An average Monday consists of Biology 101, a few hours of relaxation, and a trek to my brother’s high school to retrieve him at the behest of my parents. Since August, each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the process has repeated itself. I arrive to the car rider loop by a quarter until two. Inquisitive people may wonder why I am so early. My answer is simple: traffic. Rather than wait in an unorganized, hectic line, I prefer to park. My opinion seems to be similar to those of others.
September twenty-sixth was a mildly hot day. A high of eighty-four degrees provided a comfortable environment for sitting. As usual, I left my house to pick up my brother. Nothing out of the ordinary caused me to hypothesize anything other than a regular, monotonous wait would occur. Upon arriving, I clicked my car into park; then, I engaged the parking brake. Rolling down each window is customary considering the climate of South Carolina: hot. Now, the time had come to turn off the car. This often-repeated process had finally finished. Satisfaction would not be the word to use – haste would paint a realistic picture.
Class changes and my arrival occur at the same time. Hordes of children spill out of what looks like every door. Humans of all walks of life traverse the sidewalk adjacent to my usual parking place. Camouflage, eye-torturing sportswear, and neutral ringer tees catch the corner of my eye. (Camouflage does not make you invisible.) These people cannot distract me. I usually have a female singer waiting for me – Gwen Stefani or P!nk – in my playlist. The magnificent ranges and depth that I derive from these ladies outweighs being mesmerized by a mismatched teenager. Otherwise, an album or two can be finished in this vile, potentially unnecessary time. As I proceed with my menial activities, interactions with people are never expected – or wanted.
This late September day proved to be different. While I kept to myself, someone screeched a single word at me. This insensitive tidbit of the English language is derived from British slang centered around a bundle of sticks. For the confused crowd, I was called a fag.
I did not know what to do; should I submit, or should I stand up for myself? What felt like an eternity passed before I decided to fight back. In reality, this child made it ten feet up the sidewalk before I confronted him. Upon exiting, an acquaintance of the suspect queried me of my willpower. “What are you going to do about it?” hit my ears like a hammer to a nail. I responded with “You’ll see.” As I briskly followed the suspect, he fled into the grassy area butting up to the sidewalk. At no point did I want any physical interaction with this human. (My previous actions may describe otherwise.)
Thankfully, the school’s main office is located within feet of where this occurred. In an internal rage, I entered the quiet office and stood in line to speak with the receptionist. Numerous parents, tardy children, and remote callers had left – and my turn had arrived. Calmly, I explained the situation that had just reeled me in. Staff passing through the room gazed with confusion and possibly with concern. The frazzled, yet kind woman wrote down any information that I could give her. She acknowledged the incident and told me “something” would be done. I left unsatisfied.
In a state of disbelief, I phoned my father who was at work. Upon telling him of the situation, he became furious – not at me, but at the homophobia that had just afflicted me. As soon as I terminated our call, he contacted the school. Within ten minutes, a school resource officer and the principal arrived at my vehicle.
“What’s going on, man?” asked the resource officer. “Nothing except name-calling!” I retorted. “Well, let’s talk about it.” said the principal. We did – for twenty minutes. The three of us walked back to the main office where I had to regurgitate the situation for a third time. They looked to be in awe of what happened. I was assured that everything would be taken care of. Since an early age, skepticism has skewed my sense of everything. I walked out without much faith in a respectable outcome.
As I paced back to my car, intense rain provided an ominous backdrop to the day. What heat existed before caused a ridiculously humid few minutes before my brother got in the car. He is the type of person that pokes fun at me in a sibling way, but would back me up in an instant. I told him what happened and his otherwise calm demeanor changed into one of anger. “Do you know who did this?” he inquired. “No, Charlie.” I replied. “I have never seen these children in my life.” He proceeded to text message his friends to grasp at any lead. His search turned up nothing.
At approximately 3:45 PM, we arrived at our house. To ease the tension, I took a shower. Afterwards, any homework that I had to complete was finished. My father had left for work and my mother arrived home a short time later. I provided an agenda of the afternoon’s events. Much like my brother, my father, and my former school resource officer and principal, she was disgusted. So far, I had received nothing but support from everyone.
More than a few hours after sunset, I relegated myself to sleeping. After such a day, eight hours of nothing reigned superior to everything else. However, my mind could not rest. I laid under a sheet and a thick, comfortable cover trying to explain things away. Eventually, I drifted off into an unconscious state. Dark-and-early the next morning, I woke up to conquer another day.
Every morning replays like a broken record: leave the house by the end of SpongeBob SquarePants, venture to a long day of English, technology, and economics, and then return home. This Tuesday was slightly different. The last two classes of the day were canceled due to conferences. At the request of my parents, I waited in line again to pick up my brother. Midway between two and three o’clock, the school resource officer greeted me while I melted in the blazing Carolina sun. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Fine, considering what happened.” I answered. We went on to discuss in greater detail the elephant in the room. It turns out the security camera serving the area near my car was out of service. Great, now my story is all hearsay. Before I defeated myself, I remembered a key detail. The primary instigator ran into a grassy area adjacent to the main office. “Sir, check the camera serving the front door for a guy running in the grass.” He reviewed that footage and he (the instigator) was caught.
The next day (Wednesday) is when I was informed of the student’s punishment. Apparently, when the principal questioned him, this kid cried crocodile tears. After a few minutes of inquiring, my story was confirmed by him and he apologized profusely – not to me, however. “Severe consequences” would be incurred. If my experiences with public schools had repeated, he most likely received a slap on the wrist and a period of ISS (in-school suspension). Due to education privacy laws, I was not told exactly what happened to him. With this said, I can only guess. With this afternoon, my case came to an administrative close.
Something came over me during the following evening. I consider myself a strong-willed, strong-minded person. Other people may not be as confident. Many resort to suicide and self-harm, while others live in misery, lacking places to find solace. Considering these people, I began to ask myself a menagerie of “what ifs.” What if someone took that solitary word to heart? What if that person committed suicide? What if a simple event manifested into jail time, legal battles, and a life of solitude and regret? All of these questions are equally valid and not-unheard-of realities. These realities provoked my urge to help, unlike anything else before.
My target audience is the LGBTQ+ community. For ages, people who identify or were born into this community have suffered from discrimination, shunning, and misunderstanding. While the United States is often touted as the “land of the free,” its past and present argue differently.
In 1977, Miami, Florida was ground zero for Save Our Children, Inc., a bigoted political coalition. Prior to the formation of this group, Dade County, Florida passed an ordinance that banned discrimination in facets such as housing, employment, and public facilities against homosexuals. A phrase written on a widely-distributed pamphlet was “Save our children from homosexuality!” Unfortunately, this blatant expression of homophobia drew in the largest turnout in any Dade County special election and passed – with more than two people supporting voting to repeal for every vote to not repeal. Many other cities or counties that had anti-discrimination laws faced similar uproar. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Eugene, Oregon, Wichita, Kansas, and Seattle, Washington all were impacted. Save Our Children, Inc. aided in Seattle efforts to repeal its ordinance.
Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina allowed House Bill 2 to pass in March 2016. This forces transgender people to use restrooms based on his or her biological sex. LGBT anti-discriminatory laws that were passed by municipalities and counties were struck down; also, these same areas could not enact replacement laws. In the twenty-first century, bigotry similar to what is represented in House Bill 2 is unacceptable. Fortunately, people noticed. Yezmin Villarreal of The Advocate detailed the following withdrawals. Deutsche Bank terminated expansion plans in Raleigh. PayPal scrapped a payment center in Charlotte. Ringo Starr canceled his June 18, 2016 show. Brue Springsteen canceled a concert that was to be held in Greensboro. Lionsgate withdrew a production, which would have been within the state for eight days. Chris Armstrong states in a The News & Observer article that North Carolina may lose $5 billion due to the bill. This domino effect will continue to propagate until North Carolina repeals this bill.
