The stories shared by the LGBT community can be heard from all across the world, televisions, to your very own hometown. Much of the struggle is not heard because of the split political parties. The word “love” was soon weaponized as a political tool for both sides. So I decided to travel to New Orleans to meet with William Harris to get his personal story. Will, a 19-year-old boy who grew up in Mississippi will share some of his experiences growing up as a gay teen in the South.
Will and I sat down over coffee to expand a bit on his past. I could see some anxiousness in his presence as he sat down. He was about 6’4, tall; skinny and had one earing dangling. I started off by asking the broader question of when he realized he was gay.
“It’s like asking a kid when he learned to love? The minute we are taught to love, we ascribe this feeling to people and things. So the real question is at what age did I learn to love? I felt these feelings around the third grade.”
I asked Will to expand on what he exactly meant by saying love was the main focus. Will seemed very intrigued and enthusiastic to explain. He explained to me that most people who do not understand the perspective of a gay are so ready to dismiss them as a human. He told me the one human quality we all can relate to is love. I moved on to ask if coming out made it any easier for the life of a teenager.
Will laughed and said, “You know the saying they tell you, love has no boundaries. However, they forget to tell you that there is also tough love. I was switched from schools once I publicly came out. I lost several friends. The mental scar of being told something is wrong with you but you can’t fix it. Coming out was a huge relief but that was only the beginning.
I asked Will to share if some of his classmates ever went out of their way to bully him or out of their way to support him. He shared that while he endured many laughs throughout high school he did make one friend, Jackie. His coming out helped him connect with someone else like him and offer him support. I was told off tape the cruelty acts he had to suffer through and was asked not to mention them in our discussion. The things I took from his story did lead me to believe high school can be a very cruel place.
While gays are much more commonly accepted in this day and age it is still taboo in many parts of the world. The South being one of the more taboo regions over the North, I asked Will to share his experience. Were there any main differences in the South?
Will shook his head sarcastically and said, “Laughs, giggles, pointing, shouting slurs, or even getting physical. I would say a good example is the race relations in the South. While this occurred almost 60 years ago there is still tension today. Gay rights are nearly a decade old, there is still much work to be done.”
To wrap up my interview with Will I asked if he had any personal words or inspiration for the younger gay youth. I asked him to say just one thing he wishes someone had told him.
Will paused for a second and took a breath. He anxiously responded, “It’s okay to be gay. It’s okay for boys to wear pink. It’s okay for girls to wear blue. It’s okay to be yourself. Just always do what makes you happy.”