Why are you staring at me?

Robert Vilde

Imagine walking down the street with that special someone, holding hands and chatting
about nothing on your way home, when out of the corner of your eye a guy gives
you a dirty look and snarls at you as you pass. You ignore him and continue
walking, but an elderly man carrying several grocery bags does the same, his wide
eyes glaring at you as if you were the scum of the earth. You think to yourself,
“wow is my hair that ugly today?”

Maybe you just happen to be one of the 1 out of every 10 people on this planet who is born LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender). This scenario is a fact of life for
same-sex couples. They never are able to so much as hold hands without facing the
scorn and torment or even threats and physical violence.

Many Canadians, including NT students, love to preach how enlightened and liberal our society is. They like to believe that discrimination and bigotry don’t exist in a western country like Canada and that legalising gay marriage ended homophobia forever. This is simple ignorance. These are people who have never once been looked down upon
for their religion, race or sexual orientation; they find it difficult to
comprehend that others are not so lucky. In the real world, reports of hate
crimes towards LGBT people continue to increase. About 75% of hate crime today
is directed towards gay or transsexual individuals.

This makes me wonder how many people contemplate punching my boyfriend or I when we pass them on the street. It’s troubling to thinkthat every time
you’re out with your partner you might get beat up or called a “fag”. Those who
are more subtly homophobic are worse, though. They enforce a double standard,
saying,  “I don’t have a problem with gay people, as long as they’re not to flamboyant about it and keep it to themselves,” but they don’t hold themselves to this same standard. I’ve never heard of a straight person who doesn’t introduce their wife or girlfriend to their friends for fear of being too flamboyant about their heterosexuality, nor have I met a group of straight guys who don’t like to talk about girls they want to hook up with.

I know of at least two gay teens that have faced severe physical and verbal abuse for being out of the closet at the wrong high school. In one case, the teachers
participated in the bullying and the administration, either due to ineptitude
or apathy, did nothing about it. In both cases, the bullying led to severe
depression and total helplessness, to the point where they both transferred to
different high schools to escape the abuse they faced. How many more people
like them are there? More importantly, how many LGBT teens don’t make it to
adulthood because of bullying at home or at school? How many end up like Jamey
Hubley, a gay 15 year old Ottawa boy who recently committed suicide due to the
constant bullying he faced at school from his peers?

Now if you’re thinking, “That’s never happened at NT”, your right. But how many openly
LGBT people are there at North Toronto? I can’t even think of five who are open
about their sexuality, but there are over 1200 students. Since 10% of the
population is gay, this statistic alone should raise eyebrows. Before I came
out, I remember constantly worrying that when anyone at school found out I was
gay they would hate me and avoid me. Every day I would hear homophobic jokes
and comments, and though they seemed harmless to everyone else, they pushed me deeper into depression. I hated myself for being gay and wished I could have been born
straight. Eventually, I worked up the courage to come out to my friends and
family and once it was done it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my
shoulders. I didn’t have to live a lie any longer. About a month later, in July,
I came out on Facebook to get it over with, and so that people would stop
awkwardly asking me about my sexuality. Almost two years later, I can honestly
say that coming out was a good choice; I can finally be myself.

The only way we will ever reach equality is if people in the LGBT community lose the veil of fear that covers them when they consider how others perceive their sexual
orientation. Honestly, don’t waste your time trying to appease people around
you, because nothing they say is going to change who you are. When someone
stares or calls you a “fag”, wear it as a badge of honour and don’t give in to
fear, simply give them that cold hard stare right back.