by B.Bolt, 10th (non-fiction)
All our lives we have waited. All our lives we have watched. All our lives we have learned. We have learned that we don’t belong.
At first, we didn’t know what we were, who we were. At first we were just like everyone else. Then, we heard it. Gay, they said, always half whispered, as if, if you spoke it too loud, you’d be in trouble. And then, whether we were 9 or 19, 13 or 30, we knew. Something clicked. Suddenly, it defined us.
Many of us were afraid, because of what we’d seen when we watched and waited. Many more were happy, excited even. Most of us, though, finally knew who we were.
So we went on with our lives, knowing. But knowing brought challenges. Because it was a closely guarded secret, at least for a while, known only to us and a select few. Because if they found out, god forbid they found out, how would they react? What would they do? What would they say?
That, of course, was not the only challenge. Obviously, we didn’t love like the people around us. So, when the stress of love came along, there was even more uncertainty. Instead of only the question of, Do they like me? there were so many questions we wanted to ask. We didn’t even know if they were the right sexuality. And the odds of them being the same as us were low.
The trouble didn’t stop there. God forbid they found out, we said, and we were right. Some were okay with it, some didn’t mind. But some found out who were not supposed to. They called us names, yelled at us, outed us. They shoved us in lockers, they threw books at us, they followed us, threatened us until we were afraid. And our fear reached for us with fingers cold as the grave. It stole our voices, it stole our courage, it stole every waking moment, and it locked us in closets of our own making. Never could we say that our fear wasn’t justified, for they stalked, hurt, even killed people like us.
We stayed locked in our closets, in our boxes, in our prisons, locked in the darkness, for forever, it seemed. Our voices, so eloquent in our heads, stayed behind our tongues. They hid like rabbits, afraid of the fox that lurked outside. Afraid to make even a sound.
Yet for all the fear there was joy too. Because every time we met someone like us, or saw a couple like us, or were loved for us, the joy blossomed like a flower in spring. It grew and reached and we held onto it, nurtured it, savored it. So no matter what, it wouldn’t die.
We clumped together, too. Flocked together like birds, desperate for each other’s company. Because for the first time we were not alone. And there are strength in numbers.
So our days were spent as outsiders, not able to show who we were. We stuck together as some small protection, but still we feared to show our faces. Well, some of us. Some of us were not afraid. The claws of our fear were sharp, and they grabbed at our voices, but we kept hold of our courage and we held fast. We showed our faces to the world. Many hated us for it. Many loved us for it. And many followed our example.
A growing tide began to rise, with each passing year more and more showed their faces, loosed their voices at long last. Before, those rights that had been denied us, were now acknowledged. There were more of us than we’d ever dreamed, and our strength grew.
It wasn’t perfect. We still struggled, but fear no longer haunted out footsteps, whispered in our ear, dragged us down into the abyss. We kept it at bay now, because now we had someone to fall back on. And in turn, we caught someone else. Strength in numbers indeed, and also stability, also security, also acceptance.
Suddenly, there was pride in who we were. We could look at the world’s disapproving face and say I am proud of who I am, and you cannot take it from me. Our voices rang, free once more, and our joy echoed out into a sky clear for the first time. Many still hated us, many still oppressed us, but now we had each other. And we cried, cried for love, cried for joy, cried for those who couldn’t see this day. We cried for us, we cried for pride, we cried for the ones who didn’t understand. We howled like wolves to the moon, called like an eagle to the sky, and our voices, the voices of so many that had been hidden for so long, were heard.
We saw our children born into the pride we had worked so hard to find, to build. We saw them grow in this thing that we had created, this community. But as they grew, it stopped. They said You have your rights, you have your marriage, now leave us alone. And just like that we were back where we started. This battle would not be won so easily. It would take years, more years than we would see. So we worked, and we fought, and when we couldn’t anymore we passed the battlefield on to our children. Fight, we told them, fight and do not let anyone tell you that you cannot.
And fight they did.
Oakland | East Bay, CA