The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Our Stories of Homophobic Harassment

Elaine Atwell: I’ve had the usual frat boys try and talk me out of my orientation, the irritating mosquitos of men asking if they could watch, and when traveling through the deep south, I’ve gotten some looks that let me know I needed to get the hell out of Alabama. But most violent discrimination I’ve ever witnessed was not directed at me.
 
My high school had a small but vocal population of the children of academics and doctors that gave it a more liberal bent than your average Appalachian small town. A handful of them observed the Day of Silence, in recognition of the bullying and harassment the students who were gay (or, just as bad, suspected to be gay) experienced. I didn’t participate in the Day of Silence after I saw what happened to those kids, the vast majority of whom were merely allies (although in this case, calling them “merely” allies disparages their extreme selflessness and bravery). I remember coming to school and seeing some parents holding signs outside, protesting the students who would be silent that day.  Inside was worse, as gangs of teenagers formed circles around the silent ones and screaming “FAG, FAG, FAG,” constricting around them until they couldn’t move.  I remember watching my guidance counselor open his mouth to say something, then close it and walk away.  
 
Every time I ask myself how I didn’t know I was gay earlier than when I did, I remember those Days of Silence, and I think that some part of my brain was doing its best to keep me out of harm’s way.
 
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Bridget McManus: In college my then girlfriend and I drove cross country from Rhode Island to California. We stopped at a Taco Bell in Oklahoma where the people behind the counter laughed at my girlfriend and I for having short hair and cargo shorts on. As my girlfriend looked at the menu I went to use the rest room and was told I couldn’t use it. The staff refused to wait on us because we were “dykes.” Instead of pitching a fit, we just left and drove to another rest stop. 
 
Lucy Hallowell: Most of the cruelty I endured as a child was based on my appearance. While I am sure many saw my short hair and clothing choices as an indication of my gayness, I much more often have been taunted, teased, and ridiculed for being too masculine than I have for being gay. I can’t count the number of times I was told “wrong bathroom, kid” by an angry-faced adult in the women’s bathroom or asked “What are you?” by a kid at school. In middle school a group of my classmates, all boys, walked up to me. One particularly charming asshole gave me a disgusting smirk asked “Are you a Mounds or an Almond Joy?” I didn’t understand what that meant so they laughed at me for not knowing what I was before telling me “Almond Joy’s got nuts, Mounds don’t.” They strutted away, all filled with satisfied swagger and congratulatory laughter. I wished the earth would swallow me whole and then decided to grow out my hair.