By Dynasty Young
NCLR Guest Columnist
Before last year, I had little to fear in high school.
I came out a couple of years earlier when I was a freshman, and couldn’t imagine that people who didn’t even know me could have so much hate built up against me.
But I soon learned that wasn’t true. After enrolling in Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis,
I faced constant name calling and threats just because I have a unique style and I’m gay.
What made things worse is that the harassment wasn’t only at the hands of other students, but also came from school leaders, who told me
I was to blame because I’m “flamboyant” and I could stop the name calling, the spitting, the rock throwing, and the bottle throwing by acting like other male teenagers.
Now at 18, I’ve known I was gay since I was a young boy. Few people were surprised when I finally built up the courage—something I got from my mom, who is one of the most coura- geous people I’ve ever met—to finally say the words aloud to others when I was about 14.
When I came out to my mom, she said, “I don’t care if any of my children are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. I love each of you as you are, and will always stand beside you and will never turn my back on you.”
Her words were what I needed at that time, and I needed them even more over the last year since enrolling at Arsenal Technical High School for 11th grade, and experiencing a type of harassment and hate I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I was excited when I first walked onto campus— after all, I really liked school and was looking forward to meeting new people in a new school where I planned on making lifelong friendships.
Even though we wore school uniforms, I acces- sorized, wearing my favorite pieces to make my outfit more stylish—great shoes, bangle bracelets, and my favorite handbag that I used to put my school supplies in.
When other students saw me, many yelled “faggot!” But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Eventually they were spitting as I walked down the halls. Throwing rocks at me as I tried to get home after school. Hurling bottles.
No one my age ever wants to turn to their mother to say: “I’m getting harassed and threatened be- cause I’m gay and I need you.” But I remembered my mom telling me she would always stand beside me, and eventually I asked her for help.
My mother and I went to the school administra- tors to tell them about the harassment. We were shocked when they blamed me for what was happening, because they thought I dressed too “flamboyantly,” and even suggested that I change everything about me to avoid being the target of hate and threats of violence.
No one should ever be told that who they are is bad, and despite my mom’s encouraging words, I couldn’t help but question my self worth, es- pecially after the constant harassment escalated into people threatening to physically hurt me.
My mom has always been my biggest supporter, and, like any caring mother, couldn’t stand by while no one helped protect me from the dangers of getting attacked. She found what’s called
a “self-protection flashlight”—a small device that emits a light, a loud noise and a weak charge when it’s set off—at a neighborhood store.
One day last spring, as I was headed to class, six other students surrounded me to attack. Afraid for my life, I held the device in the air and activated it. The noise caused my would-be attackers to run away.
But instead of locating the students who had threatened me, school leaders targeted me again, suspending me from school for trying to prevent the attack that I had told them I feared, and later expelling me.
For months, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get my life back on track, but with the help of my mom and attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, I’ve enrolled into a charter school that’s not associated with Indianapolis Public Schools. I also filed a lawsuit against my former school so that other LGBTQ youth will not be left to face daily harassment and abuse alone, without support or protection from the adults around them.
I’ve been through a lot over the last year, but with my mom’s support, I’m rebuilding my inner strength, and even getting my spirit back.
Through it all, my mom taught me to have pride in myself and if that pride comes from within, no one could ever knock me down.