Of course, I never wanted to be gay. I mean, who’d want to be openly and viciously hated on in front of everyone who I thought mattered in my life – teachers, friends, and family?
“Well, not me,” I thought. And so I battled every little hormone inside of me to hide anything about my behavior that might have been perceived as gay by those around me. I was always very aware of the way I walked, talked, or dressed.
But my plan was not working. Being called faggot and ***** became part of my daily experience as I coursed through sixth grade. Any time I’d raise my hand during class, or when I tried joining a soccer team during physical education, I’d be reminded just how horrible of a person I was. “Not our team, you’re gay,” my classmates would say.
There was not a day I could just be a kid who enjoyed being around other kids. I despised school and anything even minimally associated with it. I would fake being sick as often as I could just so I could be away from it. Not only did I feel out of place, but all of those around me reminded me just how much I did not belong.
The collective bullying only got worse as I got older; expanding to my entire school, including teachers and administrators. I had no one on my side – not even my family at the time. I’d go home and my mom would say, “Talk like a man, Fernando, talk like a man!” whenever I’d respond in what she perceived to be a gay tone.
But after taking it for so long, I began to realize that, the more I ran, the more they came after me. I was confirming their power over me by denying I was gay. So, one day I felt particularly radical and decided to face it. It wasn’t really a plan – it just came spontaneously.
After lunch break one day, I walked into my class room to find a group of classmates chatting. Coincidentally, they were talking about something that had to do with gay people. “Mena, so, are you a fag or not?” one of them asked me. And fueled by two full pumps of adrenaline I responded, “Well, I’m gay. But I thought you knew that.” Of course, everyone was appalled at my response, since I had denied it for years.
But, contrary to what I expected, my class mates began to show respect for me. I had clearly defined myself as gay, and they could no longer use it as an attack. I had taken pride in being gay.
That day, I defined my place in the world, and I didn’t let anyone else do it for me. That day, I decided that no matter how much hate was thrown my way, I would always hold my ground and embrace who I am.
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