I realized I was gay when I was very young, but only opened up to a couple of friends in high school. I never fully embraced my identity until college, when I discovered Malate and realized there was a thriving community made up of people who were just like me.
Bullying was just a part of growing up, during those times when I slipped up and acted less masculine than was “appropriate” at the time. At some point though, I grew up, realized I actually like who I was, and decided that I had to learn not to care about what people thought of me, if I wanted to live a life of integrity, one where I was true to myself.
In practical terms, what this means is that, each day, each moment, I have to draw a line on the ground, and remind people every time that they cannot cross that line. And every time someone crosses that line, every time someone engages in hate speech or says that some bakla needed to be punched in the face simply because he refuses to disappear or to change himself so he was less different, I have to speak up, to make people realize that that behavior is unacceptable, and that I will not allow it.
And the only way I could do this, I realized, is if I was smarter and stronger than everyone else. If I worked harder and earned my place at the table. And that sucks, because straight men get that seat at the table by virtue of their birth, while I needed to fight for it.
But that’s how you change people’s minds. Bullies only have power if you allow them to wield it. And if enough people say “no, this behavior is unacceptable”, well, you can change the world.
The people who play nice, who say “this is not my problem, I’m only going to look at the positive”, are those who aren’t affected by issues which define minorities, which are real struggles we have to live with on an everyday basis. Good for you. But realize that that means you live a life of privilege we only hope we can have one day—the privilege to live a life without fear or judgment or threat of violence.
Our fight may not be your fight, but it is a real one nonetheless. Don’t diminish it by saying we should only “look at the positive”. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury.