Sixteen and ready to change the world
Editor’s note: For the third consecutive year, The Advocate is proud to present “High School Diary,” a series of dispatches from a gay student still enrolled in high school. For the 2004–2005 school year meet Paige Palmer, our first young woman diarist and the first who has able to use her real name from the outset. Because of my dad’s job, I have had to change high schools every year. In ninth grade I attended high school in La Porte, Tex., where I adopted—and hid behind—a pseudo-Christian persona. Last year while in 10th grade I attended Clear Lake High School in Houston—ranked among the most prestigious public high schools in the state. It was there that I decided to come out as bisexual. This year I face a new challenge. I will attend Clear Creek High School in the Houston suburb of League City. It is a school with a reputation for being intolerant to those who are different, especially gays and lesbians. But that won’t stop me from being out and active. When I was a Christian activist at La Porte I was well respected, but people were sometimes scared of me because they thought I would lecture them, which I was doing a lot at the time. During that treacherous year I was a public and sometimes professional speaker for certain Christian organizations, so I got to know the ins and outs of the religion, its beliefs, and the stereotypical person who would be involved in it, which would prove to be a good skill later on. By the end of that school year I was an acclaimed speaker and role model, partly because of the number of people I had “converted.” Then as a sophomore at a new school I decided I could not lie to myself or my peers anymore. I decided to declare myself as bisexual. I met a girl. We dated, had fun together, and were good friends; then our life together tragically ended. She was convinced her parents and most of her peers would dislike and maybe even hate her because she was a lesbian, so she committed suicide. This was hard on me not only because it was my first relationship with a female but also because I lost a really good friend. Her parents did not know about her sexual orientation and they didn’t know about me, so out of respect for their daughter I didn’t tell them why she killed herself. Because of that fact, I decided I would do what she could not: come out to everyone. Ever since then I have lived an out life and fought for gay rights in memory of her, and also to win the freedom I deserve to have. While attending Clear Lake High School, a number of other things took place. I became one of the leaders of the school’s gay-straight alliance. I then set up an alliance program with the GSA at my former high school, La Porte. We achieved some goals, but nowhere near what we wanted to do. Yes, we made excuses, and yes, some were valid, but we could have done more. So this year I intend to do everything I possibly can. First, I plan to lead the GSA at my new school and raise awareness and acceptance at my former schools, where I am already working with GSAs. Also, I am going to get the members of the groups to write their lawmakers about advancing gay rights. I will also be working on projects such as the National Day of Silence, National Coming Out Week, AIDS Awareness Week, and No Name-calling Week. In the community outside the school the GSAs are going to try and join up with a local coalition for queer youth. We will also be trying to go to local GSA conferences, possibly even one at our state capital. At my new school the reactions to my efforts will probably vary from accepting to hateful and maybe even harmful. Among teachers I anticipate there to be some uncomfortable feelings and maybe even some discrimination. With the students, I imagine that because of the reputation of Clear Creek as being highly prejudiced, I will be teased and probably harassed—but there will also be those who need what I am doing. Yes, it will be hard. And while it is scary, the people I have working with me reassure me that things will be OK. I have informed my father of these plans, and he too is scared. He knows my reputation for fully immersing myself in whatever I am doing. But because of the wonderful dad that he is, all he has done is caution me. He lets me do what I want and be who I want because he knows it is my life. I told him I would take every precaution I could, but if something happens, I am willing to take that risk. He said OK but still asks me all the time to watch out. I also informed my mother. She too knows of my passionate ways and respects them, but she is not as encouraging as my dad—or at least not as encouraging as I would hope she would be. However, she is not discouraging me. And how could she? Her stepsister and a few other members of her family are out gays and lesbians. My siblings are rather accepting of my being out as long as I do not go too far with it. They don’t mind my talking about it, and I do keep it to a minimum with them out of respect. As far as my extended family is concerned, most of them do not know about me because when I told my grandmothers they asked me not to tell the others out of fear that they might not be accepting of it. My father’s mother is herself not very accepting of my sexuality, but I still respect her. My mother’s mom, Kandi, is the best grandmother a person could ask for, however. She is one of the main pillars of support in my life and one of the people I am closest to. She was the first in my family, aside from my siblings, who knew about me being gay. She supports me in everything I do, and when nobody else will listen she is there to encourage me when I get down. With the support of my family I am hoping for success with the ambitious gay agenda that I have for this new school year. I just hope I can get everything done despite the lack of tolerance for gays at my new school. I have a new girlfriend who is providing love and support. She is the star that shines the brightest in my sky, and I love her for that. So even though I know there will be hard times, I can rest assured that I will have someone to go to so that I can be the person others can come to. And when I get wary and I need some self-reassurance, all I have to do is think to myself, Paige, you are 16, you do not have to conquer the world in one day. Just take it a step at a time. Be patient because you know you are doing everything you can.