Happy Saturday evening, folks
I feel like this is going to be a long story, so I’m going to start by calling this post “Part 1.” Part 1 is going to consist of some of the most important moments of my life, the moments that changed what I wanted to do about who I am.
I have had two teachers who have completely changed the direction my life went in. The second of these two teachers — we’ll call him Mr. J — probably doesn’t even know he changed me…. On an entirely unimportant day in Grade 10, we were getting ready for last period History, as usual. There was noisy, chatter, and banter, as usual: “What’d you do on the weekend?” “Not much.” “Me neither.” “Hey, what’d you think about that test on Friday?” “Oh my god, it was so gay. What’d you think?” “Oh yeah, it totally sucked.”
And that ended the conversation. Not because everyone was appalled, not because one person said, “Hey, that’s not cool,” and not because whoever said it realized what he had said. You might even be re-reading that conversation because you didn’t see anything wrong with it…. The conversation ended because Mr. J had heard it and was hopelessly disappointed. In response to what was said, Mr. J dedicated a chunk of the class to explaining the emotional consequences of orientation- and gender-related slurs. You use them without really understanding what you’re saying. And sometimes, you need a little help getting into someone else’s shoes. Mr. J said this:
Using a term that many people identify deeply with as a verb to describe everything that is bad, annoying, unwanted, or uncool is as wounding to those people as it would be to you if someone used your name for the same purpose.
How would you feel if someone said “That teacher is so Jake,” or “God, that was such a Sam movie.” Probably not great, but you could laugh it off. But when it happens every. single. day? When people associate a huge part of your identity with everything they hate? It messes with your head.
And suddenly something clicked for me. At the time he gave this impromptu speech, I had known for a year, maybe two, that I was bisexual. Mr. J’s sermon on respect for others may have fallen on deaf ears in that class on that day, but it helped me understand something about myself. I consider myself pretty secure in my identity. And yet, I have always felt a twist in my gut and an ache in my heart when I hear you say “That’s so gay,” and “Don’t be a fag.” Yes, I realize you don’t say it intentionally. You say it because everyone else says it. And you don’t mean it like that, right? I get that. But here’s the thing… I don’t say it. Lots of people just don’t say it. I have found other words to use (and there are other words), because I know it matters, and because I know it can hurt people in the deepest, darkest, and most damaging ways. I know that because I’ve felt it, because I’ve seen other people feel it.
A couple years later, after meeting many beautiful friends in Australia who never saw my sexuality as anything other than a random fact about me, I met a very young, very confused girl on the Internet. Through an anonymous question and answer site, a young girl posted the question, “I think I might be a lesbian. Is that okay?” I was immediately concerned with what other people might answer, considering the anonymous nature of the site. I found links to websites like It Gets Better as fast as I could and sent them to her. Her response changed something in me. She responded that she had looked through the sites and immediately felt more sure of herself. She thanked me profusely, and I never heard from her again. But every now and then, I wonder if this girl or someone like her had continued to struggle with her identity. I imagine her trying to figure things out and hearing you unknowingly associate homosexuality with all the crap in your life, with everything you’re annoyed by, everything you wish would change or go away. Would she feel ashamed of herself for being the way she is? Would she feel like a freak? Would she think, like many others, that people really seem to hate homosexuality based on what you say? Those stupid, meaningless, unintentional things you say.
There was never an opportunity to help or support or even just hang out with other kids and teens who might be going through the same challenges at my Catholic high school. I was open about my sexuality to my peers there, and (for the most part) people my age didn’t really care. I dealt with some whispers that never really went away, but I still got out with my head held high. Now, I’m in university, and everything is different. I’m taking Gender Studies which is teaching me more about the socialization of gender and sexuality, how it affects me, and how it affects others. I’m surrounded by this atmosphere of acceptance. I’m realizing more and more that I need and want to reach out. I want to be here to make a difference for people who are still struggling with their identity, whether it’s with themselves, with their family, with their religion, or with their friends.
I leave you today with three important things:
1) I told my boyfriend almost two years ago. His response? “Huh… Yea, that makes sense.” And I finally told my parents last night. They don’t care. Neither of them think it’s any more important than the fact that they’re heterosexual. This is the kind of equality I want. I want it to be weird that people have to come out and say “I am gay!” It’s just another random fact about you.
2) I promise to write Part 2 soon (maybe subscribe to my blog to read it right away? :D)
3) And finally, this very important message:
If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!