The Stories Project – Clayton Ham’s Story

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.

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15 thoughts on “The Stories Project – Clayton Ham’s Story

  1. Great messages. I’m sorry your school can be shitty but I love your optimism. I certainly wouldn’t be so nice about it if I was in your position.

  2. “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.” Good for you. It’s cool that you feel your experience has been mostly positive.

  3. “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.'”

    Yeah, how ironic, but schools are typically useless. My recommendation is that you know when the administrators are acting illegally (not letting trans kids dress as the gender that’s appropriate for them would be an example of this) and that your group connect with some other LGBT organizations in your area who would back you if you needed to blow the signal to the media. It may also be worth your time to see if the “higher-ups” (superintendent of your district, etc.) are supportive.

    Good luck, Clayton, and I’m glad your experience has been mostly positive!

  4. Back when I was in high school (74-78), no one was “out” or openly gay, though a few did come out later in life. Seeing those like yourself who feel comfortable about who they are at such young ages is probably the neatest aspect of this decade for me.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It’s nice to read a more uplifting account. Not that the other stories aren’t important, some of them are just so sad.

  6. “One in particular said they found it stereotypical to go around waving flags on the Day of Silence, and I found that very stereotypical and bizarre. Who says I’m going to have a flag waving around to participate and express my opinions?”

    JFC, their ignorance is astounding. Not to mention there is absolutely nothing wrong with waving flags to express your opinions. What a bizarre thing to say. Of course you’re not going to see the point in it when you’re part of the group that isn’t getting murdered and committing suicide over this.

  7. Pingback: 2013: Wrap-Up and Resolutions | The Week of Action Movement

  8. do you go to (redacted)? i’m a freshman there and i think I recognize your name. i’m gay not out of the closet. i don’t know what to do or who is accepting and who isn’t but knowing there are supporters is exactly what i needed to hear.

    Mod note: School name redacted for privacy reasons.

    • Hi pita,

      I apologize for not seeing your comment earlier. The person who runs these projects goes to your school. I’ve actually been surprised at just how many accepting teachers and students we have there despite the political climate being what it is. There are definitely supporters around – it’s just a matter of finding them. 🙂

      Feel free to get in touch with me or the GSA if you’re in need of support or resources!

      Meg

  9. People who think the Day of Silence is Let’s Bully the Gay Kids Because Haha They Can’t Say Anything Day are the reason I don’t participate anymore. Someone needs to speak to protect the others. GL to you if you’re taking part tomorrow.

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