By Sarah Gustafson, 16, Immaculate Heart HS
Print This Post

{IMAGE1}Anthony Colin, 15, of El Modena High in Orange County, said he has known he was gay since he was in fourth grade. In September he tried to start a school club called a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), motivated by the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was brutally killed in Wyoming last year. More than 50 students signed a petition for the club. The Orange school board voted against the club, saying it would deal with sexuality, which should be taught in sex education class. Lawyers representing the students are now suing the district.

L.A. Youth: Please describe the kinds of harassment you have undergone.

A couple of jocks threw rocks at me, and called me a faggot. They would spit on me until my friend stepped in and regulated [stopped] it. My friend Jennifer went up to them and started bitching them out, and they stopped. Someone who hated me almost pushed me down a flight of stairs. Of course, I’ve been called every slur invented about gays or homosexuals, faggot, queer … People threw food at me, pushed me, tripped me.

Explain how Matthew Shepard’s death inspired you to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school.
Out of every horrifying incident, we can find something good that can happen, something good to be accomplished. Matthew Shepard’s death opened up the doors for people to continue to hate gays. But if people are educated, there will be no increase in hatred towards specific people—lesbian, gay, bi people. Every human deserves respect … but those people did not see Matthew Shepard as a human; they did not believe he was worthy of being on this earth.

Many people objected to the Gay-Straight Alliance because they said it would discuss sex. What are some of the activities that you have planned for this club?
I would like to see teachers go through anti-homophobia classes, where they will learn to deal with situations put in front of them every day. If someone says "that’s gay," the teacher will learn not to ignore it or accept it by saying "Well, that’s just a slang word nowadays." What if I tried to use nigger or nip as a slang word? I would so get into trouble! Even if a slur’s not directed at a specific person, it can make them feel like s—.

We would go on field trips, for example, to the Tolerance Museum and the musical "Rent." Stuff like that. Of course we would do community service—raise money for the AIDS Walk and Breast Cancer Awareness. We’d love to participate in all kinds of charitable events.

What kind of response did you expect to the club?

I expected some resistance, because my school is so conservative. I expected a board meeting or two, but I never expected that it would go to an open forum. There had never been this kind of reaction to any other club.

A school board member stated that she believes in tolerance, and that the board vote was not homophobic. What happened at the meeting?

When the meeting was called to order, parents from the opposing side made very disgusting comments. They went into detail about bestiality; one man gave us a very graphic image of a man penetrating another man … And there were kids there—people ages 8 to 17. They didn’t need to know this! The people who spoke were totally putting me down. They said I had been molested, brainwashed, raped. All this confused me—it was so ridiculous … There had been more discussion about sex at the meeting than the entire club would ever have.

Did it surprise you that this kind of reaction was coming not only from young people, but from supposedly mature and responsible parents, and even school board members?

When kids are homophobic and hateful, it’s usually because their parents are ignorant and hateful. At the same time, there was more intolerance than I had expected. People from all over Orange County came up to me and started telling me that I’m going to Hell—because the Bible says so. But these people don’t know what the Bible says! It tells people, don’t judge others. Only God can judge … and these people were nowhere close to God, believe me.

Some of our readers don’t like it when we write about gay issues. They say, "Why should we have to read this? We’re not gay!" What would you tell them?

This entire thing is not a "gay" issue. It never has been. It’s about certain issues that come up when people deal with those who are homosexual. At school, gays are the most picked on—they are the most hated group. But it’s the same when people make fun of blacks, because in both cases you can’t change the way you are born.

People should read this because they live in a big world which does include people who are homosexual. What if you start working for a big corporation? Your boss could be gay, your coworkers could be gay. What are you going to do, call them fags and queers? I don’t think so! People have to realize that the world is much bigger than high school. For anyone that hates me, I don’t say "Oh, you stupid hetero." I say that person is a human being and I’ll deal with it.

One person who opposed the club said he didn’t want students to suffer "gay indoctrination." Do you believe there is any truth in the idea that someone can influence or force someone else to become gay?

You cannot choose your sexual orientation. You cannot choose your race, your hair color or your family. When it comes to certain things, I believe we are born that way.

Do you have a boyfriend?
I’m looking! No, not yet.

How difficult is it for gay, lesbian and bi people to have romantic relationships at your school?
We had one [lesbian] couple, and they’re not afraid to express their feelings in public … But when it comes to making out, I say—that’s why we have bedrooms at home! It’s different for boys. There are very few openly gay guys at my school. The guys are so closeted and afraid, so much more than girls. If a gay guy and I were to show love, we would go through hell.

Do you have any additional comments?
Come out and be proud of what you are. Stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone keep you quiet.