What’s up APC? My name is Jos and I’m from New Jersey! Below is a personal essay I wrote about growing up lesbian in my hometown.
Growing up in a homophobic city and going to a school in which the teachers, disciplinarians, and principals were all homophobic made my life pretty difficult. The year I came out was 2013. 2013 was a year of pride, loneliness, awareness, and personal growth. The city that I was raised in was a city full of crime and violence. If you were not what society deemed “normal,” you had to hide who you were. I came to terms with my sexual orientation when I was around 13 years old. I came out as lesbian during my 8th-grade year. I did not think that there would be as many problems as there was. At that time, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community was viewed as something to be ashamed of. But of course, I was still young and thought that I was invincible to the hate that this cruel world has to offer.
In the middle school that I attended, bullying and ostracizing “abnormal” students was not uncommon. There were very few allies and supporters of queer individuals. Many potential allies did not wish to publicly support my community with the fear of being mistaken as gay themselves. “Allies” were very discreet about their position, which made them no better than the bullies. Many individuals would witness the bullying and just walk away. Disciplinarians and teachers also stood by and watched, and the vice principals ignored the issues concerning the LGBTQ+ community; these adults in my school community were a big part of the problem. When someone attempted to get help from a disciplinarian or a teacher, they would make false promises, saying that they would try to help and that this bullying would not go unpunished. At the end of the day, they call it a false promise for a reason. They did nothing but listen to our complaints and forget about them the moment after. No one cared about us, we were not considered as important as the “normal” students. There was no one in the school to talk to, unless they were just like you.
One of the worst experiences I have ever had took place in my English class. Our teacher had left the room for a moment and that is when the torment began. A few of my peers crowded around my desk and started spitting out statements, full of hate: “What is wrong with you?”, “You are a disgrace to your family”, “I do not know how you could be proud of who you are”. Then, the worst thing that anyone could ever say: “You should just go and kill yourself.” Right then and there, my heart dropped. No one said or did anything. I went to a teacher and they did nothing at all. As I continued to be bullied, my self-esteem plummeted and I fell into a very bad state of depression. I had no one by my side and it was terrible.
I felt as though there was something wrong with me. I did not believe that things would get better. How could things get better when no one cared enough to do anything? I did not want to feel this way any longer, I just wanted to be happy. It got to the point where I felt as though no one would notice if I were gone or not. I wanted to vanish into thin air. My family was not there for me, I did not have support from my “friends” or teachers, I only had myself. I was still young, and I had no idea what I could do to pull myself out of the water. I knew that I was not okay and that was the first step towards getting better right? However, it seemed that in this realization, I felt suffocated even more.
The bullying at my school never stopped, however, it would momentarily divert from me. A new girl had arrived, who was also a part of the LGBTQ+ community. One day, I witnessed her being bullied and I came to the conclusion that I would not remain silent anymore. I voiced my opinion and said, “There is nothing wrong with her, she is great just as she is. ” Although the bullies continued after my outburst, I felt triumphant for I was able to use to my voice to prevent others from feeling the way that I had felt. and most importantly, in that moment, I made a friend. I continued to stand up for her and she would do the same for me. From this little incident, we came to understand what it felt like to have someone who was genuinely on your side.
Today, I am 18 years old and still working towards my goal of happiness. Although I am not completely happy yet, my self esteem and mental health has improved immensely. I share this story in hopes of showing others that they are not alone and that things can get better. I want you to know that regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, there is nothing wrong with you. Love who you love, freely and passionately. Be who you are, completely. I know it can be hard to feel like there is nothing wrong with you when the world is telling you otherwise, but you are amazing just the way you are. Even if you have not come out yet, know that you are loved, know that it is okay, and most of all, know that you do not have to come out to anyone if you do not want to. Things can always get better. Remember that and never give up, okay?