With each passing day at my new school, Clear Creak High in the Houston suburb of League City, I learn a new lesson and persevere through pain and strife. Some days it’s a look, a trivial expression of disapproval from both teachers and students. And other days it’s more: an exchange of words or a gasp accompanied by a quick departure. Nevertheless I am out and continue to fight for tolerance. I have the support of my wonderful partner, Cyndi, along with friends and family, but lately I have been pulling encouragement from music. I turn on a song, such as “Giant” or “Tuesday Morning” by Melissa Etheridge, and I am encouraged.Last school year, at Clear Lake High in Houston, I started to come out, but I did it gradually. People got to know me before they knew my sexual orientation. This was also my plan for this year, but it has not really happened. I have noticed the more I move on and start treating my life as normal, the more normal it seems to everyone else. I had a chore coming out last year because I had only recently accepted it myself. So when I finally did tell people I would be so anxious that it would just come out as, “Hi, I’m Paige, and I am a lesbian!” I was so overjoyed and proud to have finally overcome my fear that I assumed everyone would be thrilled for me.But when summer rolled around, I took the time off to examine my thoughts and decided I didn’t have to come out to everyone. If it comes up, that’s OK, and it usually does. After all, I am in high school. But it is not what defines me anymore. People at school ask me if I am dating anyone, and I say yes. If they ask what his name is I say, “Well, her name is Cyndi.” Some people walk away. Others raise eyebrows and wrinkle their foreheads. But generally it is accepted.Politics is a popular topic at my school, and interestingly it seems that issues surrounding gay rights are particularly prominent. In my health class we constantly talk about the presidential race, and we often discuss gay marriage. There are a couple of people who seem to dominate the conversations: a guy who’s a fundamentalist Bush supporter, and a girl who doesn’t like Bush but also is not too fond of Kerry. These two will go for the whole class period discussing what is “right” and why it is so. They often bring the Bible into their debate.Occasionally I will give my thoughts, but not often, because I would rather listen to what they have to say. If either says anything that infuriates me, I do speak up.I have formed a gay-straight alliance at my new school while helping to run alliances at Clear Lake High School and nearby La Porte High School. Sadly, the groups aren’t exactly thriving at those other schools. They are planning meetings, but none have taken place this school year. The groups’ leaders tell me they haven’t had much trouble with the kids at their schools, but they haven’t had much interest either. At Clear Creek High, I have organized meetings that have not been widely accepted by school officials and fellow students. I am preparing for a possible fight. I have been gathering support from alliances at other schools and from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.Aside from high school, living in the Houston area is rewarding because it is metropolitan, but it still has its downfalls. We are still in Texas, and considering Texas’s reputation it is safe to assume that the acceptance level for gay people is low. But I am finding that the students at my school and the younger kids I meet are far more accepting than the adults.One day Cyndi and I went out to eat and I decided to hold her hand. This caused a number of people—mostly older—to stare at us, some approvingly, some disapprovingly. When I started dating Cyndi I warned her that I was publicly affectionate. Thankfully, she is affectionate too. In fact, she is more affectionate than I am. We are both comfortable with who we are, and we’re not going to stop being ourselves just because people talk and stare. We had a great time despite the uninvited attention.