This is an article about a gay student at the University of North Carolina who was attacked and branded last week; this is a link to the post about it that's circulating on tumblr--it contains images of said branding, so please click with care. Apparently, the student in question was "approached last week on the Chapel Hill campus by a man who called him a derogatory name and held a heated object to his wrist for several seconds, leaving third and fourth-degree burns." His attacker is reported to have said "Here is a taste of hell."
I don't know about you guys, but that makes me pretty fucking angry. Shit, angry isn't even the right word--what I felt, reading that article, was more than anger, was disappointment and rage and heartache and terror. I felt, feel, sick, and that's just reading about it; I can't imagine what it's like to be at UNC right now, to be a member of the LGBT community there, or, god forbid, to be Quinn Matney--the attacked student, who has a name and a face and a family, who has nerve damage and a memory of violence he'll have to carry with him for the rest of his life.
ETA: I have just been linked to this article, which was published (*checks*) 15 minutes ago, and states that the reports of this attack have turned out to be false. I'm torn on how to feel about this--on the one hand, I really hope this didn't really happen; on the other hand, oh, god, fabricating a hate crime is very, very not okay. Either way, the message I intended to send out with the rest of this post changes not one iota, regardless of how this story continues to play out. Okay? Okay.
And the thing is, I've thought, for awhile, about making a post like this one--thought about when and how to do it, if I could possibly put into words all the things I want to say. But this seems like pretty fucking good motivation to put some solid safe vibes out there, so here we go.
When I was in college, I was part of an organization that was basically my campus's version of a Gay Straight Alliance. I spent a few years as a member, a year in a significant leadership position, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; I made friends who are still closer to me than anyone, learned more about myself and others than I ever would have imagined possible wandering into a meeting as a scared freshman with no idea if I'd even stay. We did a lot of different things as an organization--everything from safe sex talks to outreach programs to Out Week in the fall and Pride Week in the spring. But we did more for each other as people than we ever did as an org, playing Mario Kart and drinking really terrible beer on Tuesday nights, coaching each other through breaking up, through coming out, through our class schedules and losing our iPods and pulling all nighters to study for exams. We were a group of people who found each other through one shared experience and stayed close because of all the others, and it was the safest place in the world, that haven of you-get-it-and-so-do-I.
And, see, the best thing, the best thing we ever did--we had these meetings, right, once a week, in a local off-campus building with floor pillows and big couches. Three times a month there was a discussion topic, random shit people submitted or half-assed games of Jeopardy, and once a month it was a free-for-all; you could come in and talk or come in and listen, you didn't even have to say your name if you didn't want to. It was a room free of judgment, open to anyone who wanted to be there, and, in the words of a guy who ended up becoming (and staying) a good friend of mine, "You can talk about gay shit or not, we're cool with whatever. Loud and proud is awesome, but so is hanging out. Nobody's going to look at you funny for anything you say."
And so this post--and, by extension, this journal--is my version of that room. Because everyone deserves a safe place; somewhere they can talk or just listen, somewhere where no one is going to look at them funny for anything they say. Can I promise that I'll know the right things to tell you, if you decide you want to speak up? Of course not; I'm a girl with an internet connection and a lot of feelings, and at the end of the day I never really know what the fuck I'm talking about. I can't even promise that I'll answer every comment, because you guys know, as a rule, that I am Bad At The Internet and have the attention span of a fly, and I'll probably miss at least one by mistake no matter what I do. But this post really isn't about me at all--it's just here, right, and it'll just be here, and if there are things you wanna say or stories you wanna tell, you go ahead.
Most importantly, please know this: whether you are gay, straight, lesbian, asexual, bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual; whether you are genderqueer or genderfuck; whether you are cis- or transgendered; whether you are sure of your identity or not, there is nothing wrong with you. Maybe there's not a word that applies to who you are, or there's one I have omitted in error--maybe there are so many words that apply that you're not sure where to begin. Maybe you're out and proud and maybe you're not, maybe you're ready to approach it and maybe you're not, maybe you're in a solid place and maybe you're not, but whoever you are, wherever you are in your process, it's okay, it's just fine, and so are you. You are good, beautiful, fantastic just the way you are.
This week is Pride Week. I'm not here to tell you to be proud of yourselves--though, of course, I wish that for all of you--because I know from experience that it's easier said then done. I'm telling you instead that I am proud of you, whoever you are, whoever you choose and absolutely do not choose to be. There is hate in the world; there are people out there eager to give you a "taste of hell," looking to make your life harder, or even just missing the mark and getting it wrong, making you feel bad or misunderstood or small. But for every one of them, there is someone out there like you, like me, looking for and finding the safe spaces; we are here, learning ourselves and each other, doing what we can to figure it out. You are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not going to hell.
So raise your hands, guys; raise them for everyone you're proud of, for everyone you've loved, for the people you are, have been, and will become. Raise them high, and know that our hands are up too, waving back at you, no matter the size of the void.