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This story contains a homosexual relationship, and liberal views on homosexuality, including characters being offended by the view that homosexuality is a choice. I do realize that there are people who hold this belief and who would be offended by this story. That is NOT my intention. I do not wish to offend anyone. If you believe you will be offended by this story, please do not read on. If you believe that homosexuality is ok, and is not a choice, please read on.
“Today, class, we will be examining homosexuality.” Several snickers arise. Understandable, considering this is a health class full of immature eighth graders who wouldn’t know tolerance if it slapped them in the face. I look down at my notes paper, and realize I’ve miswritten the date. I erase it and gently wipe away the shavings, trying not to look up. I know what I’ll see when I do. I know it because I can hear it.
“Oh, this should be interesting. I wonder what we’ll learn about the fascinating specimen Bri-an,” someone whispers behind me, stressing the name. The pretty petite blonde girl who sits next to her giggles at the comment. I glance to the right and behind me and see that Brian, expectedly, has his head tilted towards his page, like me. My guilt and fear is less obvious to my classmates than Brian’s fear and guilt. He is openly gay, and gets bullied daily. We both know that this is just another open door for the bullets to come flying through.
“Most people believe that being homosexual is a choice. While it is still heavily debated, I believe that to be the truth,” Mrs. Anderson, our health teacher says, hitting today’s topic on the board with her yard stick. She’s older than dust with white hair and a pinched, wrinkled face. Hailing from the south, she protested against Martin Luther King Jr., proving how bigoted she truly is. “It is a wrong and disgusting choice, and those who make it will burn in their afterlife.” Brian gulps and grips his pencil until his knuckles turn white. He runs his free hand through his loose black hair and tries not to scream. “Brian!” Mrs. Anderson whacks her yardstick against the blackboard again, causing the whole class to sit up a bit straighter.
“Y-yes, Mrs. A?” he asks meekly. The whole class turns to him. I keep my head down, gently stroking my pencil on a free page, doodling.
“Why don’t you come up here and tell us a little bit about how you made this decision to become homosexual?” Brian freezes, and my blood runs cold. He doesn’t move. “Oh, come now. We all know that you weren’t born like this, as you claim.” I nearly break my pencil in anger. How could this woman say this? To say Brian chose this, chose a life of pain, humiliation, and frustration is unbelievably ridiculous! I could hear a pin drop as Brian turns very slowly and stands, walking robotically towards the front of the room. As he passes by me, he glances down at me. His hands shake. I want so badly to just reach out and grab one, to take it in mine and hold him close, promising him that everything will be okay. I can’t, though. I can’t tell the truth, and he’s okay with that.
He reaches that front of the room, static in front of the most critical audience this aspiring singer will ever face. They’re judging him, from his riff-raff cut black hair and his Metallica shirt and chains, down to his ripped black jeans and Converse sneakers. He looks like he’s going to cry, looking down, trying to hide his face. He twists his rubber bracelets nervously, the ones that he uses to hide the slits he makes on his wrists and arms. No one sees him as strong. No one sees him as strong, except for me.
“I-I realized I was gay when I was eleven years old,” he whispers, his voice cracking, and Mrs. Anderson hits the blackboard again.
“You mean you chose to be homosexual at eleven,” she “corrects.” I gulp as Brian tilts his head up a bit, looking at her.
“No,” he continues, shaking his head slowly. “I realized I was gay—ah!” Brian cries out as Mrs. Anderson smacks her yardstick right over his head, narrowly missing him. My classmates and I jump.
“The next time you lie to us, that stick will make contact,” she hisses threateningly. Why do we have to live in Arkansas, one of the twenty states in the USA that still allows corporal punishment? Brian nods slowly, understandingly, a tear tracing its way slowly down his face. As he nods, he locks eyes with me, pleading silently for help. I just turn not-so innocently back to my drawing, wishing I could say something, to scream at the snickering kids and bigoted Mrs. Anderson. There’s just one thing stopping me; I’m not strong enough.
“When I was eleven…” Brian continues, and then bolts for the door, slamming it behind him. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen him do this. People start whispering, laughing about how weak he is. I rip out my drawing, stuffing it in my pocket, before shooting my hand into the air.
“May I use the bathroom?” I ask, not waiting to be called on. Mrs. Anderson tears her gaze away from the door and looks at me, barely nodding. I practically jump out of my seat and lunge for the door. The monochromatic hallways are devoid of students and teachers, except for a stray junior holding her nose in a cherry-red tissue, walking in the direction of the nurse’s office. I bolt past her, down the hall, towards the abandoned back stairwell, rarely used during passing period and never used during class time. I open the door, slamming it against the wall, and run behind the stairs. Sitting among the dust, cobwebs, and cigarette butts, is a sobbing Brian. I kneel in front of him and take his hands in mine. He looks and me and laughs, light flashing into his cloudy brown eyes.
“James,” he whispers, smiling and trying laugh through his sobs. I pull him into my arms, his head on my shoulder, petting him softly. “Y-you’re here.”
“Of course I’m here, baby,” I mutter, gently kissing his temple. He wraps his arms around my strong, toned waist as I rock my boyfriend gently. “I’m so sorry I didn’t do more.”
“You couldn’t have,” he hiccups, gulping. Brian pulls back, wiping his eyes. “You can’t let your reputation be ruined by me.” Reputation. Football jock, A-plus student, homecoming king. I’d sacrifice that all in a moment for Brian. If only he’d let me! He says that he loves me too much to let me give all that up for him by coming out as his boyfriend, or as gay at all. I purse my lips and run a hand through my shaggy blond hair, before pulling Brian close again, gently pressing my lips to his. After a moment, we pull back, and Brian’s tears have dried.
“We don’t have to go back there,” I mutter softly as he lays his head back onto my warm shoulder. “You don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
“Yes we do, and it doesn’t matter. The whole darn state of Arkansas is like this!” he cries, pounding his fist against the tiled floor. I sigh and gently reach into my pocket, pulling out my crumpled drawing, handing it to my frustrated lover.
“But we have each other,” I whisper as he unfolds the drawing. A heart, an arrow, a banner, two letters, and one plus sign. Brian traces the J with his index finger, then the B. “That’s a choice I’m willing to make.”
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"Friendship isn't always easy, but there's no doubt it's worth fighting for."
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