The gym teacher separated our class into threeteams. One hostile boy tried to convince me that his team was the wrong one forme to be on. I told him I had distinctly heard the teacher assign me to his team,and if he had a problem with me he should discuss it with the teacher. After mycomment, the boy bashed me with gay slurs. I am not the most masculine student inmy school and could understand he didn't want me on his team because of my poorathletic skills, but I didn't understand why he was calling me gay. He didn'tstop until my friend interrupted.
From experiences like this, I know thathomophobia is a serious problem in my school. I am not gay, but have heard fromfriends that many think I am. I was oblivious to these opinions until I enteredhigh school, when it became disturbingly vocalized. At first I felt ashamed andembarrassed. I couldn't do anything to prove I wasn't gay, and didn't feelcompelled to try. I found the best solution was not to let it bother me. Havingfriends who liked me for my personality comforted me a lot.
Then Ithought of Matthew Shepard, a teenager who was murdered for being gay. He hadfriends just like I do, and now they grieve for him. Could I be hurt, or evenkilled, because of a misconception? Teenagers believe what they hear, and if theyhear enough, they can lose all common sense. Many see me as a freak of natureinstead of a person.
I've realized how many people in my school are infact homophobic. People even pretend to be gay to make others laugh hysterically.I find no humor in this and remain silent.
My situation became serious andharmful. When I was a sophomore, threatening behavior began. While waiting for afriend at her locker, guys would walk by and taunt me with effeminate voices. Onemorning I went to my locker and found gay slurs. People would even make ruderemarks they thought I couldn't hear after I spoke in class.
You maythink I want sympathy, but just think: What if I was gay? What would I do if Isaw this happening to someone else? I was afraid to act because the people who dothese things are not very compassionate, and wouldn't have stoppedanyway.
What is the impetus for this behavior and ignorance? I believesociety holds that responsibility. One day, freshmen and seniors attended alecture about how gay bashing hurts people and leads to harassment. I couldn'tattend, but heard that a member of an extracurricular religious group was praisedfor "standing up for the Bible" at that lecture. This boy argued withthe presenters, intentionally insulting them and showing disrespect. Everyonethought the lecture was foolish.
"It's really dumb," a girltold me. "They think calling someone 'gay' is bad, even if the person's onlyjoking."
The media adds to homophobia, too. The stereotypical malelikes football and hunting and craves meaningless violence. Calling someone gayis saying that person has failed to conform to society's laws. When a gay man isportrayed in the media, he usually has no pride or maturity. He flamboyantlyproclaims his own stereotype by wearing bright colors, having a high-maintenancehairdo, and, of course, limp wrists. We rarely see the gay people speaking outagainst hate crimes and gay bashing. Many entertainers, writers and composers aregay, and people love what they create.
I'm no longer embarrassed orashamed when I'm called gay, but can only wonder how it would be for a gay teenat our school. The pain he or she experiences will far surpass what I've felt. Mypeers and I must learn compassion, and know that there is strength inunderstanding.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.