Open to me, young. Young enough to not know what love was, but still told about “when you’re older and have a wife.” I remember sitting in my preschool class thinking about how I enjoyed being around this girl, so I must have a crush on her, not thinking a) that I could absolutely be this girl’s friend because that’s what those feelings meant and b) about how full my heart felt when I hung out with my boy best friend, then and for the next 6 years. Now cut to me, in middle school, hearing the word “gay” for the first time. Used as an insult, of course, because you’re supposed to like girls if you’re a boy and like boys if you’re a girl, that’s just the way it is. “When you’re older and have a wife, when you have kids one day.” All those innocent, unconscious micro–– (or maybe not-so) microaggressions. Pan over to me googling “guys kissing guys” on my iPod touch and being led to gay porn sites. That’s one way to learn. Fade to black.

Open again to me, sophomore year of high school, coming out to someone who I frankly didn’t care if they disowned me. But they didn’t. So far so good. Cut to me, telling my friends, and them being happy for me, but me still telling them, “Just don’t tell my family,” because I had started disagreeing with their conservative views and they didn’t like that. So cut to me, cutting into my arm because I read somewhere that people did that when they were sad, and the pain actually felt kinda good; it let me vent my anger and frustration and fear like a medieval humor. Cut to the confrontation between me and my grandparents, who knew something was wrong but would never have thought what, and needed me to say it. Fade in months later to the one between me and my parents, over pierced ears, of all things, and how I assumed they put it together by now. But when I said “You know I’m gay, right?” the answer was “…no….” Transition now to today, where it’s better, but I still butt heads with political views, because no, I can’t vote for Trump, even if Biden isn’t all that great, because if I vote for Trump, my community and other people I love are directly threatened.

But let’s take a step back now.

Let’s instead open to Aiden, a middle class white boy. Born and raised in 2020 USA’s whitest state. As such, he’s never been stopped by the police when he was going 65 in a 30, never been stopped because he was under suspicion of shoplifting, even though he’s done it more than once. Jump back to elementary school: he cried when he had to flip his discipline card from green to yellow because he’d always been able to talk his way out, being the teacher’s pet that he was, always given the benefit of the doubt. Those lies and twistings of the truth on the off chance he does get caught doing something bad are bought at face value.

Open to this Aiden character, from yet another angle. Yeah, he’s gay, but have him change into some khakis and a polo, cut his hair short, have him speak in his lower register more often, he can pass as straight. So he sometimes thinks he might be non-binary? So he doesn’t always feel comfortable calling himself cisgender? Even then, he can still pass as a masculine-identifying person while still embracing an androgynous element. And if he wants to shy away from a label, he can, because it’s not pigment in his skin.

Of course, we don’t want him to silence himself, and yeah he’s faced hardships. But he had it EASY compared to so many. He wasn’t kicked out after coming out. His only “disabilities” are minor asthma and a peanut allergy. He didn’t go to therapy, not because he couldn’t afford it; no, it was offered and he refused because he was too proud. He’s never been catcalled (and, an aside, if you think getting catcalled is harmless and indicative of your beauty, you’re enabling it, and its continuation will damage a young girl’s self worth and get her raped.) He’s never been called the n-word, or even the f-word (no, not fuck, I mean the slur). Police don’t single him out on the street. He’s not a person of color, has not had people see him and cross to the opposite sidewalk. He’s not trans, has never felt body dysmorphia. He’s not a woman, has never been judged by his ability to bear children. And if I kept going, we’d be here for hours. You see, our world is bigoted, and if you deny it, you’re a gear in the machine. The person sitting next to you may be a victim of systemic insert-your-ism, insert-your-phobia here, who found it easier to just pass as something they’re not. The only thing is, some unchangeable things about oneself are purely physical, and those people get judged because of it and, since those who do this judging just so happen to be in power, end up in jail because of it. 

This piece was far too easy for me to write; I have a long way to go. And it makes me absolutely sick to my stomach knowing there are people out there who aren’t at the place I was brought to because of necessity, and that some of those people don’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem. If you’re one of those people, this is your wakeup call; put in the effort and learn. If you know one of those people, this is your wakeup call; educate yourself so you can educate them. Even if you don’t know one of those people, educate yourself so you can educate other people. And here’s a thought: don’t be an asshole. Hate to break it to you, but human nature doesn’t exist. Everything is learned. So unlearn those festering -isms and -phobias. And learn the good, the bad, and the ugly, because it’s never taught in school. History is written by the victor, by the man in power, and we all know what the man writing our history books looks like. We know what he likes to leave out. And we know he’s been doing it for centuries.

I hope I’ve made you uncomfortable. This was never supposed to be pretty. Welcome to reality. Don’t like it? Then fucking change it.

Aiden Galbraith