Silence is almost as harmful as hateful words

I feel invisible as the crowd pushes and guides me to the staircase where my locker lays.

But this crowd is slow, and I can hear almost every laugh in harmony. Almost every conversation floats into my ears.

I try to smuggle my way through the large hallway that is decorated with hundreds of backpacks on the floor and flocks of teenagers blocking my way.

“Oh look at that fag,” I hear someone say. I can see them in my peripheral vision, a pack of boys, you could tell they were the popular ones; the loud, obnoxious kind. They seem to be pointing their finger at another kid. I could not tell if he was their friend and I did not want to know. I start to feel pukish.

Fag,” another boy in the pack cries.

Fag,” another one repeats.

The kid approaches the pack, slowly — dragging his feet each step of the way.

My heart begins to pound, I can feel the blood rush to my face. My hands are shaking and I cannot tell if it is due to anger or fear.

A part of me wants to turn around and scream at the boys; the other part just tells me to keep quiet, to mind my own business.

The bell rings and there are five minutes left to class. I run past the filthy pack, I don’t want to hear more pejorative jokes. But deep down inside, I know I am just using the class as an excuse to escape from this reality. The reality of a cruel and imprudent world, where people do not care for others’ feelings.

More people seem to have assembled now, pushing and pulling each other. I penetrate my way up the stairs to my locker. Hurried, I open it, looking for my notebooks; I must have slowed down enough that another conversation flew into my ear.

This time a group of girls, huddled around, some resting their shoulders on the sides of the blue-painted metal lockers.

“Hey, you look damn sexy today,” a girl praises another. “No homo though,” she continues in a rushed manner.

I roll my eyes away from them. My hands clench into a fist inside my locker. I grab my notebook and slam the metal door in hopes that they recognize my irritation.

I do not understand why she had to say the second part And besides, what’s the problem with being attracted to someone of the same gender anyway? I try to search through my brain to find an answer, but no logical reasons come to my mind.

A cloud of thoughts blurs my vision and I stumble down the stairs into the English classroom. A cacophony of opinions rushes at me as I enter the room — opinions about the cancellation of a film screening about gay teen romance.

A recent incident that left many disturbed, students and staff alike. We didn’t know why it was happening. We didn’t know what the school stood for anymore. We weren’t sure if we truly were a diverse school, where everyone was supposed to feel respected.

“I am afraid, I don’t know anymore, I don’t know if this is the place I want to be, ” a queer friend says.

My heart sinks, my body begins to crumble. Guilt consumes my insides, leaving me feeling hollow. I know that it isn’t just the cancellation of a film screening or just the jokes, it is the harshness of facing an unaccepting community. A part of me feels blameworthy for this, for letting society make my friend feel this way.

I should have told the boys in the hallways to never say “fag” again. I should have told the girls that it was okay to compliment someone without putting someone else down, without making a derogatory comment. I should have stood up against these kids who thought it was okay to make homophobic jokes because it is not okay. It’s not okay to make these jokes and it’s not okay to be unresisting to such offences either. I shouldn’t have minded my own “business” because, as a community, we have decided that we will maintain a sense of personal responsibility for our neighbors’ welfare.”

And if my friend isn’t feeling safe in this community, I’m not doing my job right. We are not going our jobs right.

 

Author’s note: This piece is fictional;  however, it has been brought together through the recollection of student experiences.

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