My Experience With Ableism, and Homophobia in the 1990's
Homophobia is rampant. It has gotten better but there is more work to be done. Back in 1994, I experienced homophobia even though I had no idea what it was or what homosexuality was. This was before I knew I was part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I went to a middle school dance in 1994 with my best friend. We were 14 years old and in 7th grade. We knew each other since preschool. We were separated when I was placed in Special Ed (thats what it was called back then). I did not know I was autistic but I did have a diagnosis of ADHD and language processing disorder (receptive and expressive). Since I was in self contained classes, I was moved from elementary school to elementary school. The different schools in the district could not make up their minds where they would leave the special ed classes. After I was mainstreamed out, they built a school for this so the constant moving wouldn't happen. My friend and I were reunited in Middle School.
We were at this dance. Her mom picked us up. It was a chance to be away from a toxic home for a few hours so I was in. We got there, we had our tickets. All was good. I did not have many friends at all. When I was mainstreamed out, the 5th grade teacher outed me as being from special ed. This caused people to think I was weird.
My friend was upset about something. She hid in the bathroom. I kept on going in and out to check on her. I was keeping an eye on the time so we were not late for pickup. I did not want to be in trouble at home. In doing this, several people were laughing at us. I had no idea why, as I was used to being laughed at. I thought nothing of it.
My friend felt better and then it was time to be picked up. I was dropped off at home. I was not prepared for what happened next to change my whole school career.
Homophobia and the Massapequa School District
The dance was on a Friday. I went back to school the next Monday. When I walked in, there were several girls laughing at pointing at me. More people were avoiding me as usual. I heard in a perfect low tone whisper "I knew she is weird but I did not know she was a lesbo. A ret*rded lesbo. " I was genuinely confused. I knew what the r-bomb was but not that other word. This type of treatment followed me by almost everyone in my grade. I did not know what to do.
I went to go find my friend, she would not speak to me. This happened a lot so I gave her some space. I kept to myself until lunch time. At lunchtime, I had gotten a pass to see the guidance counselor. I asked the guidance counselor what it meant and she explained everything to me. This guidance councilor has been a big help since my transition out of special ed classes. I had no reason not to trust her. She told me they are just girls who like other girls like other girls like boys. I saw nothing wrong with this.
This continued during the rest of the day. I went home and told my parents and they told me I was lying. I had a feeling they would not help. They have shown me that they do not care. It was a sad reality and unfortunately I was used to it.
Every day at school was like that. This rumor followed me to religious school, karate class, etc. Everywhere I went and everything I did. I could not escape it.
I sat alone at lunch. No one wanted to talk to me. I was picked last for teams during gym class. I was locked out of the locker room to change for gym class. There was a lot of whispering about me.
There was a dean of students there. I went to him about the bullying. He said "Maybe you should not have given them a reason to bully you. This would not have happened."
Every-time there was a new student at the school, I saw it as an opportunity to make a new friend. Before i could speak to them, other students at the school would "warn" them about me. I was all alone. This continued in High School. Most abused kids used school to escape. Not me. I was abused at school and at home. There was no escape.
When I started acting out at home, I was taken to a counselor by my mother's choice. She told me I needed to stop behaving that way. She told me that I needed to stop lying about what is going on at school because according to her it was not true. She never called the school. She never advocated for me. She just allowed it to go on.
I did make friends at Temple Youth Group and Girl Scouts. Those girls did not care what other people said. I got my social interaction there. Even one girl's parents offered to register me for the next school district. My mother refused. I was convinced that my parents liked me to be miserable.
When I went on a ski trip with my youth group, there was a tag on my winter coat so the people there knew to let me on the ski lift. When I went to school several people asked me if it was my "lesbo tag."
One student even went as far as to offer me a piece of chocolate. I found out later that it was laced in ex-lax (a laxative). I actually thought someone was trying to be nice to me. After this, I was done with everyone there. This was the ONLY time the school did anything.
At school, I become more withdrawn. I did not want to speak to anyone. I viewed other kids as all the same. They all were finding an opportunity to be mean to me. I wanted nothing to do with them. I was later asked by teachers why I did not speak to anyone. I told them because they are all mean and just waiting to hurt me. I did not trust anyone. I only trusted the teachers. I just went to school for classes and went right home.
Experience at school is not supposed to be this negative. It is supposed to be a positive experience and the best years of your life. People are supposed to look back at prom, friends, after school activities, etc. I did not have any of that. Please take my experience and learn from it.
How did I escape it? I went away to college 360 miles away. Only two other kids from my high school went there. They tried ruining my reputation there. The other students were not buying it. I made a lot of friends in the Adirondacks. I finally felt like I was home. Once I went upstate, I never returned back to Massapequa.
Realization Later in Life
Later in life, I figured out that I am non binary and bisexual. I do think I had more of an appreciation of what LGBTQ+ went through during the 80's and 90's because I was a target of it. It was not true but that is not the point. NO ONE should have to go through this. This day, I proudly display an Israeli pride flag outside my home.