Flowers are precious. In the spring, they bloom, and become a part of the colors mother nature paint our soil. In the fall, they return to the dirt they come from, nourishing the mother of which they sprout, to bloom again when the heaven begins to cry, giving birth to more flowers. Then the cycle continues.
I had a meeting with the new Herban Movement yesterday at Hercules High School. That day, I decided to bring my boyfriend, Austin, to show him around where I grew up. It was a great day, being that my old friends and staff at Hercules greeted me warmly and expressed how proud they are of what I have done. It was good to be back. The entire day was full of nostalgic memories on every corner of my old school. On our way down the clock tower staircase, I stopped to take a picture of a specific poppy that caught my eye. One of my favorite things about the springtime in Hercules is the color that it brings. This particular season, the poppies were in bloom and were standing out against the green grass canvas it was springing out of. Austin stood behind me as I focused and unfocused my camera on the flower.
And then suddenly, behind us, we heard someone scream from their top of their lungs.
There were four kids, all about the age of 6th grade, screaming slurs at me and my boyfriend.
"DO YOU SUCK EACH OTHER'S COCKS?"
"LOOK AT THAT GAY HAIRCUT."
"GET OUT OF MY SCHOOL YOU FUCKING FAGGOTS."
The entire time, I focused on the flower. Its orange petals were vivid, and the flower stood there among its kind, standing proud, swaying to the wind, and enjoying the time it has before it wilts and goes back to the soil.
And then we walked back to my car and drove home. The ride home was silent, until one of us finally brought it up.
Let me be clear that never in my life did I experience being called any kind of gay slur out loud. Not anywhere, and especially not in Hercules High School. Austin is from Alaska, where people tend to be more conservative, but even for him, people have been supportive when he came out. No one had ever been so cruel to call me something this vile.
I had to graduate to have that experience.
The most unbelievable part was that this was happening on my own home turf. If this was something that can happen in Northern California, how is the rate of bullying in Texas? Or Kansas? or Tennessee? The thought that some people endure this kind of hatred every day makes me cringe.
It bewildered me that this is something that happened to me as a college student in 2016. Was I offended? No. I was more perplexed. Baffled. Amazed. A group of kids were attempting to bully two fully grown college adults. Did they know anything about me? What if I were to be someone capable of beating them to the pavement right there? What if, as they stood in the middle of the street, calling us faggots, I turned my car around and ran them over?
Or what if I were weak? What if those words cut a hole so deep that I decided to end it when I got home. What if that moment was the final straw? What if I was done living with people telling me I am damned to hell to burn in eternity, or that I can't get married because I was some unnatural mutation?
People are capable of evil. Austin and I, luckily, are capable of tolerance as survivors of much terrible things. But what if we weren't? Here's the difference-
We were raised to never do anything like that, or to give into the temptation to hurt anyone with our words or fists. We were raised to understand to treat people how you would want to be treated.
After all, isn't that the golden rule?
So next time, be wary of who you judge, whether you intentionally call them out in the open or just think it in your mind. He might have gone through something like homelessness. He might have lost his mother. He might have met the president, or been voted the top freshman for his digital audio technology program at college, or he might have made it to The Huffington Post.
And you? The bully? Well, you're sitting there, drenched in the black sludge of your thoughts, bathing in your own poison, inhaling the fumes of your negativity.
Austin wrote a Facebook post in which he says, "Why live life with hate? Why attempt to cause others emotional pain when you dont even know them? Instead of hating, people should learn to love what the world has to present, because honestly it leads to a brighter happier life full of peace and a greater respect and outcome for what you have."
Because if you were on the other side, being called something homophobic, sexist, racist, or another deep sense of prejudice, would you be able to stand there and still focus on the flowers?
We may look like just two faggots taking pictures of poppies, but we are much are more. In the end, we are birthed, we live, and then we go back to the ground all the same.