As an older college student I am in the interesting position to make silent observations about what goes on in schools these days. There are things that many students are hesitant to say around their professors, teachers and such that they otherwise share with their fellow students. Since I reside on the student side of the fence, I hear and see many of these things directed toward or about other students.
I am fortunate in that I realised my sexual orientation very early in life and pretty much came to terms with it while I was still in high school. The last half of my senior year it was pretty much a given that I was batting for the smaller team, though I never told anyone (other than myself) until after graduation. I was picked on once in a while (actually, that was mostly before I came to terms with it myself) but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle for the most part. During my current time in school I don’t run around screaming “I’m gay! I’m gay! Look at me I’m gay!” with my hands waving in the air but I don’t deny or mislead in anyway and I correct people who assume that my wedding band represents a heterosexual marriage. I, for the most part, have the respect of my fellow students and am able to “hang with the guys”. I attribute most of this to my age.
Like me so many years ago, today there are many teens coming to terms with their sexuality early in life. The atmosphere is seemingly more accepting, but in a way this can be a little deceiving. There’s television shows that show openly gay people all over the place. You can not go a day without hearing something about gay rights or gay marriage or whatever on the news. Almost everyone knows at least one openly gay person. So in many ways the atmosphere seems more relaxed than ever before.
On the other hand, there’s still a lot of hate towards gay people out there. Like the witch hunts of hundreds of years ago, I believe there are people out there that would become alarmingly gleeful at the thought of hanging a gay man or lesbian, simply because they are different from themselves. The old ways of intolerance are handed down from generation to generation and the intensity of the hate seems to increase in the process. In February, 15 year old Lawrence King was shot and killed by a 14-year old classmate simply because he was gay. There wasn’t a lot of media coverage about the murder, apparently the latest display of Britney Spears’ vagina is more important. Perhaps the lack of coverage is indicative of a true lack of progress in the acceptance of the differences amongst us.
But you can bet that I’ll be outspoken at school.
1 (from dayofsilence.org): What is the Day of Silence®?
The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies. This year’s Day of Silence will be held in memory of Lawrence King.