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Monday, October 1, 2012

Anti-Hate Speech

My first stint in activism led me to tears.

Well not tears, but I choked up, my eyes got watery and like I always do I pulled myself together.

Crying is a huge deal to me, because somewhere along the lines of growing up I decided that being strong enough not to cry was a superpower, an asset.

So having this kind of reaction made me, understandable, surprised.

I was out putting up fliers for Queer Week with a fellow intern when we got the call that the man who preaches and yells at students (there's really no way to dress up the word "bigot") was back on campus. So we left the fliers and went back to the office where the staff were making posters that said "this is hate speech." And then a staff member (or two) asked me, "are you sure you're okay with this?"

Now, I'm someone who believes in action, and I'd like to think I stand up for what I believe in. But to be perfectly honest, this guy scares me. He screams, he's hateful, he's completely unlike the religion I grew up with and what I believe in (that God loves you, each and every one of you), and he makes me afraid to walk past him on campus, in case he yells that I'm a prostitute or a whore because my skirt is too short.

But then that pissed me off, because I shouldn't be scared to walk through my campus, or that someone exercising "free speech" will attack me.

So I went out there with a sign and stood with fellow GSEC interns, facing the crowd and not him, and stayed silent.

The first few minutes I felt a rush of emotions, just like I was told I would. I was scared, because I don't like loud noises and he was very, very loud; I was anxious, because this was a new experience; I was excited, because finally my desire to be an "in action" activist was coming into play.

And by the time the adrenaline wore off and I was standing there in the middle of a crowd of people, I was almost in tears. (Too many emotions at once does that to me, have you seen the Kristen Bell sloth video?)

A lot of people reacted to our silent protest. A few guys remarked that that was what everyone should be doing; a few people came up to me and asked what I was doing and where I was from; and almost everyone who read my sign smiled in support or solidarity.

Some things are going to be scary or make you nervous, especially when doing them for the first time. But keeping yourself sheltered because of fear will only hold you back.

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