Die Another Day

I’m dedicating this post to Craig, a true Friend who may be even more fond of rainbows than I am! 

“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.  Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable.”- Bayard Rustin 

The mornings of my senior year in High School were a very predictable affair.  I would wake up, usually toast a couple of ego waffles for breakfast, grab my backpack and head out the door.  I only lived about a quarter of a mile away from my high school, in fact I can see the lights of the football stadium and hear the games whenever they happen! My house is on a hill that ends in a cul-de-sac at the bottom, and there is a bike path that leaves the cull-de-sac and connects to the next street. 

When I reach the bottom of the hill and am safely in the bike path where I am sure no one from home will see, I take off my backpack and set it on the ground. 

I kneel down and unzip the middle pocket, and reach my hand deep inside to retrieve the contents.  It returns filled with prized possessions that always made me smile.

A large plastic rainbow bracelet, I put it on my right wrist.  

A metal rainbow dog tag, I hook it outside of my backpack.

A small rainbow made of fuse beads that you can iron and melt into patterns, I slip that into the mesh of my left backpack strap. 

A small pink triangle pin, I stick it on the left side of my shirt.  

Oh lord…my mom can never see me like this. 

Feeling very satisfied with my new attire, I re-zip the middle pocket, and open the main one.  I pull out a roll of masking tape that I had picked up from Fred Meyer and put it over my left hand.  I restart my walk to school now and in no time at all I’m entering through the back of the building. I begin to make my daily rounds.

Oh, another thing that my mom could never know, I was the president of the Gladstone High School Gay-Straight Alliance.

I walked up and down each of the hallways, stopping at the places I had put up posters to inspect them.

Cafeteria entrance…corner of the poster is ripped off.

I pulled the rest of it down and pulled out a replacement from the large stack in my binder.  New strategy, instead of taping the top and bottom, I’m going to start taping all sides, make basically a border of masking tape. 

I step back and review my work, it looks good! On to the next one.

Science hallway…someone wrote “fag” on the bottom of the poster. Replaced.

Social Studies hallway…nothing wrong!

Math hallway…poster is torn in half and on the ground.  Pieces recycled and replaced.

This was my routine that I did most of the mornings before students would arrive.  Most days I was lucky if 50% were still able to be kept up and not replaced.  Sometimes if the written homophobia was creative I’d save it in a special folder… for posterity’s sake. 

This might sound like it would be a depressing way to start the day…but it really wasn’t too bad, more annoying than anything.  It was nice to be authentically me in the morning, even if I encountered a little bit of hate, it was worth it to feel like I was being me. The members of GSA, who I was growing to love more each day, were worth waking up a little early for too!

I’m sure to most of the students at Gladstone High School believed I was a typical outspoken gay boy.  They only saw me in my leadership roles in GSA, decked out in fabulous rainbows galore! Little did they know that I would have to stop in the bike path after school, and take the authentic pieces of me off to hide again, before I could walk in the front door of home.  I was fine with them believing the first part and not asking anything else.  

This particular day was only a little while after I found out that I had received a full ride scholarship to George Fox University.  My home was filled with jubilation after I received that letter, my family members were telling as many people as they knew, my friends were congratulating me, and all seemed well.  

Being the awkward introvert that I was (*cough* still am), I spent a lot of lunch time in the library.  It was a safe space where I could escape into worlds that were different than my own. The head librarian of the school who I had known since middle school was Mrs. Loffler, and she was always supportive of GSA.  When I went up to the counter to check out some books she asked me what my plans were for after graduation.

“Actually I got a full ride scholarship!”

Her face lit up with excitement!
“Wow! Oh congratulations A.J. that is just wonderful! Where to?”

“George Fox University.”

Now, I feel like I have always been able to get a pretty good read on people through their eyes.  The eyes seem to say a lot on most people.  Something flashed across her eyes in that moment, so quick that it would have been easy to miss, but it was unmistakably there.

Abject terror.

She tried to recompose herself quickly, but stumbled through her response.

“Oh…(her voice was quieter now)…I worry about you being there A.J.”

I grabbed my books off of the shelf started to shove them inside my backpack.  I looked back up at her and smiled.

“I’ll be just fine, don’t worry! I’ve encountered my fair share of homophobic people here already, I’ll be able to handle George Fox.”

She didn’t appear comforted, but we wished each other well as I walked out of the library and started my way towards class.  I don’t know what on earth has her that worried! After all, I’d like to think I’ve been a somewhat capable leader of the Gay-Straight Alliance.  I’ve survived an oppressive pentecostal theology and been able to leave in tact enough haven’t I?  Sure I knew that George Fox didn’t look like the most hospitable place, but so what! It was only for four years.  I could suck it up for that long to get my education, and could leave the campus if need be on the weekends.  

I could handle it…

Oh my dear readers…I wish that those words would have been more true.  We are going to jump ahead in my story a little bit, but in the two years a half years that followed at GFU, I would come to understand the terror I saw in her eyes that day.  I was unprepared…for all of it.  The mental hell, the emotional anguish, the pain…the horrible pain…

“How are you feeling today A.J.?”

I’m in the Health & Counseling office at GFU, sitting on a comfy couch looking at my counselor across the room.  His eyes were always kind.  

“Well…to be honest I’m feeling pretty good! Which is kind of different…I mean I haven’t felt suicidal in a month or so, and its been 5 weeks since I’ve cut!”

My eyes wandered down to the left sleeve of my black North Face jacket, the fleece covered my healing forearm. 

“That is great A.J., you’ve made so much progress so quickly, and I’m really proud of all the hard work you’ve done.”

“Thanks…Its nice to start feeling a bit more like me again but…”

“…but what?”

“…but I feel like something needs to change at this place.  But I don’t know what or if I want to be the person to do that.”

“Well A.J., I know you’ve talked about leaving, so that is still an option, and you’ve been working hard to get yourself to a better space.  Just be sure that whatever you do you put a lot of thought into it, and I’ll always be happy to talk through any of that with you.”

The rest of the counseling session went well, they always seemed too, and I knew I was getting better, which felt great!  He lead me out of the office and opened the door to the lobby, said goodbye an that he’d see me again at the same time next week.

I opened the door and started walking through the lawn onto the sidewalk, still chewing on the thought that I spoke out loud earlier…something must change here. But what?! The admins had already said no to my GSA idea at the beginning of Freshman year, and I would have no support to try anything else.  How do I change something when the issue cant even be talked about?!

It was then…oh then…that I felt a moment of heavenly clearness.  

I looked up at the blue in the sky, I breathed, and I knew that I was alive.
I’m alive…I’m ALIVE! I’m NOT dying today!

The worst that this place put me through didn’t kill me, and you know what? I don’t need to be stopped by those barriers that I believed in anymore! Not for one more single second!  Those are what drove me into dark places, and so I will reject them, I reject the notion that I am powerless here!  That fear will not bind me any longer!!!

My heart started to pound, not with fear, but with strength. I aim to misbehave.  A spark that I had felt a long time ago leapt up again from deep within me, and the flame in my heart ignited. I knew I could find a way to help the other LGBTQ people who were invisible at this school…I knew it through and through. I suddenly felt the ridiculous urge to laugh.  

And I did, right there in public, just started laughing, with a joyful smile beaming from my face.  

After I had my moment, I started walking to the library to find a computer.

I had planning to do…


  1. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing pieces of your story! It's inspiring, AJ.

    1. Thanks Josh! I'm trying hard to...literally there was a point while writing this where I sat and starred at the screen for like 20 minutes or so. Really needed to go back into some memories, and it brought back a lot. Its been worth it though!



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