By: Zachary James Brounstein
I’m not like every other student at North Warren. In every possible way, everyone is different and we all have our own characteristics; but me, I consider special. A rare breed. I’m attracted to men. There’s a thousand terms and ways to say it or beat around the bush, but at the end of the day that's who I am. It doesn’t define me or change my demeanor. I play video games, watch football with my family, and love spending my time with the my guy friends on the weekends. So even though I am different, I don't want to be treated that way.
Even from a young age my family knew. It seemed that everyone knew but me, and that wasn’t so easy. Before I went into elementary school my parents had noticed a change in me. I would say things like, “Something's wrong, I’m not supposed to be born this way” or “Why aren’t I like the other kids?”
My parents didn’t know what to do. My father, being a Jewish man, and my mother, being a Catholic woman, called a specialist who said it was either a phase I would grow out of or I would figure myself out. My aunts and uncles would tell my parents that they couldn’t fuel the fire. If I wanted a barbie doll they had to say no and teach me the ways of being like a boy, as sad as that is. But one Christmas, my parents listened to their advice and got me cars and a baseball with a glove and bat, but I cried. I personally don’t remember the details, but my mother and father agreed that it was a day that made them feel like they failed as parents. Apparently I cried so hard and asked my mother, “Why would Santa do this to me? He is supposed to know what I want.” After that Christmas my parents swore to let me be whoever I was, and I know I was an accident, but their decision wasn’t.
In Blairstown Elementary I was bullied for how I dressed, how I acted, and for being different. I would come home every day in tears crying to my mom, “Why do they judge me? Why are they so mean?” And she would hold me to her chest and let me cry. I hated waking up and heading to a place where I wasn’t welcomed. The problem was I didn’t know why. I was not old enough to know anything about sexual attraction and true love. I dated a girl for almost three years, but you know about elementary school relationships, they don't really count, it's just what kids do. Whilst being with a girl, I never felt attracted to her and we were best friends. She didn’t judge me or question me. After we ‘broke up’ in sixth grade, I came to North Warren with a fresh start. I was sick of the tears and over with the mean kids who ridiculed me day by day.
But seventh grade wasn’t all too easy. I still was not a friend to many, which was good I guess, but truthfully I felt lonely. Even now, four years since seventh grade, I feel lonely. There wasn’t much going on for me during middle school, but the bullies were still around, lurking, their words damaging. Whomever came up with that saying that words don’t hurt you was dumb. Words sting like a burn from a hot surface, or maybe even a fire; either way the feeling can go away, but the memory remains. A scar forms. And I am covered in scars now, each word like a cut, but I know that the people who brought me down are the only reason I learned to stand up. I told people who I was.
There was never an ‘aha’ moment for me, I just thought about it, and I liked boys. That's just how it is, and almost five years later, I am proud I came out. I told friends, few and far, and my family, who were for the most part accepting. I can’t control minds and make people understand. Living in a somewhat conservative area like Blairstown, word travels fast and not everyone is supportive.
I had guy friends; they vanished. I had bullies; they vanished. And I’m glad I lost the bullies and the close-minded folk because they wouldn’t see me for who I am. Being gay is a big part of my life, but it is no defining feature or characteristic, it's my sexual orientation and that's all. Those guy friends I lost left because they couldn’t bear the thought of me near them and that's not okay. Everyone has a right to speak their mind and follow their beliefs, but there is a fear among heterosexual males of homosexual males. I do not know if it is because they cannot comprehend the idea or if they think I will make a move on them.
To the heterosexual males, I am not going to hit on you, I am not going to make moves on you because the truth to it all is I’m not attracted to you. Just because I like boys doesn’t mean I like you. I understand you’re heterosexual and I don’t like you, for that very reason. It's the same reason you aren’t attracted to every girl you see, because you have a type, mine just happens to be homosexuals.
To the close-minded, I know you are among the student body and I’ve met many close-minded individuals, and whatever I say will not change your thoughts. You’ve never been malicious or made comments to my face and if you say things behind my back, you’re behind my back for a reason. Freedom of speech is an amendment and I know that. I accept that, I just wish you’d accept me.
All I desire at the end of the day is acceptance from my peers at North Warren. And many individuals are kind and honest and I have made many friends that I love so dearly. Being gay at North Warren isn’t scary, and it isn’t something that truly bothers me. In all honesty, it's lonely. And I do not expect everyone to read this article and think Oh wow, Zach is so lonely, I want to be his friend, but instead think about the people around you. Everyone is fighting battles and we all have reasons for the way we act and think, and you should reach out, be open-minded, and do not be afraid of someone who isn’t you.