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We Won’t Be Silenced

 While I’m not one to typically write or comment about current events (or in this case, semi-current), this one is one worth mentioning. 

     In June, at Eastern High School in Voorhees, NJ, the school’s first queer valedictorian, Bryce Dersham was silenced during his speech due to his remarks on mental health and his own identitiy within the LGBTQ+ community. In his speech, all he did was highlight how change within himself allowed him to become a more open and strong individual. However, in the video, uploaded to Youtube, Dersham’s principal is shown stepping behind him and silencing his microphone, then shortly after removing the paper from the stand. Luckily, Dersham memorized his speech, and continued bravely on stage. 

     It is people like him, along with others in the community, that I will always look to to hold a sense of pride in my being, and to truly celebrate being who I am.

     So why is it that this community is so quickly silenced and censored for seemingly no reason besides the thoughts of “homosexual propaganda” and “morality?” Even today, several states enforce “no promo homo laws,” which prohibit the discussion of homosexuality and transgender identity in public schools. This is absolutely disgusting to me considering schools are where most of our identities are formed and accepted by so many, encouraging us to be ourselves; and the banning of LGBTQ+ content from public schools is more detrimental than beneficial, nonetheless. 

     It should not only be embraced; but celebrated. In mentioning this type of celebration, that Bryce Dersham was attempting himself, does censorship create silence within the community- or only make our voices louder and stronger? It seems the latter. 

     All of the times that our community is told to stop speaking, or our rights are taken away, we fight back even harder. All of the times we are told no, or told that our love for another human is unnatural, we fight to get and keep our rights. All of the times we are told that there are only two genders, we fight to change that. 

     And we win, we keep succeeding. 

     Our brothers and sisters and even our queens did not riot at Stonewall in 1969 so that we would stay silent. Clinton (and later, Obama) did not establish Pride Month in 1999 so that we wouldn’t celebrate. They did it for the girls, gays, and the “theys” today. Pride is powerful. The times of rejection and shame are nothing compared to the lifetime of amazing community and love you will experience.

     I was unsure about coming out for so long, thinking my family and friends would reject me, or maybe because it was “just a phase,” but celebrating my first Pride month and seeing the true beauty that comes from being a part of the queer community is amazing. I witnessed my own extended family embracing who I was, and my parents truly caring about me and my happiness. I finally got to experience what it was like to love someone and accept myself for it, and to love myself for who I am. And, I finally got to live freely and proudly for the first year, despite not celebrating Pride month in your average ways. 

     I can not wait to continue being myself and living my truth! I encourage those who are hesitant to come out to do the same. 
     Live loud and proud; we will not ever be silenced!

Maranda is a Senior Writing Arts and Emergency Management dual major at Rowan University. She hopes to become a published poetry author and eventually go to law school or work for Homeland Security. In her free time she enjoys listening to all genres of music, reading, creating art, writing poetry, and watching 80s movies.
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