Haley Saffren

Hello readers and fellow humans of this world!  As you all know, last month was pride month, a month dedicated to recognizing and supporting the entire LGBTQ+ community.  All 30 days are devoted to a group of people who receive too much hate for no good reason, which begs the question: Why are people so quick to judge differences?  Every person is different from their fellow citizens of the world in some, and often many, ways.  These differences make the world a vibrant, interesting, and unique place.  If everyone understands that we are all different, this makes me wonder: Are LGBTQ+ people simply misunderstood?  

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I personally try not to judge people for their differences.  I am gay, and it’s become a great source of pride for me (pun COMPLETELY intended)!  My homosexuality does not define me, but it is the part of me that I used to struggle with the most due to judgment and discrimination which, to me, reveals what is wrong with most societies.  On a positive note, I would like to take a moment to revel in how far I’ve come with my own feelings about being gay, despite the discrimination and judgement I’ve faced.

The first time I realized I liked girls occured when I was 12.  I had developed feelings for a very good friend of mine.  We were in the same bunk at overnight camp.  At first, I didn’t think much of it.  I thought I just really liked being around her because we always had a great time together.  After awhile, I came to the realization that what I was feeling for her was much stronger than what I felt for my other friends.  My feelings were no longer platonic; they were romantic.  

I told my crush’s best friend in the bunk about how I felt.  The best friend was very close to me, and I thought I could trust her with my secret.  Unfortunately, I had made a terrible miscalulation.  She told my crush, and the two of them sought out a supervisor to tell her about the situation.  Before long, word had reached the other supervisors and even the owners of the camp.  Suddenly, the adults were making a very big deal out of a young girl’s thoughts and feelings.  

The camp owners ended up outing me to my parents, something I wasn’t ready for at the time.  They took the control out of my hands.  I was told that my bunk felt uncomfortable with me, but later learned that was untrue.  I was forced to leave camp permanently.  The owners decided that the solution was to kick me out.  At the age of 12, I didn’t understand the harsh consequences that resulted from my very young and innocent feelings.   All I knew was that I was extremely devastated over having to leave a camp environment that I loved.  

The first few days at home, I hid in my room because I couldn’t stop the tears, the gutwrenching heartbreak, and the internal pain I felt after being ripped from a place I loved and, mostly, about being different from what was supposed to be the norm.  After that, I hid my sexual orientation from most of the world, telling no one except my family.  While the secrecy was my choice, most of my family was adamant about keeping my sexuality hidden because they were concerned for my well-being.  They didn’t want to see me mistreated or hurt as badly as I was after the situation at camp.  Besides, I wasn’t ready.  

The truly awful treatment I received after my first experience liking a girl made me feel like something was wrong with me for the longest time.  It wasn’t the feelings I was having for another girl that felt bad or wrong; it was the treatment I received from those around me, those who seemed in control of my environment at the time.  As a result, it took me a long time to finally accept that I was gay, but once I did, I felt so much better about myself.  My experiences being gay since that first awful time have been so much better.  My family especially has loved and supported me no matter what.  I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point I am now without them.  

The next time I came out was to my best friend in middle school.  This time, it was on my terms and by my own choice.  Over a year had passed since my camp experience.  I knew there was a chance my friend would reject me from her life once she knew, but I didn’t want to hide anymore.  I wanted her to know that I was gay.  I remember sitting in her room, playing with my hands and avoiding her eyes.  Earlier that day, I told her more than once that I had something to tell her.  We finally found a moment alone.  I told her how I’d experienced falling for someone at camp, which she already knew.  Except, this time, I told her I fell for a girl, paused, and said, “I’m gay.”  

I remember the silence that filled the room afterwards.  I couldn’t look at her.  The horrible memories of judgmental stares at camp came rushing back to me.  I wouldn’t have been able to bear it if my friend was staring at me the same way.  I then felt a pair of arms wrap around me.  My best friend was crying and thanking me for telling her.  I was blown away by how touched she was.  I expected her to be repulsed.  The relief I felt weakened my whole body.  She was happy for me.  She didn’t care that I was gay.  After that, I came out to more people and began to discover that it wasn’t a big deal.  I soon figured out that some people in our society make it a bigger deal than it actually is, like the adults running the overnight camp.  I now realize that there is nothing wrong with me.  Being gay isn’t shameful, it’s something that makes me feel proud.

People tend to falsely assume I’m straight.  I used to go along with it, but now I correct them with a smile on my face and a gleam in my eyes.  I tend to get overly excited whenever I come out to people (What can I say? I’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of myself for it).  I know, unfortunately, there’s a risk of homophobia, but if someone can’t accept a part of me that is important and makes me the person I am, then they’re not someone I want in my life.  I had a whole month to celebrate being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, but honestly, I have learned to celebrate that truth all the time!

I’m proud of being gay because it helped shape who I am as a person, while not ultimately defining me.

Society targets the LGBTQ+ community because they do not fit in to their definition of a ‘perfect’ lifestyle.  They are viewed as different with unfortunate negative connotations.  Being different shouldn’t be viewed negatively; it should be viewed as an incredibly positive and honest trait.  Groups that are marginalized especially should be valued because they deal with oppression and being unjustly judged with negative stereotypes.  

These traits shouldn’t define how other people feel about them.  Who they are individually should be the deciding factor.  This ideal also goes for people who have differences in how they think.  You’re not going to agree with everyone, and some of these disagreements are about serious and important lifestyle or cultural ways of life such as religion, for example.  Understand that while you may not agree with someone about these important parts of life, you don’t have to change how they think.  Agree to disagree.  Not everyone thinks or believes the same as you, and that’s okay.

What makes people different varies.  A person’s differences can be based on sexuality, gender, race, culture, interests, etc., but I believe the real differences lie within who they are as individuals.  Everyone is unique in their own way, and everyone’s individuality should be cherished.  Every individual deserves to be happy in their life.  Why should happiness be compromised by those that judge that individuality?  Let’s celebrate each other’s differences!  I celebrate my homosexuality to show the world that it’s a part of me.  I’m proud of being gay because it helped shape who I am as a person, while not ultimately defining me.  So yes, I’m gay, and to that I say, ‘Woohoo!’  

 

Haley Saffren is a rising junior at Emerson College.  She is a writing, literature, and publishing major.  Haley hopes to one day be a successful publisher and writer.

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