Owen Bonk, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
Art by Julia Pavlick, Poolsville High School

Owen Bonk chronicles the toll homophobia has taken on him. Also published in the B-CC Tattler.

(Published: 2019)

Today, I am tired.

On a Wednesday in the fall, I woke up to a text from a friend notifying me of an unthinkable event: screenshots from a conversation about me had been sent around the school.

Me? I could not imagine what disturbance I could have caused—I consider myself a rather uncontroversial person. I later found out that not only had a classmate felt it necessary to critique my mannerisms, my voice, and my clothes, but he had also used homophobic slurs to describe me.

As the messages were made public, friends reached out to me, offering their condolences, concerned for my well being. I thanked people, and told them I was hanging in there. Nonetheless, one thought lingered in the back of my mind for the rest of the day — the realization that I did not feel destroyed. I knew I should be outraged, and that I should be angry, but I felt none of that.

Rage plays an important role in today's discourse. My friends expect people to immediately take action and denounce any hateful act. Me, though? I am tired.

I am tired because I know that people will always think less of me because of the way I speak. Tired because people will always find a way to label the way I dress.

Tired because I know that this is not the first nor the last time I will be called a homophobic slur. Tired because, for all my efforts to make myself into a person who is so much more than my sexuality, my feminine traits will always impair me.

When I returned to school the next Monday, it was a normal day. No dramatic confrontations, no meetings with the administration (even though my friends had reported the incident). I sat in the same classroom and walked the same halls as the aforementioned classmate. On that Monday, it was clear to me that we have normalized acts of aggressive and angry hate speech.

Is the author of this speech actually filled with hate? Does he care about the significance of the words he throws around nonchalantly? Does he just think it’s funny to spout slurs?

It does not matter.

The people who disparage us are still loved. The people who disparage us are still laughed off. The people who disparage us are still appreciated as deserving of a platform because of the uniqueness of their views in this bubble. They continue with their careless and provocative ways. They paint those who object to their ideas as emotional, dismissing in order to keep the cyclical and inconsequential nature of these events in place. In reality though, any one who is disgusted by my mere presence is just bigoted. Their views aren’t interesting, they aren’t controversial, and they aren’t original. They would love to consider themselves all three descriptors, but they are just simple.

I am thankful for those who have stood up for me. My tiredness does not invalidate their anger.

I believe that rage can be a seminal force for social change. Nonetheless, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem. It’s difficult to feel that I can make a difference in dismantling these harmful societal constructs when rare instances of blatant homophobia pass from our collective consciousness after a day or two.

It is difficult when moments like this make me feel like the deliberate and implicit shaming of queer people remains a cultural norm.

While it is true that we have progressed in our acceptance of non traditional orientation, it is incidents like these that perpetuate hesitance and shame in self expression in the LGBT+ community.