Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gabriel's Story

My name is Gabriel, and at the age of three I was diagnosed with Autism. I was a special education student, and while I was in middle school I had a paraprofessional who aided me with simple tasks and helped me around class. I had built a strong friendship with my para for over three years, until one morning when I was in the eighth grade. I asked my para about her opinion on same sex civil unions. My para is a born again Christian and she told me that she was so disgusted when the state legalized same sex civil unions that she wanted to move. She also told me that homosexuality is disgusting and that she would disown any of her children that were LGBT. My para had brainwashed me into believing that homosexuality was wrong and disgusting. Inside I felt horrible and believed that it was my fault for being bisexual. I knew at that point that it wasn't a matter of "if" our friendship would end; it was just a matter of "when.” Being a bisexual student I was put in a Catch 22, I had to decide if I was going to continue the three year friendship that I had built with her or if I was going to live my life the way I wanted to. After months of deliberation, I decided not to conform to her beliefs. As a result, the three year friendship that I had built with my para ended. To this day she will not even speak to me.

During my freshmen year, a girl would always steal my lunch. Every time she took my lunch she would force me to tell my entire lunch table (which had about 12 students) something about my sexual orientation. When I refused to tell her something she would call a person to the table and they would say something derogatory and mean to me. Even if I did tell them something, she still refused to give me my lunch back. After I asked her to give me back my lunch, she told me, "my boyfriend is black and he is going to kick your ass!" It was really scary especially at the age of 14 seeing so many people gang up on me. Even the captain of the soccer team threatened to beat me up because I told her to not steal my lunch.

Once, a football player pretended to be my boyfriend. However, he had a girlfriend and because my learning disability makes it difficult for me to tell if he was being truthful or not, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He humiliated me by throwing it in my face that he already had a girlfriend. I was humiliated because of my sexual orientation and my learning disability. I thought I was worth nothing. People at the table laughed at me as if my existence was a joke. Things only got worse when I reported what happened to the Vice Principal. People thought that I was a coward and not man enough to tolerate being humiliated. Students would jeer at me and make fun of me because I asked for help. But when I thought my life was on the line, I had no choice. For months, my self-esteem was shot and I had little hope that I would make it. I had to have an escort walk me from class to class because I was afraid of being attacked.

As a special education student, I felt violated and angry because people have acted like it was my fault that I was bisexual. Losing my friend (the para who I depended on) was very hurtful and at the age of 14, I was still naive. For weeks I was depressed and angry, I never thought that my sexual orientation could do that much harm to me. For years I decided to lock that skeleton in my closet.

However, on Thanksgiving morning I had a flashback to what happened to me three years ago. At that moment, I finally realized that my para and the people I sat with were wrong! I was so young and naïve, I allowed them to manipulate me!

It was then that I realized God doesn't hate homosexuals. If he did, he would not have created me the way that I am. I am who I am, and people need to accept it. Throughout high school people have bullied, harassed, and even evicted me from my own lunch table because of my sexual orientation. My loss three years ago, and my realization that it was not my fault, is empowering me to fight for equality. The fact that I lost my best friend, my paraprofessional, was no longer a loss, but rather a virtue. Without losing friends and being bullied I would not have the courage or strength to rise to this occasion. I am recycling the frustration and anger that I had over my loss three years ago and I am turning it into motivation that will make me determined to fight for equality. "What destroys me is what strengthens me." Everyone has been discriminated, discrimination hurts, discrimination is wrong. I’m working with Equality NC in asking the North Carolina Legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation to protect people like me, and hopefully prevent this same thing from happening to anyone else.