When I was in middle school, which was around the time modern high school students were born, there was a new phrasing of an old word that had really taken over the scene. For a long time the word meant happy and then, later, the word changed to mean homosexual; by the year 2000, the word “gay” had so many connotations, it was impossible to keep track of them all. But, suffice it to say that the pejorative “gay” has had its fair-share of use since the 1990s.
And the reason I say the 1990s is because that was the time when the word changed from, “You’re acting like a sissy faggot homopants” to “You’re acting like a douchebag.” However, that having been said, there was a ridiculous amount of homophobia at my high school. I mean, it was bad. This was before Matthew Shephard, in a rural school of 800 hillbillies who had never met an openly gay person in their lives, where you could get away with bullying a kid on a level that would be seen as a hate crime today.
It’s a changed world. The last four months have changed me. I listen to dubstep now. I realize that quite a few teachers frequently behave far more fucked up than the kids they complain about all day long. I’ve discovered a lot about myself and what I want to do in the world. More than anything, I’ve learned a lot about my existential position and how priviledged it is.
Then I think back to my high school days. I was not a cool kid. I don’t think I was a dork, per se, but I wasn’t going to parties or dating cheerleaders; no one would ever accuse me of peaking in high school. But, I didn’t take too much shit, either, once I stopped being “the new kid” (which only took three years). Most times, I looked pissed off, which was actually a pretty accurate assessment of my emotions at the time. I fucking hated those people – almost all of them – they were the thousand-or-so people I got stuck with for a half-decade of my life, in the backwoods of northeastern Pennsylvania. Nothing personal, to any of you, if you happen to be reading this, now. I’m sure we’ve all changed in the last ten years, even if the same irresponsible morons we let run our lives in high school can’t even pull off a ten year reunion (every other class is laughing at ours, btw).
But, I digress. A lot has changed. Cliques will always exist, and so will social isolates, but there is a far greater acceptance of diversity than ever before. I see kids giving each other shit for a lot of things, but I never saw a kid get picked on for her makeup, or because of their gender-association, and that’s completely different from the way it was back in My Time. We threw the word “gay” around like it was our primary adjective – anything we didn’t like was “gay” – most times, it had no sexual connotation, and by 2010 both “gay” and “fag” were used as synonomously with “douchebag” as they were with “homosexual.” But here’s the really crazy part.
I haven’t heard any kid call another kid “gay.” I hear people say stuff and say, “No homo,” but even that is dated. I hear “drove.” I hear “douchebag.” I hear “motherfucking cocksucker.” I have never heard someone call another kid “a fag,” at least during this last semester. Now, I’m certain it happens: I’m not saying that. But I am saying that I think there’s been a natural backlash. What I’m saying is, when you know someone who is openly gay, it becomes way harder to use that word as a pejorative term, especially against a person who doesn’t represent gayness.
This brings me to the real shock-and-awe section of this piece. Between my two main (middle and high) schools of residence, this last semester – the Home of the Senators – I know of multiple openly gay students and even more who aren’t open (at both schools). I’m not calling anyone out because that’s not how I roll; but I will call some people out, here.
I’ve heard countless individuals (mostly parents, but sometimes students) talk about how paranoid they are that some homosexual teacher is going to turn their kid gay, because, you know, that’s how it’s spread. Meanwhile, as these parents attempt to block gay people from teaching in schools, there’s a pretty good chance one of their kids’ close friends is gay. Let me ask you something: based in your experience, do you find kids listen better to their teachers…or to their friends?
I think the change in language and its social acceptability (or lack thereof) pretty much answers that question for you, at least as much as I’m sure the answer will now keep you up at night. And…well…to be completely honest…fuck you. I hope that shit gives you rainbow-tinted nightmares, you hate mongering assholes.
To the kids: keep doing what you’re doing. You’re changing the world without even knowing it.
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Personally I love reading your stories; always leave me with questions and also a feeling that, “someone understands, thinks for himself.” I am sure I will chime in more over the years, but just wanted to add a note to this post.
In regards to our class not being able to plan a 10 year reunion-precisely one of the reasons I don’t go back-laziness, selfishness, oh and my favorite…….RACISM. Most of our classmates live locally and many helped put a nice event together, but when it came time pay their debts, $25 or $35 bucks, few “locals” had enough energy or time to drop a check in the mail, stop by the bank or even pay online. It was the “out of towners” who were all about it, but the local peeps dropped the ball and for that it was a sad day. Thanks to all who helped; you went out of your way to try and put it together and I greatly appreciated your help. However, with how things played out I washed my hands of ever trying to plan something again. I wish peace on the northeast!
Beautifully stated, especially your assessment of the development of our fellow graduates who have chosen to stay in The Valley.
Honestly, after the conversations you and I have had over the last year, I am truly shocked we are friends, considering our massive differences in opinion in high school (and, genuinely, differences of opinions to this day).
I always figured I’d never talk to anyone ten years after high school. I’m so glad we still exchange correspondence.
For those still reading, Luke was the President of my Senior Class in high school, and we had some pretty heated socio-politico debates…you know…”back in the day”…hahaha
Thanks for the feedback, Luke. Tell your wife that I write for her: if I know what she enjoys, I’ll write more stuff like it!