In case you missed it, McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania, has entered the national news as a result of a group of students hosting an “Anti-Gay Day,” which involved, according to reports, calling out LGBTQI peers on various social media platforms, pasting Bible verses to their fellow students’ lockers, and even allegedly hanging a noose from a flag pole.
Well, as a person who spent the first seven years of his life just outside of Claysville, whose mother and aunt graduated from McGuffey, and who would have gone there had I not moved to West Virginia when I was eight, I have a few things to say to the students of that high school.
To the LGBTQI students who suffered this harassment, I can only say this: disregard these redneck assholes and their intolerance-parading-as-religious-piety. As you no doubt already know, religion is all too frequently used as an excuse to justify hatred and bigotry. You and I both know that you are better than that. I won’t spout platitudes at you and say, “It gets better.” Because you know what? It might, and it might not. I’ve seen a lot of change in our region in the last 10 years, but as this incident demonstrates, there is still a long way to go. I will say, though, that it is important to not give up hope, and to know that there many of us that support you, even if we no longer live around there.
And to the bullies who perpetrated this homophobic ugliness, I have several things to say. I hope you realize how much pain you have caused those around you, how your little game, or whatever you thought you were doing, has very real emotional consequences for those who still struggle to gain acceptance every day. I’m sure you can rest easy, now that your fragile egos have been bolstered by attacking those who occupy a weaker social position than you do.
You may like to think that your Bible verses and your shield of Christian moralism grants you the moral high ground, but in fact it does exactly the opposite. It makes you look like exactly what you are: bigots parading around with the flimsy excuse of religion. Even if you truly believe what you say you do (and I find this kind of disgusting behaviour ironic, given that Christians are supposed to be forgiving and all of that), do you really think it’s your responsibility/right to throw your faith in other’s faces? Or, to be blunt, to use it as a weapon? Surely, surely, you are better people than that. I want to believe that to be true, but your actions make that very challenging.
But most importantly, I just want you to know that your way of hatred and bigotry is slowly fading away. It sucks that when people think of Appalachia they still think of people like you, but gradually your particular brand of backwardness will fade away, replaced by exactly those kinds of people you went out of your way to victimize.
And you know what, leaders of “Anti-Gay Day”? I feel sorry for you. Because you have successfully earned yourself the ire of those who strive every day to make a safer world for all of us. But in a way, I’m glad that you did what you did, because at least you gave us a face (or several of them) to put with the hatred. Knowing who you are makes it that much easier to fight against your brand of hatred.
So keep on fighting your battle, bullies, but know that it’s a losing one.
We’ll be waiting for you when you finally realize that.
Oh, and P.S. Flannel? Really? Could you be any more cliche?
P.P.S. Just FYI: Gays where flannel, too.