Josi Besseling, age 15
I wrote this essay after hearing about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. As someone who grew up knowing who I was from a young age (and feeling alienated because of it), this breaks my heart. This bill will only further harm queer youth. We deserve to be talked about. We deserve to be noticed. You cannot keep us in the dark forever.
Don’t Say Gay
The world will shove you in a box and slap a label on you: “fragile” or “heavy.” Be careful when you lift me, because I promise you I will only weigh you down. I will shatter when you drop me, into a million pieces. You can try to glue me back together with lacquer and gold, make me pretty again – like kintsugi pottery – but it will not make me any less brittle.
It gets lonely inside a box. It gets lonely inside your head. Another label: “different,” “do not open.” My labels are a warning. Do not get too close.
So you’ll place me in the back of the room, with all the other “different” boxes. Never to be opened, never to be touched. It’s easier to ignore something when you put it in the dark. When you can’t see it.
Sometimes I wish I could run to the ocean in the middle of the night, to feel the sand against my bare feet, waist deep in the water. I wish I could scrub off all the marks they left, the nicks in my sides, the frayed outlines and edges. (Where do I stop? Where do I begin?) I wish I could forget the things they said about me. I wish I could fight back. But a lone wolf will starve without a pack.
At least it is not so lonely when you’re surrounded by people just like you. People shipped away in boxes, because they will not fit into society’s perfect pyramid.
We could sit here collecting dust as the sun crawls across the gray sky. Day after day, forgotten.
Or we could make noise. You know, their voices may be loud, but we can scream louder. Bang on the walls with bloody knuckles and bruised fists. Make them hear us. Make them listen. You can ban my name, but I will only say it louder.
Take me out of this box. A box is no place for people with so much love in their hearts. You can hate us, but you can’t silence us. Let us out. Let us love.