Clayton Ham is a youth who wished to share his experience of being openly gay in the rural Midwest. While he has faced issues related to being openly gay, he believes his experience has been largely positive.
TW: slurs, bullying, transphobia.
I would say my experience with being openly gay in school has been mostly positive. Most people have been accepting, and there’s just a few groups that haven’t been. I see a lot of people with a much more negative experience than mine. In my case, it was my friends that really wanted me to come out before I even knew – I think they always thought I was a little gay. “Don’t knock it before you try it”, that’s what they would say to me. It hasn’t been difficult for me to be openly gay. I think it bugs my friends more than myself when I’m being picked on – it doesn’t bug me; I have my head help up high.
In terms of problems we’ve had…specifically, there’s this group that sits behind us at lunch that tends to make comments that aren’t appropriate. For example, on the Day of Silence, they saw that we were participating and asked if they could have tape and stuff, but it was a joke; I could tell by their tone. Of course they were smirking and laughing it off later on. Earlier that day, we heard the same people saying, “Oh, it’s that Faggot Day; those people are retarded.” Since I’m openly gay and people know I’m confident in who I am, I’ve also heard them say things like, “Why does that faggot always show off?” I don’t fit their idea of normal – marriage and 2.3 children and a white picket fence. We’ve had problems with this group all year. They throw food at us. One time, one guy sat down and said, “Hey, man, can I have your number? I want to be your boyfriend”, obviously being dared by his friends. It was like, first of all, you’re not my type; second of all, stop being an idiot. It’s not impressing anyone.
Another event that stands out to me was at the beginning of the semester, I wanted a scarf. I really like scarves. So I got a scarf and I wore it on the first day. As walked by, I heard the word “faggot” being called out to me, very loudly from more than a couple of people.
And though the school’s somewhat accepting, the administrators…are a different story. They don’t give it away that they’re biased, but there’s a couple who did say and I quote, when I informed them that I was participating in the Day of Silence, that it seemed “silly” and that they didn’t see a point in it. One in particular said they found it stereotypical to go around waving flags on the Day of Silence, and I found that vey stereotypical and bizarre. Who says I’m going to have a flag waving around to participate and express my opinions? There was another incident this year that made the GSA leader very angry…essentially, my friend Jackie was going to see if her petition to get me to cross-dress for a day could get 100 signatures, and if she got 100 signatures, I would come to school presenting as feminine and wear a dress, makeup, nail polish, and everything. It was out of fun and another friend brought up that it could also be a good way to raise awareness that people should be allowed to do this if that’s who they are or that’s who they want to be. Jackie wanted to ask the administrators if that was all right, and according to her, they had said no. But they didn’t just say no, they said it was a distraction to the learning environment and, “You’re not allowed to do that here.” I don’t want to say mean things; I’m not a mean person, but these kinds of people need to get their act together. I find it ironic that they tell students to “cross the line” (our school motto) and respect others as they would want to be respected, but then they turn around and say, “But don’t be that.”
What I want to get across in telling my story is just the general message of show some respect. It’s really sad that people think it’s fun and hilarious and a good thing to make fun of someone. Unfortunately the administrators at my school don’t do that much – I’ve seen tons of people get picked on, and they don’t ever do much. I also want people to know that there are supportive people out there. On the Day of Silence, one of my teachers talked to everyone in her class about it and posted on Twitter, “I can’t do the Day of Silence because I’m a teacher, but I support everyone who is; go for it.” Another explained the event and why we couldn’t talk to the class. There were quite a few people that supported the Day of Silence – I counted seventeen or eighteen people actually participating, and many more who were supportive.