Tennessee advocate and Spirit Day Ambassador, Marcel Neergaard, has written another essay for the Huffington Post. He described returning to school, what challenges he continues to face, and how he continues to advocate for LGBT students.
On struggles at a new school:
When the school year started, it was not all rainbows and pink smiley faces. I had trouble with sleep, schedules and people. Maybe I expected the stars to whisper the answers to tests in my ear, or perhaps I thought the summer sun had expanded my brain capacity. To my disappointment within the first weeks, seventh grade started to drag on at a usual, boring, school pace. One time I asked the moon why I must wake before daylight, simply to come home with more homework. It did not reply. Now, more than halfway through the year, school remains difficult, for I am always tired, always busy, and always trying harder to keep up, but it is the same for my peers.
On the lasting impact of Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay Bill":
The protection of the classroom doesn't seem to extend to me. One day I was talking with my friends about Zachary Quinto being gay. An otherwise supportive teacher stopped me and told me "talking about being gay in the classroom is illegal in Tennessee." I wanted to scream, "NO IT'S NOT!" I went home intending to double-check my facts before confronting that specific teacher, but my parents told me they would talk to the principal instead. I have found teachers are quite confused because of Ragan's bill (the Don't Say Gay Bill). They're too busy teaching to know if it passed, so they just try to be safe. Meanwhile, I am not allowed to talk about myself with my friends.
On speaking up for others:
I'm not the only gay youth in Tennessee. I'm not the only gay kid in Oak Ridge. I'm not even the only gay student in my school, I'm just someone who is standing up. I know I have written about bullying many times, but this is still happening to kids like me everywhere and I refuse to let it continue. I will go on educating my school system, and the people around me who believe the gay stereotypes, but we can not do this alone. I, and all the kids like me need StudentsFirst to start doing what they promised, putting students first. We need their strength to convince legislators that students everywhere deserve safe places to learn. We also need people to encourage our representatives, who are supposed to represent us, to pass bills like the Dignity for All Students Act and federal legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I want to make sure other kids do not have to go through what I have. This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me. What will you do?