By Damian Mackay-Morgan
@damian.mack on Instagram
Editor’s Note: This piece is the second installment of the revamped “For the Record” series, highlighting members of the LGBTQ+ community across the Springfield College campus. The intention is to amplify the voices that, more often than not, go unheard. Please be aware that the story contains derogatory, anti-gay slurs that were used towards the author and were written by him as part of the piece. The Springfield Student staff condemns the use of derogatory language and we support the author’s right to candidly detail what occurred in the past to try and build a better future.
What makes you read beyond the headlines?
What draws your attention?
When you’re scrolling on your phone, what grabs your eye?
What even makes headlines nowadays?
Millions of articles are published every single day, what makes one more special than another?
Headlines change from one trauma to another, and one marginalized group to another like the turn of a page. When does it all stop? When does real change happen?
People applauded when an institution hangs a LGBTQ+ flag or makes a statement on equality, but no one wants to think about the freshman boy who is trying to fit in on his new team and is called a faggot by his upperclassmen teammate, followed by a roar of laughter from all others around.
This is one of his first interactions on his new team. This would set the tone for next year being on this team, by not exactly living in the closet as he previously had, but still constantly attempting to talk deeper, dress more masculine and avoid talking about girls as he feared being exiled on the team.
I was recently asked to provide a statement about my experience being gay at Springfield College and I closed my response stating that Springfield provides space for inclusivity and to accept all, but implementing that into practice is where the struggle comes into play.
Though, these are problems that not only plague Springfield – this is an issue in our entire country. People read the news that gay marriage is legalized and then throw in the hat, because that’s a job well done.
Time to move on to the next headliner, on to the next marginalized group making too much noise. But what is overlooked are the thirty states that still permit conversion therapy today, or the multitude of attempts to overturn the legalization of same sex marriage since 2015, or the countless hate crimes and violent acts performed against transgender individuals in 2020 alone.
What is overlooked is the closeted boy in high school romanticizing killing himself because he would rather be dead than face another day in his body.
But where does this stop?
Who can we look to solve these bigger issues – should we look to our superiors, people with ‘actual power’ to save the day?
And who should take the blame? Society?
We can blame a lot of our problems on society, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about people like you and me. Do we even understand what we mean when we say society?
I think we forget that society is made up of individuals like you and I with their own lives, own friends, own problems and own baggage. And it’s easy to blame what we don’t know, it’s easy to become wrapped up in hating this world.
It’s easy to blame society because it’s easy to throw our emotions out to the universe because the universe will just take it all, and from this we will learn and receive nothing. But at some point we need to stop throwing the weight of our own problems on what we cannot fully comprehend, it’s not about the blame, it’s about taking control of our lives.
In my life there came a point when a closeted high school boy needed to stand up and start living his own life. For me, the moment when I truly began to become comfortable in my sexuality was senior year of high school. I went to a Catholic school in which we had to wear uniforms, and occasionally we would have ‘dress-down’ days in which we could wear everyday clothes.
On one particular dress down day I was dressed in a pair of jean shorts and a pastel shirt – which I can remember so vividly and still have to this day in my closet. On this day, during a free period, I suppose a group of about 10 boys thought this outfit looked very flamboyant, and as I was walking by whispered, “What the f— is this faggot wearing?” and began to all laugh.
And usually I would do what I had always done and turn a blind eye, pretended like I didn’t hear what they said because it was easier.
Doing nothing has always been easier.
But what was I waiting for? Someone with ‘actual power’ to hear and stand up for me? Up until that moment I was. In that moment, I turned back to them and stood up for myself in a quite explicative fashion but clearly in a very effective manner as it left every single one of them speechless in response.
Now, this may not seem like anything special, but this is the first time I ever stood up for myself, and it took 17 years. I, like so many others, was complacent in being silent, and it slowly ate away at me from the inside out.
It not only impacted the relationships I had with my family and with my friends, but with myself. I didn’t begin to love or respect myself until I had the courage to stand up for who I am.
I gave myself the ‘actual power’ I was waiting for to save me and by doing that I set that precedent for others. I wouldn’t have only been doing myself an injustice by not responding to their ignorance, but it too would’ve been an injustice to them.
“Be the change you want to see in this world”
This is something I’ve heard over and over again, and it is not defined by a moment of courage like this.
It is a lifestyle.
It is a choice we make every single day and sometimes the choice allows us to conclude that at times, it’s not always about us. That one moment may have been important to me, but it also may have been important to them too.
In fact, one of those boys reached out to my friend later on that week to apologize to me and tell me that he does not condone what was said. And sure, I could get wrapped up in the fact that he did not say it to my face or didn’t stand up for me in that moment, but maybe that was step one for him.
We need to understand people come from all walks of life, and all backgrounds, but it’s not about where we come from — it’s where we are going. Silence is unacceptable, simple tolerance, and complacency are unacceptable.
Equity, equality and unity should be where we are all headed as a society of individuals. To achieve this, we have an obligation to not wait for these to slap us in the face or become the next trend to be a part of, but we enforce these in our actions and not just in our thoughts.
“It’s the thought that counts” is an exhausted phrase. And someone’s thoughts never stood up for me, I did that for myself.
These are lessons and reflections I would never have learned if it was not for my time at Springfield. Is Springfield a very accepting place for LGBTQ+ individuals? On paper, yes, but in practice, that is not always the case.
Many times I have felt alienated from the LGBTQ+ community, and even felt a disconnect from this part of myself. I have never had the luxury of walking onto a classroom, or onto a team, or into any room and been completely and utterly comfortable in my skin because that little voice in my head is always asking me, “which person here is looking at you like another faggot?”
And it is easy – so, so, so easy – to get wrapped up in these thoughts. In the hopelessness that there is always someone who won’t accept me. Or someone who won’t like me, but if there is one thing that Springfield taught me; it’s that I don’t care.
Because for every one person who calls me a faggot, there are ten people who love me for who I am, and accept me. I can wish to be liked all I want, but wishing won’t make me happy, standing up for who I am will, and surrounding myself with people who love me will.
It is on all of us to stand up for ourselves and each other because maybe the biggest impact won’t be on yourself or even on the person you are speaking to. Maybe it’s on the bystander in the room, or the person you don’t even think is listening or cares.
Change starts small and when we let things slide, we let in room for hate. That’s the issue at Springfield and at so many institutions. Silence perpetuates hate.
But where does it stop?
It stops with me standing up for myself, it stops with you standing up for your teammate or friend or for that person you have never seen before because these are all people with ‘actual power.’
There are many factors that go into what makes the LGBTQ+ climate what it is at Springfield. People always say the best thing about Springfield College is the people – and I am a firm believer in that – but if we want to make Springfield a better place and a more inclusive environment in every way, for every single person no matter who they are, where they come from or what they look like, it’s on all of us to set that precedent.
Photo Courtesy of Heidi Schuman