SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Ashai Magak

Gone with the Wind

photoIt’s 2007, just another day at Maritime Charter High School, a navy junior base school in Buffalo, New York, with strict policies, like having to tuck in my uniform, shine my shoes and belt before entering the building. I have to report to assembly on time every morning before the first bell rings or else end up in the cold “brig” for afterschool detention.

On this particular day as a freshman at Maritime High School I witnessed something disturbing, at least disturbing to me because of how I was raised to view certain things. On my way to Mrs. B’s earth science class I witnessed two girls kiss before my very eyes for the first time in life. This was not a mother kissing her daughter on the mouth kiss; this was a romantic couple type of kiss. Disbelief at what I just witnessed, no one seems to be disturbed, bothered or shocked.

Homosexuality hasn’t always been accepted and in some countries it is still unacceptable and illegal. For instance, in South Sudan where I am from homosexuality is completely illegal under the Shari’a law. The violation of the Shari’a law results in penalties extending from lashing to the death penalty. Homosexuality has always existed, even since biblical times, but as time progresses, part of the world has become accepting and acknowledges homosexuality.

Before the 1930, the use of the word “gay” was not allowed, unless it was referred to happiness. But, in 1938 the film Bringing Up Baby was first to use the word “Gay” in reference to homosexuality. The film’s use of the word “gay” cause a huge uproar from viewers because people couldn’t believe that the Production Code Administration, a Hollywood self-censorship group, did not ban the film from airing. As time has progressed and the LGBT community has grown, a lot of things have changed.

In 2011, I went on to graduate from Maritime High School and went on to attend Hilbert College where I met an amazing friend named Jonathon and I quickly bonded with him. One day Jonathon woke up with a heavy heart, telling himself,

“Today, the truth will set me free”. Today was the day I came out to my family and may I say I was disappointed. They call themselves adults, but talk down at me because of I am gay. And my grandmother had the nerve to say “I will pray for you, Jonathon”, as if I asked for her prayer. But, I can honestly say I was hurt by my family’s reaction. I knew they wouldn’t accept my lifestyle, but what hurt was the way they belittled me for the decision I can’t change. After, my family’s reaction, I definitely have a challenge here. I am black, male and gay.”

         As a year passed, my friend one day confessed to me that he is gay. I didn’t know what to say or if I did say something I didn’t want to offend him or make him feel as if I was judging him like his family did. Part of me didn’t want to believe him, but I as stayed and listened to his story, all I wanted to do was to be there for him because society isn’t accepting of his lifestyle. I can honestly say that one of the things that I have felt through this journey is confusion. My confusion towards homosexuality was rooted in ignorance. Growing up in both South Sudan and the United States, I was taught that a romantic relationship is between a man and a woman. I had never seen homosexuality displayed until I was in high school, and even after that I didn’t not associate myself with those who are homosexual, until Jonathon. I believe what changed my views on homosexuality is that I had gotten to know the person Jonathon is, and not simply judge his lifestyle. Jonathon and I shared so much laughter, we had a lot in common and overall he has a beautiful spirit. Because of what Jonathon and I shared, I felt obligated to support his decision, because that’s what makes him happy. Everybody deserves to be happy and live their truth regardless of what society thinks.

Homosexuality is worldwide and has global impact on society. It transcends borders, cultures and governments. The homosexual community transcended its own international flag, its coming out day and even fought for same-sex marriage.

I believe that all the historical events and reforms have helped Jonathon to become the person that he is today. Today society is more accepting of homosexuality and the LGBT community, and due to written laws that one can’t be discriminated against for their sexuality. These rights wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for those early pioneers who kicked down doors, shed blood and tears, so that today’s generation of gays wouldn’t have to live through such brutal and harsh lives. Yes, discrimination, homophobia, hate and human brutality are very much alive but they are not as prevalent as the in 1930’s when there weren’t any rights for the LGBT community. If others honestly grapple with prejudice towards homosexuality, as did I, one day LGBT discrimination may be Gone with the Wind.

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