Breadcrumbs: A Poem for When Your Students Say They Hate Gay People

I have been told three times by a student that

No offense, but

They hate gay people

 

I wonder if the idea of “gay people” is just a construct

Reducing an identity to a behavior

Biblical convenience

 

I wonder if Omar Mateen was ever given space to talk about his hatred of gay people

If anyone ever thanked him for his honesty

Took his shoulder

And gently handed him the sandpaper to get to work

On his walls

 

I thought of the empty spaces between people on the trains that we describe as crowded

Almost touching shoulders

Space defined by how much we take up

Like touching another violates the space that we intentionally create

Maybe all we ever do is intentionally create space

 

I don’t really know what I feel when they say the word “hate”

But I do know where it hurts

It hurts for the empty space on my desk where Kate’s picture should have been for two years

It hurts for anticipated responses instead of excited stories

It hurts for the hotel clerk who confirms, “One bed?”

It hurts for researching state labor laws before researching apartments

 

Coming out will always be defined by lost time

And it hurts in the space that could have been

A second

A minute

Or a year earlier

 

On the second day of school this year, we did a river of life activity

Raised hand, timid question

“What if everything on my river is bad?”

I glance down:

Bisexual

 

In the second week of school this year, I got a note

Purple ink titled

“Is it wrong?”

No more wrong than the stars in the skies

 

What makes us the most powerful

Is that which

Often

Makes us the most resilient

Is that which

Lights the sky in spite of being placed in a sea of dark

 

Our power is not simply what we can achieve

But in what we can endure

 

So when your student doesn’t share out

Ask

 

They won’t show you their house

Until you show them

That you’ll follow the breadcrumbs

 

Image courtesy of AirCanada Vacations, Flickr Creative Commons

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7 responses to “Breadcrumbs: A Poem for When Your Students Say They Hate Gay People

  1. Wonderful message. I wish I had worked in a school where I could have been out and have been a role model for our gay students. My space that could have been…is 40 lost years. You are to be admired.

  2. Sarah, I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I want to thank you for your bravery in sharing your story on Pantsuit Nation and for sharing this poem with other PN members and with your blog followers; it’s beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I’m a senior in college at a university in Ohio and the things you write about in this poem are things I carry on my shoulders every day. My parents are not accepting and I have dealt with hate from people outside my family who know nothing about me or what it means to be queer. Reading your words and seeing your picture brought me tremendous hope in this time of fear and uncertainty. As I’m sure you know, it’s scary entering the world with little knowledge of what my future holds. When observing professionals, I’ve encountered so few people whose stories and identities resemble mine. It’s reassuring to know that, despite difficulties, people like us exist and are successful in the “real world.”

  3. This is wonderful. Thank you so very much for sharing it. I am particularly taking to heart the lines “They won’t show you their house/ Until you show them/ That you’ll follow the breadcrumbs”

    May we all learn to watch and listen carefully for the breadcrumbs left by the often-fragile, often-frightened, often-angry people around us.

  4. I love love love your writing, it’s really exquisite and well put. Your way of thinking inspires me, and I hope you write more on these topics. Really, really beautiful!

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