Senior Class President Fights To Have Gay Student’s Letter Printed In Paper

by Fataah Dihaan

I’m Fataah Dihaan, I’m from Buffalo, New York. I went to an all-boys Jesuit private high school, President of the class, I was fairly popular. My Senior year I was editor of our paper, which was exciting. I think I was most popular because I was a loud mouth, I was really talkative, really dramatic, but I was known for fighting good causes and that was predominantly because my family was very, very deeply connected to the community. I protested at a very young age and so my parents always instilled that you always had to fight for what you believed in. So it was Spring, Senior year, we had one gay kid in our entire school and I believe in that time it was a pretty big deal, he was open, he was out, but it’s an all boys school so of course it could have been much worse. So it was Spring, he comes to me with this letter, he was like, “Fataah, I would love it if you could put this in the paper.” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure, of course, whatever it is.” I open the letter and the letter goes, “Dear Fattah, I’m gay. I’ve been bullied. It’s not right. What should I do?” So immediately I’m just like, we have to print this. We have to print this in the paper. So actually I find my friend who is the co-editor of the paper, show him the letter, we both decide we have to give this to our teacher so that he can approve it to be put in the paper. So we gave it to him, he reads it, he sits with it for a minute, and Mark and I, who is the co-editor, we’re kind of just like, “So yeah, let’s do it, when can we do it, when can you put it in?” He looks at us and knows that we’re very eager to get this letter in the paper and he’s like, “So, guys, give me the night to think about it and I’ll let you know tomorrow.” Boom. Perfect, great. Next thing that happens, we go through the entire day at school, I’ve mentioned the letter to no one except for Mark, we just kind of talked about it again. We see our teacher, he’s like, “I’m sorry, but we cannot print this letter.” I was like, “We have to fight for this. I’m going to go to the principal and I’ll see if he approves it or not.” He’s like, “Fataah, it will be worthless for you to go there because he’ll tell you ‘no’ too. But if you want to, go for it.” So I was like, boom. I’ll go to the principal, give him the letter, see what happens. Of course I go to the principal later and he’s like, “We can’t print it. You have to understand, it’s not for…it’s to protect him. It’s not about us not doing it because we don’t think it’s right, it’s to protect him.” That night, I cried, I was just so upset. The next day, I go back to school and I see the kid and I’m like, “I’m sorry, we can’t get this letter printed.” He was like, “I didn’t think so. But I knew that you would fight for me and fight for it.” And thinking back on it, just thinking back in time about it, I think the letter had less to do with the kid than it had to do with me, just fighting for being heard and fighting for a good cause. I loved everything about high school, so I felt like why should he not come to school excited for the day? So I was like, we should, this school should support giving him those tools to support a healthy life. A year later I was living in New York, very happy, out, loving life, and he kept popping up in my mind, I kept thinking about him a lot, and the experience of just fighting for him to get the letter in the paper. So I decided to write him. I got a card, wrote a letter, and just said, “It’s Fataah, I’ve been thinking about you and I hope you’re well. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for being courageous and I guess living your life the way that you wanted, that you had, and I felt like you really inspired me to be in New York and live my true life as well and to be out.” And it was very short, but I felt like I just had to tell him that what had happened, his truth had inspired me to kind of live mine. He wrote me back and he said, “I’m happy that you’re happy. The next time you come to Buffalo, we have to hang out and catch up and connect.” I was happy to get it. I unfortunately have not seen him since but he’s a big part of my story. Even as I retell it, I think of having known him inspired me to, in these four months later to just be like, I’m in New York and I’m going to live the life that I want. So he’s kind of paramount to my story in a lot of ways.

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