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Back to School

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MARCEL NEERGAARD
Marcel Neergaard
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Two years ago, my smile was flipped upside-down when anyone mentioned fifth grade. Each day I dragged myself to school, trudged down the halls, and was called a faggot. I was not yet out of the closet, but my true self was obvious. My parents saved my life by choosing to homeschool me. I would have committed suicide if they hadn't. There was still a place in my heart that could only be filled by other individuals my age. After a year at home I wanted to return to public school.

The sun wasn't even up yet as my eyes blinked open to cameras in my face. It was the first day of seventh grade and a documentary crew wanted to film my return to school. Only half-aware of the crew around me, a delicious smell filled my nose when I walked up the stairs. My mother was making crepes! I sat at the counter and scarfed down crepes with Nutella and marmalade.

Mentally, the day's to-do list flashed before me. Pencils... check, notebook... check, gay shirt... check. I was prepared. Summer's clear end had planted a frown on my face when the car pulled up to the school walkway. While climbing out I said my goodbyes and then headed for the door. Looking at the building the thought "This is my school" turned that frown around. I felt the strength of 54,000 people and strolled though the doors.

My heart was probably one of the few that raced with anticipation about returning to a public middle school. I couldn't wait to meet my new teachers and see my fellow students, many of whom I already knew from elementary school. I couldn't wait to learn with other students while being open about who I really am. I couldn't wait to make new friends who would appreciate me and not make fun of me. I couldn't wait for the possibilities of the upcoming school year.

As I walked though the doors of that new school my smile was broad, even if I did have to deal with other students, rumors, and grades. The pounding of my heart peaked as I settled into a place on the bleachers. Eventually I would have amazing friends, but right then a whole day was ahead of me, waiting to be lived.

It turns out, school for me is pretty much like it is for everyone else. In the beginning I had trouble learning my way around and was scared I'd forget my locker combination. Now, my parents bug me about my grades and the assignment I forgot to turn in last week. I have fantastic teachers, like my social studies and language arts teachers who make learning fun. Most of the other kids are kind to me, but some are not. I've had a few small problems, but the school has been helpful in making them stop.

There are many great things about my new school, but the best is my friends. Even though friends bring drama, I can't blame all the commotion on my friends. Because of my actions this summer, I have people asking me daily if I'm gay. Most seem surprised when I confirm I am. I wonder why everyone doesn't already know. Isn't there some sort of school gossip system?

Luckily, my friends stick up for me and appreciate all facets of me. They fill my heart.
Everything I worked on this summer has given me the courage to be who I am. Each day I smile, stand proud, and walk fearlessly. When someone says "You're so gay," or "You're such a fag," I don't hide. "Yes, I am gay, and I find calling someone a fag very offensive," I reply with pride.

My school and I are pounding down that painful wall of bullying so others can be free. I am excited for this school year and I will use my courage to not be a passive bystander.