Gay rights weren’t important to me in high school. “What else could I ask for?” I thought. It’s not like I was getting beat up for it. I was young, with more important priorities like school, college admissions, and grades. Besides, being gay wasn’t everything to me, and I thought being “a protester” might change that. I felt fine the way I was, halfway between being out and being hidden. I wouldn’t have to risk anything.
On the afternoon of the Day of Silence, I sat outside like I usually do and watched the school buses pass by. Eventually, one of my friends on the tennis team came around and sat with me. He was holding some fast food from Wendy’s or McDonald’s. He had to get something from back inside the school, so he left me to watch over his food. I sat there for a while, but then a gutsy guy came up to me and asked, “Are ya gonna eat that?”
“No.” I deliver very short answers to people I don’t know.
“Who are you saving it for?”
“A friend.” A friend that needed to hurry up.
“I’ll pay you money for it.” Then he opened up his wallet and showed me $20. As I shook my head, he increased the amount. $40. $80. $100. I still shook my head, scared to look into his vulture eyes. I was too stubborn to realize that with $100, I could’ve given half of that to my friend to get another meal and kept the other half to buy some PS3 game. Me and my damned morals.
“Are you saving it for your girlfriend? ‘Cause if it’s your girlfriend I’ll understand.”
“No.” I wondered how that question was relevant.
“Well then why are you saving it for a guy? If some friend gave that to me, I’d be eatin’ it.”
“…” I hoped he wouldn’t go there.
“Are you gay?”
“No.” No, no, no. He doesn’t need to know. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want him to judge me. My mother’s voice echoed in my head. “You’re not my son… you’re not my son…”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure.” I was sure as hell not going to let him ruin me.
I managed a nod.
I successfully denied the fact three times. I sold Jesus to Pontius Pilate.
“Then why won’t you give me the food?”
I shrugged, which in “introverted-mathematician” means I-don’t-know-so-leave-me-alone. My silence bored him. I would not budge. He walked back towards the school.
When my friend came back I told him about what just happened. Not the whole gay part though.
“Jeez, you shoulda taken the money!”
I should’ve, and things would’ve been just peachy. But instead, the Day of Silence became just that, a day of silence. I somehow managed to undo everything the day was for. Friends and classmates who wore the tape wore it in vain that day.
Back then, I glossed it over by saying to myself, “I stuck it out! I didn’t give the food! I am such a good friend!” in a Gretchen Weiners-like manner. Even now, I don’t think I’ve learned my lesson still. My freshman year of university, and I’m still the same. I live day to day in quiet acceptance of my circumstances. But I realize that maybe it’s even more important for the younger generation to solidify the gains made by those before them, and each individual has their part in making that happen. I just wish I had more courage to raise my hand and shout out the right answer.
I’m From Mattawan, MI. “Wow,” I said. “That’s good.” I folded the wrapper over the other bar and stuck it in my pocket. “So good you’re not going to eat the other half?” the volunteer next to me asked wryly. “Oh!” I said, “it’s so good I’m taking the other half home to my wife. She needs to try it.” As the other woman did a double-take at me, I realized: this was my Pride celebration. I don’t need crowds, or parades, or Target rainbow temporary tattoo. All I need is to be proud, and open, about who I am and who I love. When I can do that, every day is Pride day, everywhere I go.
I’m From Georgetown, OH. “When I finally came back, I promised I would never compromise myself for anyone ever again. My senior year I not only came out, but my hippy English teacher and I started the first Gay-Straight Alliance in our county. The school was in shock with all the queerness and tried to shut us down. But we fought back and changed the student code of conduct to include protections for LGBTQ students.”
I’m From Lansing, MI. “I want you to be successful.
I’m telling you all of these things
to prevent you from feeling how I feel now:
You are still young,
you have the beautiful opportunity
to discover who you are and to embrace it.
this love is all you may have at some points.
I wish you the best of luck
in the coming years
as you finish high school.
You — 20 years old.”