Gay Students at Bozeman High

By Justice Geddes

I have been called many names in my slightly-less-than-17 years, but some hurt more than others.
Jerk? Douche? A–hole? I can handle those. Other words are harder.
Some words are casual insults that we high schoolers often toss around with little thought, whether we are on the sending or receiving end. Some words are funny when your friends say them, but not so funny when coming from a place of ignorance.
Some words are only used by people if they want to hurt you. Those words are the ones that hurt the most.
Faggot.
I have heard that word said to my face 11 times in my life, sometimes long form, sometimes short. I remember the exact moment in which I heard it every time, where I was, what time it was, what the weather was like; and I remember who said it every time. Eight of those 11 times were at our high school, and nine of those 11 were spat at me, with revulsion on the lips.
And believe me, it hurt. Every time.
Of course, I’ll never know how many times it’s been whispered. Thank goodness.
BHS, I know you believe you are a safe, welcoming place, where everyone is accepted and no one is alone. But some of your members sure as ‘hail’ don’t act that way.
Montana is no stranger to hatred.
In 2009, twenty-two percent of reported hate crimes in Montana (the most recent year of data) were anti-LGBT crimes, and nearly half of our state is still against gay marriage. The FBI reports that approximately twenty percent of hate crimes nationally are against LGBT people.
I am no longer surprised by the actions of members of our school who dislike gay students: they’ve been brought up that way.
But I can’t say I understand the need to toss around cruel words. Words said before punches are thrown, before gang rapes, before college students in Wyoming are beat to death and draped on a fence, before kids my age hang themselves.
Words have power. Power can easily be abused.
Some LGBT members of our school told me how safe they feel. How their friends support them. How they are treated just fine.
But then, after talking a bit more, a deeper truth emerges.
One student told us, “My friends are great. Of course. But often, when I’m with them…I feel more like an object to them. Like I’m just their pet gay kid.” This student, along with the others I spoke to, wished to remain unnamed in this article in order to protect themselves. That in itself says something about our high school community.
Even those students with support systems and close friends can feel isolated from others at the school because of their sexuality.
As the above source said, “I’m not really one of them. Girls are fantastic, duh. But I’m not a girl. And I can’t hang out with boys because they think I might like them. Which I do. But not all of them.”
I can sympathize. Our school is filled with kids without hatred, ones who don’t spit on me. But in many ways, those who are supportive seem to be supportive just for the sake of it being the cool thing to do right about now.
And those who do nothing but sit and say “Yeah, I love gay people,” aren’t really helping anyone.
Hate crimes aren’t decreasing. Derogatory comments continue. And looking for a GBF (gay best friend), treating them as your own (which is unfortunately far too common) is just treating LGBT people like pets. People are not animals to be ordered or paraded around.
If you want to be supportive, try saying something the next time you hear unkind words thrown around. Try going to GSA (Tuesdays at lunch, room 122). I’ll be there. Try treating LGBT people like the people they are. Try giving a hug. Giving a smile. Giving kind words.
To those who already do? Thank you.
Jerk? Douche? A–hole? I can handle those.
But hey. Call me Justice.

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