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Just Like You
Sometimes you can’t help the hate. It comes at you from all angles, with every possible razor sharp edge lodging into your body. Some people are targeted for race, others gender. I was targeted for who I couldn’t help but fall in love with.
I met Daniel when we were in kindergarten. He stuck a pencil up my nose and I pulled his hair until our teacher had to put us on either ends of the classroom. Later that week, I drew him a picture of the two of us holding hands as an apology. He accepted it and gave me a play-dough sculpture of what closely resembled a dog, but could have as easily been a deer.
In fifth grade, I got my head dunked in the toilet for wearing a pink shirt to school. Daniel skipped class to dry me off and sit on the bathroom floor until I could move my legs. The next day he came to school wearing an identical pink shirt. That day, it was my turn to take care of him.
I realized that I was never and would never be attracted to girls in seventh grade, the year my parents got a divorce, and Daniel had his first girlfriend. Her name was Jane, and she was nice, I guess. She broke up with Daniel because he blew off one of their “dates” to hang out with me. He said it was worth it.
At the end of ninth grade, Daniel came over to study for a big science test we had the next day. We sat on my bed and quizzed one another repetitively.
Then, all of a sudden, he asked me a question that was definitely not going to be on the test.
I looked up at him, “Yeah?”
“Have you ever kissed anyone before?”
I was surprised he was asking me, shocked actually. He was my best friend, I told him everything. He should know that I haven’t.
He persisted. “Do you want to?”
I looked up at him and gave him a funny smile. “Of course I do.”
“Why do you want to know these things all of a sudden Dan?”
“I don’t know… it’s just… I’ve been thinking…”
“What?” I felt my heart skip a beat.
Daniel looked down at his lap and shook his head. I scooted closer to where he was on the bed and slowly reached out to twine our fingers together. He looked up at me and I noticed that he was crying.
He chuckled a little, “My parents are going to kill me.”
I cupped his face with my free hand, the one that wasn’t holding his. I moved in closer. Our foreheads rested against one another. His free hand wrapped itself around the back of my neck and pulled gently. I caught the hint. Our lips touched softly. He let go of my hand, moved it up to my head, and threaded his fingers through my hair. We stayed like that for a while.
In the middle of senior year, Daniel and I were brutally beaten in our school parking lot. There were six of them, and they came after us as we were walking to our car. One of them was Jane’s current boyfriend. They broke Daniel’s leg, nose and cracked three of his ribs. I was lucky that they only broke my arm and two of my ribs. We testified against them, and they were all found guilty for assault.
Daniel and I graduated together, and went to the same university, far away from the small town that had rejected us and everything that we were. Over the years, we built a life together and watched as the world grew more accepting or who we were.
Although I’ll never understand why people have to hate, abuse, and violate, I do understand that as humans, we’re programmed to fear individuals different than ourselves, and most of the time, programmed to reject them. Not everyone can accept difference as easily as others. I’ve found that the key is to find those that do, and that’s how I get by every day, knowing that there are people out there who don’t see me as gay or straight, but simply as a human being.