No gay person had ever walked down Emerson High’s hallways. At least that is what the students thought. It was a private, high end school that cost $15,000 a year. There were marble stairs and curtains on the windows and teenagers dressed in uniforms. There was no room for nonsense; this was a strict school. Just because this was a strict school doesn’ t meant there wasn’t cliques though.
Jake was a popular kid. He was the soccer captain and the lead role in the spring musical. Jake didn’t feel popular though. In psychology he learned about when one’s beliefs and morals are at war with what the world wants. This causes deviance and destructive behavior. That was how Jake felt all the time-at war with himself. He knew he was attracted to men, but he so desperately didn’t want to be. He wanted to be normal and have a girlfriend he could love and take care of. He had to break up with his last girlfriend because he just couldn’t bring himself to fake it any longer.
Sam was in a similar situation. She was definitely attracted to girls, and she hated herself for it. She knew her friends would all leave her if they found out. They were the popular girls who were really shallow. They couldn’t stand to be seen with anyone who wasn’t perfectly normal. To get into the group, you had to have straight blonde hair, be less than 115 pounds, and have at least two drawers full of makeup. Sam barely made it into the group, not because she wasn’t gorgeous, but because she was too nice.
Both Sam and Jake wished things were different in their school. They wished that kids could be themselves and participate in what sport or activity they thought fit them the best. They wished that being oneself wouldn’t get kids bullied or teased or pushed into lockers. In fear of that happening, they both kept how they really felt hidden.
In gym class, they were partners for everything because they were the only seniors in the class. One day when they were running laps, they got talking about why it was so wrong to be gay. Neither of them knew that the other one was gay, they were just merely talking about the ethics behind it.
“I just think that it’s wrong for people to hate other people because they are gay. They’re still people. Not that I’m gay, just saying.”Jake added quickly.
“Oh yeah, I totally agree. Me either, by the way.”
“You know, we are both popular, we really could change how things work. We could start a club or something. You know, like for gay people to talk about it. And straight people could come too.”
“I don’t know, I don’t think anyone would come , Jake. No one in their right mind would ever come out and say that. Especially in a school like this. That would be like social suicide.”
“Why is that? It pisses me off. People should be proud of who they are. You know what, I’m just gonna say it. What is there to lose. I’m g-”
“You’re gay. I know. I’m a lesbian.”
“Really? I honestly never would have guessed.”
“I know. No one would have. Don’t give them a reason to. Don’t make me regret telling you.”
Sam came to class the next day expecting things to be awkward between her and Jake. She was shocked when Jake came up to her while they were stretching and said, “I have an idea, Sam.
“We are going to date.”
“I thought I told you I was--”
“I know. We are both gay. But here’s the thing. We can pretend like we are dating so that no one will think differently of us. We will be so convincing that everyone will think we are dating and we won’t have to worry about anyone trying to find out if we’re gay.”
“I don’t know, Jake. I mean, isn’t that the opposite of your idea yesterday? I mean, yesterday you were all gung ho about being open about your sexuality and accepting everyone.”
“Right. I haven’t told you the rest of the plan yet. At the end of the year we will hold an assembly. We’ll get permission from the principle, because I’m pretty sure he’s gay.”
“I thought so too! He is always talking to the boys and ignoring the girls.” They both giggled.
“I know. But anyway, we get permission from him, and then tell the school during the assembly. I mean, what is there to lose? We’re both seniors and we are never going to see any of these people after graduation.”
“I guess I need to think about it. I mean, I guess I’m fine with the “dating” part, but that is a huge thing to admit in front of the entire school.”
“I know it is. But baby,” with that the both laughed, “I think we need to put aside what it would do for us and see the bigger picture. What it would do for our stuffy, up tight, not accepting school. Who knows, maybe someone else is gay and is just waiting for something like this to happen so he can be himself.”
“Or herself. Okay. I’ll do it. Under one condition. You never try to kiss me.”
“Ew, you never have to worry about that.”
Every day, they brainstormed and figured out how to overcome the small, or large, obstacles that would be coming at them.
“Do your parents know you are gay?” Sam asked Jake one day.
“I think they know but I also think that they put up a wall about it because they don’t want to accept it. They’re strict Catholics. I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic that I’m bringing a girl home.”
“Oh, so I’m just any girl to you, huh?” Sam said laughing.
They kept the façade up all year. They would meet at each other’s lockers and hug goodbye before they left for class. They made it “Facebook official” and posted pictures of themselves constantly. Nobody had a clue. It was getting closer to June though, and Sam was getting nervous. First off, she wasn’t good at public speaking. Secondly, she was going to college with three of her friends, plus about ten other people from the school. She knew that everything was going to change after the assembly.
The big day had arrived. Confusion filled the air when the principal called down everyone to the auditorium. Once everyone was seated, he announced that there were two students who had done a sort of real life “project”. “Please give a warm welcome to two of your graduating seniors, Sam and Jake!”
“I can’t do it Jake. I really can’t. Let’s just say this was a joke to get everyone out of class.”
“No. Sam, we’re going.” And with that he bent down and kissed her.
“Ew, what the hell Jake?!”
“See, you like girls. You didn’t feel anything, did you? Absolutly no spark. We have to tell people how they make gays feel. We are out of here tomorrow. It is fine. We need to go. Now.
“Um, hi. I’m Jake, and this is Sam. Sam is a little nervous right now because we are about to announce some very big news. As some of you may know, Sam is my girlfriend. When I announce this, please hold all laughter or tears or whatever.
“Sam and I were in the same gym class when we met. One day we were talking about how unfair it is that no one is at all accepting of one another at this school. We started talking about making a club where gays could come and meet and feel comfortable talking about the issues that they faced with their sexuality.”
“FAG!” someone shouted from the audience.
“You’re right!” Sam shouted back. “We are gay!” This is what Jake had been hoping for. Some help from a fired up Sam. “And do you know what you, all of you did to us? You made us so self conscious about our sexuality that we hid. We FAKED that we were dating to please all of you assholes. Why is it so hard to just be friends, or even smile at someone who is different? We can’t help it. We were born this way. Neither of us would choose to be this way. It is miserable to have to fake how you feel all your life. But you all make it worse. Coming here, to this god damn prison every day is torture.” Silence. Not a peep from the audience. Maybe out of shock, or maybe out of respect, Sam couldn’t tell.
The principle came over. “Educational, please. Hold back the swear words.” And he stepped back with a wink towards Sam. He was in on it. She had to keep going.
After the assembly, Sam, who was planning on running as fast away to her car, stood proudly outside the doors waiting in case anyone had any questions. Jake stood right by her side and was flabbergasted when five kids came up to them and announced that they were gay. The tear-streaked teenagers gave both of them hugs. Many teachers and other students came up to them and told them how brave and how proud of them they were.
Something changed at Emerson High that day. Kids hugging other kids, acceptance of differences, and tolerance gays. It was a great day, and no one could have imagined how a little, or a lot in some cases, of bravery can go such a long way.
© Copyright 2016 Claire Pabst. All rights reserved.