It’s easier to discriminate against those we don’t understand. It’s easier to discriminate against those who have beliefs and feelings unfamiliar to us. Homosexuals and other people in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community have long been misunderstood and judged by those unwilling or simply not ready to understand.
Among those of the LGBT community is a person that many of you know. She is a senior here at North Scott and has identified as lesbian for most of her life. She was courteous enough to answer some interview questions that may help people understand the perspective of a young person who identifies as homosexual.
Sitting in the bright new library, Paige Fahrenkrog, faces me, unblinking. A senior at North Scott, Paige has known since she was 10 that she was gay although she didn’t quite understand her feelings yet. Discussing her feelings towards girls didn’t come up until she was almost in junior high. First she told her friends in 6th grade, and then her parents. I was “in the basement with my mom, and all my friends were there to support me, and I was terrified and crying.” The serious blunt look on her face subtly expressed her feelings from the past. Years later when she was more comfortable with her sexuality and felt that it was right, she let more people into her life so they could know what was going on.
Rubbing her thumb and forefinger while sitting back comfortably in her chair she says, “I came out publicly as being ‘bi’ [bisexual] in 7th grade and then at the beginning of junior year I came out as fully gay.”
Her daily life is fairly calm now, but there was a time when bullying was a daily struggle; homosexuality hasn’t always been accepted like it is by many today. In fact, many of the students we go to school with who are accepting of homosexuality now, weren’t always this way. “When I was a freshman in high school, I was in gym and I had to go to the locker room,” she says, pausing, “but I ended up having to go to the bathroom to change because everyone said that I was looking at them the wrong way. I still can’t even go to the same locker room as everybody else because of that.”
The look on her face changes from serious to frustrated with her unhappy past. She coped with this discrimination however she could. “Well at first I wasn’t okay with it. I ended up getting really mad at everybody and going off on people that were really close to me, I pushed everyone away, I secluded myself from everyone, I didn’t talk to anybody, I didn’t do anything social, but then I become friends with a good group of people who supported me,” she says. Paige continues, “I removed myself from the situation, and I tried to make myself happy with what was best for me.”
The teachers sitting at their tables only a few yards away didn’t distract Paige as she gladly answered my questions. “I learned that you can’t really care about what everyone else thinks, you have to do what makes you you,” she tells me, smiling, “you have to be yourself, and you cannot try to impress everyone else.”
Now she sits taller, more open and enthusiastic to be speaking about her situation. The longer we talk, the more I hear from her and get to understand what she goes through and has gone through. “If I had to give advice to other LGBT people, I would say that you need to find a good group of people who don’t care what you are, what you look like, or what your background is who will love you for who you are,” she says. She finishes as the bell sounds with good advice for all of us, “learn to accept yourself for who you are, don’t hate yourself for who you are, don’t think that you’re going to change [. . .] you have to love yourself and put yourself first before anyone else.”