“Faggot!” I braced myself for the barrage of gum, paper, and pencils that they would throw at me. I quickened my pace to get to class before they could torment me further. I looked around for help but no one stood up for me — no students, no teachers, no staff. Almost immediately after I had come out as gay a few weeks earlier, the bullying had started.
Homosexuality was rarely talked about in my hometown of Mesa, Ariz., and when it was, it was always with disgust and condemnation. Sex education in school always focused on heterosexual relationships and never mentioned homosexuality at all. My parents only brought up homosexuality to tell me that it was bad and that I better not be “a queer.” And my “friends,” being products of their upbringing, were just as homophobic as the rest.
Being a bold child, I came out the summer between seventh and eighth grade, when I was 12 years old. As exemplified above, my middle school did not treat me well as the only out gay kid. To whom could I turn? Whenever I brought this bullying up to anyone, they blamed me for being “so out,” and encouraged me to step back into the closet. They wanted me to remain silent. And I did. But I have stopped being silent, and refuse to be anymore.
Today marks the 15th annual National Day of Silence. This national day of protest is meant to raise awareness about the struggles that people in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community face — struggles like mine. People choose to remain silent today in order to show others how much of an impact the forced silence of LGBTQ people can have. Being silenced is awful. When I am silenced, I feel like a second-class citizen. I feel unwanted, rejected. I feel like I have nowhere to turn.
I sometimes feel silenced by people at MIT. Professors have created a hypothetical situation by addressing the class: “Okay, guys, think about your future. Your wives …” Why can’t they just say “partner”? When I correct them on their heterosexist comment, I have been told by my peers to stop that because it is “inappropriate.” Students with whom I’m p-setting have said, “This problem/class is so gay!” When I spoke up, they got angry and stopped p-setting with me. How can I bring up that I’m offended without making things awkward?
“But MIT is totally gay-friendly! Everyone is so open-minded and liberal!” False. Comparatively, MIT is a great place for the LGBTQ community. But still, every year there are instances of bigotry and hatred. People are forced to leave their living groups and are tormented because they are LGBTQ. Most students may not realize it, but sometimes students are beaten because they identify as LGBTQ (see results from last year’s Living Pink guide for an example). People are silenced. Today, you should think about whose voices you might be silencing.
Experiences of LBGTQ people at MIT run the gamut of super-accepting and pleasant to completely unbearable and terrible. This is deplorable. Everyone has the right to feel accepted and embraced. No one should be silenced. Although I am at a better school than I was at back in Mesa, Ariz, I still choose to remain silent today — for those who are forced to remain silent because people cannot accept them for who they are. I hope you do, too.