Do Say Gay

An anonymous writer share’s their thoughts on growing up queer in Monument.

Do+Say+Gay

Photo by Anonymous

I’m gay. I’ve only said those words to about 5 people in my life, none of whom are members of my family. Growing up in Monument, I knew that I would never feel happy and safe being who I truly am here. It’s a word that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with, me included. I went to church services hearing and believing it was my duty to save these poor souls who simply didn’t know what they were doing. I felt bad for the people at my school who said they were gay, because I “knew” they were just confused. I knew that because although I rarely said it, I was one of them. 

As any kid who grew up in Monument can tell you, there is a very specific culture. With the Air Force Academy just 15 minutes away, and probably a dozen churches on the way there, many people have quite conservative views and opinions. You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t have a friend or family member in the military. While that may not be a big deal to many, some things from the military have unknowingly seeped into our daily lives​​. 

The rigidity of keeping a clean room, a clean life, and a perfect family are subconscious thoughts that overcome so many people here. There is an expectation that kids are to get good grades, play a sport, and be well-liked by their peers. Especially here at PR, there are so many kids who feel that they have to be a 4.0, 3 sport-letter, popular student to live up to their parents expectations. And for some of us that’s just not possible. We can’t be that perfect student, with the perfect family, and the perfect friends. They want a perfect son with their perfect girlfriend, heaven forbid that son turns out gay. For a lot of us, we’re just trying to get through high school unnoticed, so we can live our lives somewhere we can be accepted. 

In 1994, a decade before most of us were born, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill was adopted into the US military. Since World War II, a ban on homosexuals in the military had been in place, but this bill supposedly lifted that ban, allowing homosexuals in the military if, and only if, they did not openly declare their sexuality. With this bill came the idea that excluding homosexuals was bad, but including them was only okay if they were in the closet. As you can imagine, this has affected military members and their families immensely, because not only do many military families have little to no experience with openly gay peers, they assume that those who are gay should simply stay in the closet and not tell others about their sexuality. You’ve probably heard the term, “I don’t care what you do, I just don’t want to know about it,” which may seem harmless, but can severely damage gay children and teens in the long run. This unspoken rule of “Don’t say gay,” has been in place much longer than the bill that recently passed in Florida.

Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” Bill, A.K.A. the Don’t Say Gay bill, requires schools not to teach about gender identity or sexual orientation from kindergarten to 3rd grade. While in some ways this seems innocent, the bill is also “prohibiting a school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about specified information or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information” Basically, this bill is prohibiting schools from keeping a kid’s sexual identity from their parents or guardians. This is pretty terrifying for a lot of us, because our parents knowing we aren’t straight could mean we lose our place to live. Many families are willing to kick a kid out for being LGBTQ+, and being outed against their will is really traumatizing.  While the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill is in no way a solution to the discrimination homosexuals face, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is so much worse. 

I grew up in a decently conservative family, with a high achieving sibling and very Christian parents. We went to church every Sunday, had a neighborhood Bible study, and of course, we didn’t talk about the gays. I didn’t really even know what it meant for a while, I didn’t think it was unusual to have crushes on both girls and boys. But when I realized I was different, I hated myself for it. I’ve always been different in a couple of ways, I’m not good in school, I sometimes blurt out things I shouldn’t, and I didn’t think I was attractive for most of my life. So now, not only did I dislike how I looked and acted, I disliked how I thought and felt. Monument had constructed a person that I thought was who I needed to be, and I didn’t relate to that person at all. I looked at all the kids in my school with the “perfect” life, and they were nothing like me. 

When I was in middle school, a friend of mine told me that she was bisexual. When I realized what it meant, I told her I thought I might be bisexual, but my sibling overheard and told my parents. That evening, my parents held an “intervention” with me, basically telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I was just confused. This idea that someone who expresses the possibility of being homosexual is simply “confused,” has been pushed onto so many kids, and it’s not right. I told my parents that I lied to my friend to fit in and that I didn’t really feel that way. That was the first time I lied to my parents about my sexuality, but it was far from the last. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with that friend anymore. 

