By Celesté Johanson, Staff Writer
Every morning, I look in the mirror and point out everything I hate about myself. I spend a lot of time cursing my hair for being so frizzy and making me look like I belong in the movie Lion King. I shame myself for my eating habits that make my stomach look like a glob of melted Laffy Taffy. I always internally scream at my genetics for forcing my five foot three inch body to climb the counters simply to get a cereal bowl on the top shelf. I do a good job at lowering my self esteem. I don’t need everyone else at school, and in our society as a whole, to join me.
It all starts when we are kids. Our parents teach us who to talk to and who not to talk to. They teach us to judge others because they want us to grow up with the “right people,” to be the “right people.” In early 2000, it was frowned upon to be openly gay. I just so happened to be the daughter of two openly lesbian women. Because of that, I was raised to think that being gay was okay because it was and still is. I thought it was normal. I thought a lot of kids had two moms or two dads, so I was really open about it with my peers in elementary school. Everyone knew my parents were gay; therefore, I must have been gay. No one talked to me unless they had to. No one looked at me unless they were forced to. No one sat next to me because they didn’t want to catch “The Gay” disease. When I walked home from school with my mom, other adults would drag their children furiously in the opposite direction. Anyone who did hang out with me or my parents were shunned and discriminated against too, so it was better to have no friends or be friends with the few kids that also had openly gay parents.
The hate and judgement didn’t end there. In fact, it got worse. When I was in sixth grade, there was a new kid joining my class. His name was Austin, a nice, smart kid who looked like the stereotypical nerd. He was short, with thick glasses and a button up shirt. The teacher asked the whole class if there was anywhere that Austin could sit. If we had a seat available at our table, we would raise our hand. I looked to my right and I saw an empty seat; naturally, I raised my hand. Despite there being at least five empty seats scattered around the room, I was the only one who raised my hand. I knew what it felt like to be friendless. I understood what it meant to feel lonely in a room full of people. At the age of eleven, I had already made up my mind to have some human decency. Austin became my friend, even if that meant we had to fight the rest of the school to be seen as equals.
At my previous high school, I made a friend named April. She was really sweet, but attracted a lot of drama. Her and I had some mutual friends and we started hanging out. At this point, it was okay being gay or having gay parents, so I was able to make friends. April was at the center of a horrible rumor, and a lot of people just stopped being her friend. She lost everyone and everyone hated her. She was left with only one friend–me. I didn’t know her too well yet, but I wasn’t going to leave her when everyone else had abandoned her. Because I stuck by her side, I lost the majority of my friends, including my boyfriend. We were alone but we had each other. Later on, I found out that the rumor was just that, a rumor. She never did anything wrong and she payed the price for it. She told me one day that because I was her friend, she stopped self-harming and she was finally happy.
Everyone is fighting their own personal battles and we are just making it worse. One in 12 teens attempt suicide because they feel alone or trapped in a world of sadness and disappointment. Many times, they don’t want to end their lives; they just want to end the pain. Outside factors are what cause people to even think about ending everything. If they had something to hold on to then they wouldn’t be so quick to choose death. If they had even one friend, they might not feel so worthless.
I find it upsetting that we judge people based on appearances. I find it disappointing that we assume things based on opinions and lies. I find it repulsive that we hate others because they are different. We don’t give people a chance to prove to us that they are decent people. Our world is rotting and many of us stand on the sidelines and just watch. Why do we hate others, when they do an excellent job of hating themselves?