The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Gay on the Block
Jeremiyah D. Spears

Because I’m 6’6” and hefty, people often think I should be a ballplayer of some sort. But once you get to know me, you’ll know I’m no ballplayer.

In my old neighborhood, guys would always call me out of my house to play basketball, knowing that was not what I liked to do. When I missed a shot they would ridicule me and call me a faggot.

It’s true, I’m gay, and though I look like your ordinary clean-cut Polo boy, I act a little feminine. When I’m happy, I like to buy shoes. I also like to read romances and family-oriented books. My favorite book is Mama, by Terry McMillan. It’s about a divorced black woman with five kids who’s having problems being accepted into society.

In fact, I’ve been different my whole life. I first realized I was homosexual at an early age. When I was around 5 or 6 years old, I would see boys and think, “How cute.”

Besides, I was labeled as different by many people. I never liked to play ball or get sweaty. My favorite toy was Christmastime Barbie. When the boys used to roughhouse and try to do it to me, I’d tell them to leave me alone. I would never do anything that boys did, such as sports, play fighting, or singing to rap music.

I could never understand why anyone would want to harass me for that. I used to think, “So what if I’m gay? So what if I’m different? Accept me or don’t accept me at all, honey, because I’m just me.” I couldn’t understand why the boys wanted to bother me and fight me when they didn’t know a damn thing about me. But they did.

The boys in my neighborhood were rough-necked, ball-playing, weed-smoking boys who picked on people to prove their machismo to their friends. I think those boys did what they did because of their own insecurities, because they wanted to prove they were manly men. There were about 9 or 10 of them and they lived in or around my neighborhood. Wherever I went I always ran into them, and often they would torture me for being gay.

One Halloween night, I went alone to catch the bus to go to a party. I was wearing a pair of dark jeans and a matching jacket and a black sweater with my initials on it. My mother had spent a lot for the outfit. The jacket alone cost $132.

While I was walking toward the bus, I saw a group of boys on bikes passing by. I recognized some of the guys. The first thought I had was, “Oh no, they’re going to start trouble with me.” I kept walking.

All of a sudden a partially opened bottle of urine hit me and got all over me. Some straight guys think doing something like that to a gay guy is kind of creative. They all hurried away and I screamed and cried because of all the money my mom spent on the outfit.

Then I felt the same as always—puzzled as to why I had to be their victim. I thought these guys would never understand me. They wanted to change me. They wanted to make me someone I wasn’t. I felt like the things the boys said and did were marks for life.

For three weeks after Halloween, I had the incident on my mind. At first my brothers were trying to get me to let them beat the boys up. But I thought it would not make the situation better. It would probably just wild up the problem more.

Finally I decided that I’d show them I wouldn’t stand for it anymore and I began to fight—with my pen. I wrote them gruesome letters smeared with ketchup for fake blood to let them know I was going to get them back and that I’d get the last laugh. Ha!

image by Gabriel Appleton

Usually, when the guys harassed me, I would tell them, “Go straight to hell because I’m going to be me and there will be no changes until I feel that my life needs a change.” And I would get revenge. I would make fun of them trying to talk to girls and getting turned down. Then I would get physical with them because they tried to run my life, as if they were in my shoes living my life.

When we fought, often my brothers or my girl friends would be there to help me—some of my girl friends were known for beating guys down. And once I even whacked a guy with a plank. While I was fighting, I’d think blood and more blood, because of the traumatic experiences I’d been through. I wanted so much revenge on the boys who created trouble for me. Because of the fights, the cops were always at my house.

Even though it made me feel better for a short while to get revenge, I felt as if I was never going to succeed in having peace of mind. And after the fights were all over, I wouldn’t feel much better. Often I felt as if I never belonged, and that no one would ever socialize with me because I was gay. I thought the world was so against me and that no one cared.

Still, there were people around who helped me and supported me, like my brothers and my friends. Looking back, I can see how much of a difference they made, even when times were at their hardest.

When I was living in my old neighborhood, my best friend was Lauryne. Beauty was her name, and we would go to the movies, the mall, or just hang in the park and talk about everything, from boys and love to clothes, shoes, and jewelry.

Like a lot of my other girl friends, Lauryne didn’t care that I was gay. As a matter of fact, she praised me for having the nerve to be able to come out at an early age to my parents and siblings and not really worry what they were going to think of me. She said things like, “You’re brave,” and that she was lucky to have a friend like me.

It made me feel wonderful to know I had friends who honestly cared about me. It made me strong and gave me courage to be even more open about my sexuality, and to encourage other kids to come into the light and take the risks. It made me believe there would always be people to support me.

Another person who really helped me survive everything was my grandma, who raised me. From my grandma I learned strength, courage, patience, love, heartfulness, and to treat all people the same no matter what. My grandma taught me to learn new things from people who try to reach out and teach you. She taught me the golden rule: Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.

My grandma was born in 1919. She grew up on a farm and was born in a time when blacks weren’t accepted and women weren’t allowed to vote. My grandma saw so much—the Great Depression, both World Wars, segregation, lynchings, civil rights. She would tell me about the marches, about the violence, and how once when she was in Jackson, Mississippi, she saw men cutting down two boys from a tree. She would tell me that life isn’t that hard today, not after what she’s seen and gone through. She told me, “My dear, you haven’t seen the harshness life can give you.”

Sometimes people who have lived through hard times grow closed and mean and bigoted against people who are different from them. But my grandma had a strong sense of herself, and that made her open-minded to the different things in life. She always said, “People must know themselves before they try to learn from another person,” and that’s exactly what she did.

As for my grandmother trying to change me, like so many other people in the world wanted to, it never happened. Instead, she encouraged me to do what I thought was right and what would make me happy. My grandma often told me I would be different as time went on and that she’d always love me however I was.

Three months after I came into foster care, when I was no longer living with my grandma because she was ill, I received a call from my aunt saying my grandma wanted to speak to me. When she got on the phone, she said, “I love you dear, and don’t let no one turn you around.” Then she hung up the phone because she had gotten short-winded. Shortly after that conversation, she died. I love her dearly and I miss her.

I now live in a group home for gay and transgendered boys. As for the boys in my neighborhood, they no longer bother me, because I don’t go around there very often. When I think back on things, sometimes I can laugh, but other times I’m still angry that those nobodies had so much control over my life.

Still, I think I have come to be OK being myself every day. Despite all the hassles I went through, the people who supported me made me feel that I didn’t have to change myself for anyone. I know that my life would only get harder trying to change for other people’s satisfaction. I know that I just need to satisfy myself.

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