by Andrew Adams
Middle school is, by and large, a horrible experience for just about everyone. While awful, my time in middle school was eye opening. I discovered myself, my sexuality, my gender, and what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I also encountered bullying, homophobia, and depression.
The first time I held hands with my first girlfriend in 8th grade, I was a jumbled mix of nervous and excited. As the year went on, I became more and more confident holding another girls hand. I was still identifying as a girl, and I felt like a badass, breaking gender norms and glass ceilings with a girl on my arm. Later in the year, however, I directly experienced homophobia for the first time. Sure, I knew homophobia was alive and well in my middle school, I had heard slurs thrown at others, and the word “gay” used synonymously with stupid, or lame, but I had never directly received any backlash for my sexuality.
After school one day, shortly after becoming girlfriends with someone I met at a school sporting event, I received a text from an unknown number. It told me, through a variety of spelling and grammatical errors, that her daughter wasn’t gay, and that I was not to contact her again. I wrote it off as a prank. I figured, due to the irrational nature of the text, that it couldn’t possibly be an actual adult. I went about my business as usual, holding my girlfriend’s hand in the hallways and exchanging cute text messages. A few days later, my girlfriend informed me that she changed my name in her phone so that her mom wouldn’t know who she was talking to, and that she wasn’t allowed to talk to me, but she didn’t seem too worried about it. As long as we were smart, she claimed, we would be okay. I was worried, but didn’t argue. Later in the week, I got a call from a blocked number. In my 14 year old naivety, I answered it. This time, it was my girlfriend’s sister. She started yelling at me, saying that if I didn’t stop “making her sister gay” that she would ruin my life like “a ton of bricks on my head.” I clearly remember these words. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stayed with me forever.
I wish I could say this story ended happily and nicely, but it didn’t. The mom even went to the school and asked to have me punished for being queer. The school, thankfully, explained to her that they couldn’t punish me for being gay, since its a public school. I broke it off with the girl after a short break. I ended up okay, and so did she, I hope. I went off to high school and transitioned, she went to art school and seems happy, according to her Instagram profile. While we are okay, the scars of homophobia will still remain in our minds and hearts.
Homophobia, transphobia, and bullying still exist in schools across the country and world. GLAAD’s Spirit Day, groups like It Gets Better, and GLSEN exist to raise awareness for and help prevent anti-queer bullying in schools, but every day is a day we can help people. Being out and proud, posting on social media, educating ourselves, and offering our shoulders to cry on and arms to find comfort in for queer youth who need it can go a long way to make someone’s day. My goal is to help as many people as possible, and we can all do that too.
About the Author:
Andrew Adams is a transgender college freshman at the University of Central Florida who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. Nationally, Andrew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Andrew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.
Additionally, Andrew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Andrew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.