I’m Arwyn Heilrayne. I’m from Austin, Texas and I’m 13 and in the seventh grade.
Earlier this year, we had a substitute in Spanish class. I had finished the assignment so she asked me to write a story in Spanish. So I did and I wrote about a girl who got married to another girl.
I showed it to her and she read it and she goes, “Hmm. Okay. So could you maybe write a different story?” I was a little confused and I didn’t really know what to do with that. So I wrote another story like she asked. But that was just sort of – it made me think, like, what was wrong with that? I realized that some of the people in my school might not be as accepting as they showed and said they were.
In one of my classes, we had an assignment to write an autobiography about ourselves. And so – my mom is gay and married to another woman – and so I included that. But I didn’t know whether to include my sexuality and my identity, because that is part of my autobiography, but I was a little nervous because we would have to present these to the class and I didn’t know how my class would react. I’d come out to a few of my friends and I’d just come out as bi because I didn’t really know what else – because I knew that that was a label that most of them would know and understand, and I didn’t really want to have to explain. But even just with bi, I did have to explain to some people, and that made me even a little more nervous.
Some of my other classmates in their reports had gone through some pretty hard stuff as they were kids. It was a totally different topic, but they were still able to stand up there and tell their stories. And so I saw that really helped the class. And so I thought that maybe – I realized that my story can help too and telling my real story could help, and that I could do that. And I decided this while sitting at my desk preparing for my presentation.
So I walked up to the front of the class to present my report and I was terrified. My hands were shaking. I was so nervous. But I decided to do it and I was going to go through with this. So I talked about me as a baby and, you know, that kind of staff, and then talked about my mom and getting married to this other woman and my feelings about that. And then I started talking about last year and when I realized that I was actually part of this LGBT+ community that I’d heard about, and how weird that was for me.
And just a blank stares I got back from my classmates – the classmates that I’d come out to – because I’d been out to a few before this, but only like 3 or something – they were like, “Oh my god, she’s just – like, she’s saying this! Like what…”
And then the other classmates, some of them were like, “Oh, okay.” And some of them, I just noticed, were like, “What is happening? Like, what is she saying? “What…”
And my teacher – so I finished talking, I finished… my teacher just, like, stared at me and then she was like, “Okay. Is there anyone else that wants to present?” And after everyone else, she’d been like, “Oh, good job. That was a great report.” And then with me, she was just like, “Okay. Next?” So I kind of got the feeling that my teacher was sort of – didn’t really know what to do with me anymore.
And afterwards, when I was on my way to my next class, one of my best friends came up to me and she was like, “I’m going to give you a hug. That was really brave of you. Good job!”
But also other people came up to me and were like, “What? So what’s happening with you?”
And I was like, “So I’m bi.”
And they were like, “What is that?”
And I was a little like, “Okay…”
I think that it was probably and is going to be beneficial for my class to have heard that story, my story, and know that even among us, like we’re a pretty small group, but still I know, I’m pretty sure that later in life for maybe even next week some – another one of my classmates is going to realize that they’re also not straight or cis or whatever. And so I just, I hope that this story and me being brave enough to do that will help them. But I also think it really helps me to realize that I can tell them, that I can tell them who I am and be who I am.
It was – I think it’s been really good for me to actually stand up there in front of the class and say, you know, “I am who I am and, you know, I make no apologies. This is who I am. If you don’t understand that, I’m happy to help you understand that, but I’m not going to change. This is me.”