Warning: I drop the F-bomb in this post.
I have a morning routine. You see, I'm not what you might call a "morning person." I set my alarm to go off earlier than necessary in order to account for the several times I will inevitably hit the snooze button. I take an inordinate amount of time to prepare myself to face the world in the morning and unless I am showered, fed, and caffeinated, you had better not speak to me unless it is a matter of extreme import. Because of this, I have to give myself extra time in the morning to initiate my waking up routine. I brush my teeth, I wash my face, and I shower. As I am in the shower, I run through everything I have to do that day. "Practice, class, rehearsal, lunch, rehearsal, practice, rehearsal..." Then I sit down with a bowl of cereal to read blogs while my coffee brews. This is my morning routine. I cherish my bit of free time in the morning knowing that the rest of my day will be busy, hectic, and filled with other people (I'm an introvert. People sap my energy faster than you can believe.)
As I was going about my routine yesterday morning, I clicked my way over to Joan's blog and encountered a bit of reality that made the rest of my day seem entirely unimportant. If you haven't already heard, I encourage you to go read this article about 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer who recently took his own life as a result of homophobia and bullying in school and online. I was heartbroken to have to read about yet another teen suicide in the GLBT community and I could do little more than sob into my cereal as I wept for that innocent little boy. I was so overcome with emotion that I felt numb. I was furious, depressed, confused, terrified, sad and I just sat, helpless, with no desire to leave my apartment and go about my day.
I wasn't planning to write about this. I was at a loss for words all day as I struggled to comprehend this sad, sad tragedy and how it could have happened. I didn't think I would have anything worth saying and besides, this is a knitting blog. To be honest, I rarely even mention the fact that I'm gay because I'm sure I have some readers who wouldn't completely accept that and I don't want to make anybody uncomfortable. But you know what I have to say now? FUCK THEM. That's right, I said it. This is my goddamn blog and it's about time that these people be put in their place. Why should I worry about making people uncomfortable? Why should I apologize if who I am disagrees with someone else's beliefs? I don't hesitate to mention that I'm colorblind, or left handed, or male, do I? I don't walk down the street and hide the fact that I have blue eyes, or brown hair, or large feet. It's this belief - the belief that being gay is something that should be hidden or apologized for - that makes others think it's ok to ridicule, torment, and harass.
I may be gay, but you know what else? I'm also an individual and I have a voice. We all have a story to tell, and it's up to you to listen.
Jamey's death has made me think back to my high school experience. It makes me wonder - do the people who bullied me in high school read about these deaths and feel guilty? Do they remember a time when they were just as cruel and wonder what they were thinking? Does the guy who told me to go to hell as he shoved snow in my face feel any pang of regret? Or how about those who made a daily game of seeing who could yell "faggot" louder in math class before the teacher mumbled for them to be quiet? What about the guys who spit on me, or threw sand in my eyes, or blocked the doors to the locker room so I couldn't change after gym class? Have they grown up and matured? Or are they going to be the ones teaching their children that hate is acceptable and that differences are to be feared?
Reading about Jamey has made me wonder where my voice has gone. In middle school I was one of the founding members of a group that still exists a decade later. We called it "STAR": Students Teaching Acceptance and Respect. The six of us would visit other classrooms and, through the use of skits, introduce relevant scenarios that taught lessons about respect and acceptance.
In high school I was presented with a Multicultural Leadership Award for my work on what my friend and I called our "Safe Speech Campaign." We made pamphlets, handed out buttons, and organized an all-school assembly to speak about the power of language and how it affects those around us. And we didn't only talk about derogative words directed toward the GLBT community, either. We addressed words that targeted gender, race, religion, social class, etc.
It's interesting, then, that what I took out of high school was not confidence in my ability to speak out and stand up for those in need. What I took away from high school was tolerance. Not tolerance for those different than me, but a tolerance for hatred - a tolerance for the bullying and the harassment that I had to endure every day. I didn't realize it then, but I had been defeated. They had taken away my voice - and isn't that what they were after? I was no longer able to speak up for myself.
This led me to form the opinion that the power to make a change lay in the hands of straight people. It was up to them to speak up for a minority. No one was going to listen to me. After all, if I were to say something I would just be complaining and the only thing worse than a faggot is a faggot who whines. But you know what I've discovered? I've discovered that if I don't say something, then chances are that no one else will, either.
So here's my challenge to myself and to you. No longer can we live passively. It is our responsibility, yours and mine, to speak up - to stop harassment, to put an end to hatred, and to prevent bullying. You may feel uncomfortable calling someone else out on their behavior, but the importance of our doing so is clear. By speaking up we are showing others that such behavior is unacceptable and that we, you and I and everyone else, will not stand for it. It is so important that we do this, you and I, because you never know - the other person in the room may have lost their voice in high school.
Please, there is no time to hesitate, no more time to feel uncomfortable. We must learn from Jamey's struggle and act to ensure that no one else has to meet the same fate. Please use your voice and share this message with others so that, together, we - you and I - can make a difference.
I, for one, am glad I've found my voice again.