Between spiral notebooks and crowded hallways, questionable school lunches and dealing with puberty — high school is never a breeze for anybody. It can be a time of discovering yourself, finding which crowd you fit into, or simply trying to survive the wrath of upperclassmen. With all of these aspects taken into consideration, one can only imagine how much harder high school becomes when you are a minority. In other words, high school is difficult, but it can be a battleground of harassment for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc.
To put matters into perspective, 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed and bullied in the past year. On top of that, over one-third of LGBT students report being physically assaulted while at school simply on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With this information acknowledged, it is not surprising that gay teens are 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. As a sexual minority living in a small town, I have my own personal experiences of bullying simply based on the fact I am not heterosexual. Having graduated from high school since then, I am able to look back and analyze these encounters a bit further. With that said, this is an open letter to those who bullied me in high school for being gay.
As years have gone by, I often remember the sense of panic I felt within my stomach when everyone found out I was gay. It was not intentional, but instead, someone spread my secret. Instantly, I received reactions such as being ignored by female upperclassmen who once spoke to me because it was easier to make jokes about me behind my back. A former friend once said, "Oh my gosh, I hope I'm not her type."
You weren't anyone's type — but whatever.
As if it couldn't stop there, male individuals enjoyed making my sexuality the topic of discussion because for whatever reason it's beyond fascinating to question a lesbian or gay individual on their relationships, intimate history, sexual preferences, or anything else that isn't any of their damn business. However, those who I did not receive interrogation from insisted on making poorly thought-out comments. Once I skipped class to avoid any confrontation and an individual said, "It's like trying to find a lesbian in a haystack."
You may have been right, but I can assure you that I'm damn worth the search.
If dealing with torment from my peers was not enough, certain staff members took it upon themselves to shame my sexuality as best they could. While most teachers were supportive, specific ones clearly got some type of joy out of oppressing individuals who couldn't fight back. Situations such as getting in trouble my freshman year for holding my girlfriend's hand while straight couples would twist tongues carelessly in the hallway — is just one example.
I don't mean to burst your hetero-normative bubble — but gay people still exist even if you don't let us hold hands.
While high school is no longer a part of my life — these memories stay with me. Many of you did not graduate, some of you did years ago. A few of you went on to college, while many of you went on to have children with long-term partners. Some of you found decent part-time jobs upon graduation, some of you still haven't had your first paycheck. If you left town, you didn't go far, and you can often be found still going to regular school functions even if that's sort-of weird. What I'm trying to say is, you're human too.
But what I'm also trying to say is, you only made me stronger. Achieving my dreams, traveling, being successful, and being truly happy is what occupies my life — can you say the same? You may have ridiculed my sexuality, bullied me, and made me feel less than I am worth but you did not break me. I do not believe you intended to hurt me as you did but instead I believe you were trying to fill your own voids. However, chipping off pieces of me did not help to complete you. If you paid attention in class, you'd know that artists often chip away pieces of their sculptures to create a masterpiece.
So yeah, I'm gay. Actually, I'm super gay. High school was not easy, but most things in life aren't anyways. Through all of the jokes, snarky comments, and cruel rumors — I am proud of who I am and that has never changed.