If I had access to a gun anytime when I was growing up, I would have put that gun to my head and gladly pulled the trigger anytime to save me from the hate that surrounded me.
My earliest memory of bullying is when I was in my fourth grade, when I was barely 9 years old. My peers were a part of day to day taunting but the most scarred event that comes to my mind was not through my fellow students but my teacher – a Christian teacher who came to supervise us for my annual exam. That memory is still too painful to dwell into even two decades later. I still remember the shame and the humiliation. I ran crying from my annual exam hall to go to my own class teacher. She did not know what to do. I was happy that it was the last day of the academic year and I did not have to go back and live through my humiliation again for another 2 months. I didn’t talk about this to anyone else, not even my own family, because it was supposed to be a shameful thing. When I entered my 5th grade I was dreading which teacher was I going to get again. Well I didn’t get lucky when I got another bible thumper as a teacher who, on my first day of fifth grade, made sure that everyone else knew that I did not belong in their normal world.
My 5th grade was the worst in my life. I dreaded that monster every time she walked into the class. The whole year I had to endure insults delivered in a matter of fact way, which the other kids picked up and used for the rest of the day. Every day brought a new ordeal and it destroyed my confidence; my childhood; my innocence. There were a lot of good days but the terrible ones were always around the corner. I survived through it. The next year I changed school. The next two years I even forgot the fact that I was different. I was a star student, always on top of my class. I was a teacher’s pet and I always made great grades. Then again I changed to another school in my 8th
This time it was merciless and cruel and that was when the thought of ending my life came to me for the first time. But I was a coward not to attempt to kill myself and I am happy for that now.
So I went back to my old school when I was in my 9th grade. This time the kids had matured and they knew a different person when they saw one. The scars of my 9th grade were so deep that I secretly wished that a car knocks me off my bicycle on my way to school and all of this might end. When I entered my 10th grade that is when I found out that I can fool others into thinking that I was just like them – the normal straight guy. I started changing every ounce of me, the way I walk, the way I talk and the way I think. I was not always successful, but it got a bit better. By my 12th grade I had figured out another trick, to befriend the popular girl and make others think that there was something between the two of us. It worked; people were too busy gossiping rather than pick on me or think that I was different. When I entered my college I knew for sure that I am not straight but I didn’t acknowledge it, rather didn’t want to acknowledge it, as I was busy protecting myself again. This time I made sure no one picks on me. I was 18 and I guess I got clever.
I distracted the dumb people around me so that they won’t find out. Again it worked most of the time but there were a lot of people who saw through my defenses and made sure that they had their fun just hurting me.
That was the time I also realized that I cannot carry this burden; I cannot live this lie the rest of my life, afraid of every move I make, afraid that someone will find out. There were times I asked, “Find out what? The most important part of me; the very essence of my being?” I realized that I had to leave that horrible small minded town but I was stuck in a college curriculum for six years.
Then one day a miracle happened. When I was 19 years old, I saw Will and Grace on an English channel. I immediately knew who I was. A sense of relief swept over me. I knew I wasn’t alone in this forsaken world. I could relate to the people on television than to anyone I had known in my entire life. Fear gripped me again; may be my friends will find out about me if they saw Will And Grace. It was also the time that I realized that there is a world out there thousands of miles apart, a land where people like William Truman, people like me gays; can live with respect and dignity – being their authentic self. It gave me hope and I was determined that whatever happens I will try to make my life in America.
I am there right now, in America, the land of dreams. Things haven’t worked out yet but reaching here has given me hope, courage and a new determination to succeed. I am not sure of what will happen next but I am sure of one thing. I will fight till my last breath to achieve the happiness that is due to me. This time I will fight for everyone like me who are trapped in their own mother land surrounded by hate. I will make sure that I will do my part to give them hope.
If this world, in all its glory, makes a 9-year old kid so scared that he fears getting up from his bed and face a new day each morning, then there is something horribly wrong with this world. If this world, with all its kindness, makes an eighth grader contemplate ending his life just because of who he is then there is something horrendously wrong with this world. If this world, with all its empathy, kills the innocence of a kid and makes him lie to himself and deny his true being and carry a burden so heavy that he can’t even breathe, then there is something obscenely wrong with this world. And if this world, with all its morality, wants a reason why that kid is gay rather than accept him for who he is, then there is something sinfully wrong with this world.
That 9 year old is not wrong; that ninth grader is not wrong; and I am not wrong. I am not the sinner and I am not going to be ashamed of who I am. I am gay and I am proud of that.
I am proud of my history – the gay rights movement. We, the gays, have overcome discrimination. We, the gays have triumphed hate. We, the gays have shattered myths and prejudices. We, the gays, have survived a plague. We will not stop fighting until every kid who is different feels safe. We will not stop until every innocence is cherished. We will not stop until every life is valued. We will not stop fighting – not now not ever. I will not stop.