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Outspoken: Jessie

Outspoken: Jessie


Life is hard. Adults tell us we can achieve anything we desire. Eventually, though, we learn we must fight for it.

It did not surprise me that I faced prejudice as a young lesbian in my conservative small-town high school in Maryland. Aware some people would dislike me as I began advocating for lesbian and gay equality, I prepared for rejection. But I was not prepared to be talked down to by adults as if my 16 years of rocky life were too few to know about myself.

One such adult was my Spanish teacher, Mrs. Armstrong. I respected her. She made learning easy. Then I talked to her about the Day of Silence--a day in which students across the country take a vow of silence to acknowledge the discrimination gay people face. That is the day she lost my respect.

Mrs. Armstrong locked the classroom door and took me to the back, away from the window. She yelled about how the Day of Silence was unnecessary, especially in her classroom, because there was "no discrimination." I wanted to explain how often I hear the words "faggot" and "dyke" and how "gay" things are. I asked to leave. "No, I'm not done with you," I was told. Nervous, but with no reason to run, I stayed. All she could wound was my pride.

As she continued I became sick. She asked if I was a lesbian. Never one to actively hide my identity, I said yes. Then she wanted to know what made me "think that." Had I had "experiences"? It was then that I walked away, tears falling down my face. I wanted to shout that the reason we needed the Day of Silence was because of people like her. But I didn't.

I feel no resentment for Mrs. Armstrong. I fear she will never know some of the world's greatest people because they identify as lesbian or gay. She taught me that even when I speak up to hundreds of people there is no guarantee I have opened a single mind; I must fight for that privilege. After all, life is hard.

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