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“Openly-gay people are seen as Satanists and abominations in my small, very Christian and highly conservative town in Michigan, and kids are taught from a young age to hate us. When I was in middle school, a classmate once ranted that he found it disgusting that anyone could support the LGBT+ community, and compared homosexuality to incest. “Gay” has been the most commonly used insult by most students since elementary school. When I’m walking down the street holding hands with a girl, people shake their heads and give us dirty looks as they drive by. Because of the way we’re treated, 8 of my 10 LGBT+ friends, as well as myself, have been suicidal at some point.

Every bit of homophobia bothers me to some extent, but my worst experience with small town bigotry came at the beginning of my freshman year.

In my school, the principal claims that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and sometimes even brings in speakers to give us presentations emphasizing the importance defending other students, but it is not justly enforced with LGBT+ students.

One day, I walked into algebra class with my girlfriend, and I saw that my seat was taken by one of the popular jock boys. I asked him to get up, but he refused, then began hollering offensive slurs at me. Several more boys joined in, and they started screaming names, like “carpet muncher” and “faggot” and “queer degenerate” at me and my girlfriend; one even violently yelled “people like you should be shot”. The whole time, I sat holding back tears as my girlfriend defended me. Everyone else in the classroom was either sitting idly at his or her desk, ignoring us completely, or laughing along with the boys.

Eventually, my girlfriend had had enough, so she stormed out of the classroom and disappeared. I stayed behind and, one by one, the boys were called down to the office, high-fiving and congratulating each other as they left. Later, I was sent. The principal told me that she was disappointed in us for arguing with the boys, and that we should’ve stayed quiet. The parents of everyone involved were called, but there were no further punishments, and to this day, the boys claim that they didn’t do anything wrong.

My girlfriend isn’t out her parents, since her dad is homophobic, and he once told her that he wouldn’t consider her to be his daughter if she was a lesbian, so I was the only person she could turn to for help afterwards. As for me, I still feel pain when I recall that experience, and I’m certain I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

Despite being picked on, I will always have hope for a future that’s better for the LGBT+ community. Soon, we won’t be judged solely because of who we love. We’re not “faggots”, “carpet munchers”, or any other slur; we’re so much more, and someday, people will understand that.”

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