For a couple years after that interaction, I told myself that my parents were right, I was confused. I got angry at myself every time I had an “unholy” thought about someone of my own gender. I told my best friend, “Every morning I wake up and hate myself,” and I don’t think I’ll ever forget those words. By the age of 11, I wanted to commit suicide, but I had no idea how to tell anyone. I thought that because I wasn’t this “perfect kid,” I wasn’t worthy of love, or life. Imagine what it would feel like to know that your family could never love you the same if you told them who you really were. Imagine your family using the word f*g to describe people, or gay to call something stupid, and having to laugh along in order not to be worried about them finding out your secret. That’s the reality of so many kids in Monument, and even more throughout the country, and the world.

One summer, I felt really uncomfortable in almost every piece of clothing I owned, so I would only wear a few specific outfits. When my sibling saw one of these outfits, they said I looked gay, and they needed me not to be gay because they loved me too much. They said “Oh my God I can’t believe this is happening to me” and started to cry, then they told me that I would go to hell and at that point I left the room. I remember going to my bed and sobbing, because I just wanted to be loved by my family no matter what, but I knew that I wouldn’t be. I yelled at my sibling and said, “It’s just an outfit, it doesn’t define my sexual orientation,” and they rolled their eyes. I never wore those clothes again.

Every day for most of my middle school life, I tried to “act straight.” I told my family about all my crushes on the opposite gender, and I even got a significant other of the opposite gender just to prove I was straight. In reality, I liked all of those people, but there were so many more people I could have had an amazing relationship with, but I didn’t. Falling in love should not be something to be ashamed of, no matter what a stupid suburban mom and her friends think. 

I was so angry at the world. I hated myself, I hated my family, and I hated Monument. I hated walking through those doors on Monday morning knowing that I didn’t fit into any of the groups. At PR we like to believe that we don’t have cliques, but we all know that’s not true. There’s the popular kids, the jocks, the theater kids, and the gay kids. I never felt like I fit in with the gay kids, cause they were so open about it. In some ways I was jealous of their ability to not care what everyone else thought, but I never wanted someone to talk about me the way I heard everyone talk about them. 

Teenagers are cruel. I hear how some of you talk about the Pride Club and its members, and my biggest question is why? What gives you the right to decide whether someone is worthy of respect and love? This is where we go wrong in so many ways. In ten years, are you going to remember what your friends said about the kid in the pride club? Probably not, but they will. They’ll remember because I promise you, they know, everyone knows. We strive so hard to fit in that we bring everyone else down, and I know you’ve heard that phrase a million times, but it’s true! Everyone would be so much happier if we just stopped caring what everyone else thinks, but to do that, we have to stop telling people they are less than for who they are.

There’s some sort of unwritten rule here that says “make fun of them, or you’re one of them.” It doesn’t just apply to the gay kids, it probably applies to just about any group you can think of. As humans, we love to make an “us and them.” I’m sure everyone has thought some variation on, “I may be gay, but at least I’m not like those gay kids.” People love to feel superior, we love to be special. Whether that means making fun of the kids who don’t fit our idea of “perfection” or even making ourselves out to be someone we aren’t.

 In high school, you’re expected to know exactly who you are and what you believe, despite not having the life experience to actually form your own opinions. So many of us have lived in this tiny bubble known as Monument for as long as we can remember, so how are we supposed to know how we want to live our lives outside of it? All these unspoken rules of perfection have ruined our perceptions of ourselves and each other. Those stupid academic assemblies where we seperate the 3.5 GPA students from the 3.75 make us feel inferior for something we can’t change, the fact that we have a GPA parking lot, all of these things make us secretly hate each other, so why do we do it? Why on earth are we still upholding these standards that make our lives unbearable? We separate ourselves from those we deem as less than in more ways than one, and adopting a bill like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will only encourage us to continue this cycle to our kids. 

I implore you to think about those unspoken rules, and their impact.  The idea that someone is less than because of their sexuality brings nothing but hatred to you and everyone else. We already have enough expectations on our shoulders to get good grades or to get into a good college, why do we need another expectation of who we are allowed to love? These expectations from our school, our families, and even those who we call our friends, have been weighing us all down, so we should all try to lift each other up. Tell your family you love them no matter what, tell your friend you are proud of them no matter what, because I promise, someone out there needs to hear it.

-Anonymous