Shunning is a problem in the LGBTQ+ community. Children are often pressured to conform to lifestyles that are not complimentary to them. Regardless, these people go on to excel academically, lead organizations, play sports, and act satisfied. When the day arrives for a child to come out, a barrage of fear and doubt can overtake him or her. Parents can respond (roughly) in two ways: acceptance or banishment. While acceptance is great, banishment will be discussed because of its more dire implications.
Alex Morris describes in a Rolling Stone article the struggle of Jackie, whose parents responded hastily to her coming out as a lesbian. For years, she forced herself to be in relationships with males. It was not until college that she figured out her true self. In a night-and-day scenario, once-loving parents turned around and cut her off completely. Afterwards, she had to fend for herself.
Misunderstanding often manifests among straight people who come across a member of the LGBTQ+ community. A popular retort I have heard is “You’re going to make me gay. Stay away!” I simply do not respond and have a laugh or two. On occasion, I feel as if the corpse of Sidney Davis about to film a PSA starring me. Let us get in another chuckle.
If one person is helped by my means, I will consider myself a success. Too many children suffer through anxiety and fear to let me ignore them. The events of September twenty-sixth ingrained in me a need for change. We need to start with the basics: high schools.
High school is a place where primary school friends either become closer or drift apart. Relationships change and people change. Children reflect on the past and dwell on the future – rarely living in the present. With these changes often comes satisfaction. For some, school is an outlet for feelings that are otherwise silenced at home. Clubs, such as acting guilds or business organizations, provide enclaves for kids to relieve stress. However, many high schools lack a Gay-Straight Alliance. This forces other clubs to fill a void and wrongfully so.
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are found across the nation. Each organization strives to create a safer environment for all children, regardless of orientation or identity. The mission of each GSA is to create leaders and activists for equality. Besides hypothesizing about leadership, children can find solace in knowing other people have similar experiences; comradery is beneficial to anyone. According to the Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s website (gsanetwork.org), all it takes to start a group is an advisor, students, advertising, and support. In theory, this is a simple process. Pressure from administration can deter organizers. My advice is this: keep trying.
By providing support to LGBTQ+ youth, reversing bigoted laws, and informing the public of how normal we are, life will get better. Change will not occur overnight – that is a guarantee. Taking the first step against homophobia will set the stage for people everywhere to fight for their right to a satisfactory life.
I personally call for children everywhere to stand up. Rather than submit to cold-shouldering and homophobia, do something about it. Get involved with your community. Start a Gay-Straight Alliance. Write to politicians if you enjoy such an activity. Regardless of what people say, every voice matters.
I have not forgotten about those who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community. Take time to understand people who are. We are people, too. We are not different; if anything, we just want to live normal lives like everyone else. To us, it means the world to have support from just a single person. Be that person.
Possibly one day, our society will accept everyone for who they are. LGBTQ+ relations make up a small part of life. If we take everything in and work for a brighter future, I can guarantee our world will be better off.
I sent this to The New York Times and I never got a response; there are no harsh feelings. Also, I did use sources for this article/paper/soapbox/rant. Below, these are listed.
Armstrong, C. (2016, August 3). Potentially $5 billion in losses from HB2 and still no repeal. Retrieved October 07, 2016, from http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article93546267.html
Clendinen, D., & Nagourney, A. (1999). Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Morris, A. (2014, September 3). The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families. Retrieved October 07, 2016, from http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/the-forsaken-a-rising-number-of-homeless-gay-teens-are-being-cast-out-by-religious-families-20140903
Villarreal, Y. (2016, April 13). Here’s All the Business N.C. Has Lost Because of Anti-LGBT Bill. Retrieved October 07, 2016, from http://www.advocate.com/politics/2016/4/13/heres-all-business-nc-has-lost-because-anti-lgbt-bill
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