Taking a step back

Victoria Tomeo, Staff Reporter

Imagine walking through the hallways and hearing your voice being mocked behind you. Imagine holding back your feelings on social media because your peers will ridicule you. Imagine that everything you do, no matter what, is held against you because of who you love. The notion that a person could possibly matter any less than another person because they are different is mind-blowing to me.

From the Stonewall riots in the ‘60s to the great March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights in the ‘70s, “homosexual” is a word that ricochets off the walls like an insult and follows with a gasp. It echoes in the halls of schools and is stamped onto the foreheads of children who don’t even know what it means, and yet they still shove it into the back of their brains because it is all they are taught to know. With the recently debated laws in North Carolina, these issues are again brought to the surface.

To grow up learning that being gay is wrong breeds a generation who believes that everything can only be right or wrong. Junior Andrew Ballantyne is not unacquainted with this concept.

Because he is a gay teenage boy with access to social media, Ballantyne is familiar with the daily sweep of homophobic comments. However, Ballantyne is also on the varsity volleyball team which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with his sexual orientation; but in April, the volleyball team got to move into the district playoffs after a tiebreaker that resulted in the school’s name getting drawn from a hat filled with the three eligible schools. Twitter anger followed and members of the team that did not make it bashed Ballantyne on Twitter for being gay and mocked his infamous Lady Gaga dancing videos immediately after.

“People need to realize that there is nothing me or any homosexual can do except love ourselves,” Ballantyne said.

Hate on Twitter for being anything other than a white male is nothing new, but I cannot be the only person who is completely tired of this. Too many young queer people are at home wondering what they are doing wrong because society has the audacity to tell them that they are worthless if they identify as gay, lesbian, transgender or other.

The University of Sydney’s Catholic Society just last week hosted anti-gay events with signs that said “Men + Women= made for each other” as people protested outside the school buildings. Laws passed in North Carolina concerning transgender people also stirred debates and are obviously not solving any problems because LGBT students are being extremely affected by them, too.

“When I saw [gay marriage being legalized], I was so happy; I cried even, because the Supreme Court was finally doing something,” Ballantyne said. “But at the same time, there is no, and never will be, a law that can destroy prejudice and discrimination.”

Oviedo might seem far away from North Carolina, but homophobia lives in these halls and in between the cracks of Twitter feeds.

My dad put me through therapy when I came out because he literally thought something was wrong with me.

— Skyler Zeegers

Sophomore Caleb Schaefer claims these comments are daily and customary, much like Ballantyne. If he is not being called “fag” in the hallways, he is being condemned on Twitter, just like all homosexuals at school. Growing up, Schaefer’s older brother called him names and made him believe that being gay was the worst thing he could be. Hearing that as a middle school student pushed him further away from his reality.

“It’s sad, but I’ve learned to block it out and be my own person,” Schaefer said. “If you don’t, you’re going to get eaten up.”

A person should not have to be afraid of coming to school just because whom they seek in a partner is not the social norm. Why is this so hard to accept?

Homophobia, while some advances have been made, continues, and it needs to stop. Negativity and social media hate towards someone who is struggling with finding who they are is hypocritical and cruel. We’re all trying to find our place, so instead of taking the time to hate on someone who is different than you, take a step back and reevaluate. They are the least of your problems.