in “non-conventional” ways? People get tats, piercings, cut our hair, “fix” our teeth, remove moles, get fat, thin, muscular, etc. What’s so different about changing a little facial structure?

    What’s important is the motive behind it. If I change myself to try to appease the bullies, then it’s going to bring a reduction in self esteem and general happiness. If I change myself because I want to, or so I like the way I look more, then it’s going to bring an increase in self esteem and general happiness.

    “We should just love ourselves the way God made us” doesn’t cut it. If there’s a god, then wouldn’t it follow that this god put into place the scientific laws and physical laws that allow us to make these cosmetic changes to our bodies? The Christian bible says, “All things are permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (or something very close to that). I think what that means is that the underlying motive and results are more important than picking on the superficial stuff. If you think superficial changes show that the person changing is more superficial, I say that line of thought shows you are just as superficial by judging someone based on superficial qualities.

  • Evilshoemaker

    Well, I’ve never been a fan of cosmetic surgery.
    Don’t get me wrong here! If it makes you feel beautiful and less insecure, I’m all for it!
    Although, I think the great villain in this topic is insecurity.

    Now, I don’t think it’s bad of her to have done the surgery, I find it bad that she had to go through it in the first place! Why do people look down on other people’s differences!? Why IS there such a thing as a standard, or average look, when everybody looks different?

    Truth is, if you want to look a certain way just to please some people, you’ll NEVER truly feel beautiful. Because no matter what, there will ALWAYS be things that people dislike about your appearance!

    The only thing you can do to truly feel beautiful, is to ignore all those people who tells you that you’re not beautiful, and love yourself! Feel proud of who you are, and just love your own appearence, because you are human, you are beautiful, and you are capable of loving.

    but if surgery is the only way to make you love yourself, then be my guest! Just do it for the right reasons.

    I’m sorry for my english… I’m a 15 year old Swede…

  • F Stratford

    As I see it, spending 40k is cheaper than suicide. True it may have unintended consequences but if it buys her some time to collect herself, grow and fight back… my sympathies are with her.

    Because this is not the end of the bullying. Not by a long shot.

  • Uruphred

    I guess us gay boys could stay in the closet in order not to be teased. Even better, just stop complaining about right wing bigots, have a chicken sandwich, shut our faggot mouths and keep our designated place of shame. Well I say F that.

  • samwise

    @dellisonly: You sound like one of the scumbag bullies.

  • samwise

    @Evilshoemaker: The reason is, people don’t have control over how other people raise their children. Bullies raise bullies.

  • davidfl63

    It a perfect world it would be grand to say “just be yourself and be proud of who you are”. But in reality the world is not a perfect place, and often is quite mean. I say go for surgery if it makes you feel more confident. Just please pray they don’t get obsessed with it and think they need to go under the knife every time someone dislikes them. At such a young age maybe seeing a mental professional before changing your appearance would be a wise decision.

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