Andrew Lawless, 16, Tennessee
Ok, so, hi! My name is Andrew Lawless and I’m from Portland, TN – which isn’t much of a town but it’s what I call home! I have four younger sisters: Brianna, Gracie, Lexi, and Sydney – they range from ages 5 to 13. They’ve taught my lots of things over the years and that includes “monkey see – monkey do”, haha! My dad is married and two of my sisters live with him; my mom isn’t married yet and she’s got two of my sisters as well! I enjoy an array of activities, which includes everything from video games, writing, hanging out with friends, reading, learning, and being an activist!
Throughout my life I’ve kind of always known that I was a little different. When I think of the younger me I picture a little Romeo, stealing all the little girl’s hearts! However, when I started 8th grade one of my cousins came to stay with us, he was gay, and I had always known that, but this time it was different. When I would hear him talk about liking guys or something in the “gay community” I would feel butterflies and kind of start blushing. When I felt those feels it took me back to 6th grade where I remember sitting in the shower just crying and crying because I knew that I liked guys. The connection was made and I was so scared. I knew that he had been kicked out of his house when he was young, just because he liked guys, to me that wasn’t a big deal, but to others, I realized, it was a huge deal. During his stay I came out to my mom after he jokingly interrogated me (because he knew and wanted me to be happy & out!). She took it very well and just gave me the general “be safe” lecture and told me that she would always love me like God had instructed her to do. I was super relieved and I started to flourish and be happy because I had found myself and was able to express that!
In 8th grade I built a network of friends who knew that I liked guys and I enjoyed having that connection. However, that all changed when I moved in with my dad. My parents and I decided it would be best for me to live with him because the high school I was attending didn’t have many classes that I would’ve enjoyed. I was excited to move in with dad because I knew that I would be able to have a better high school education, but I was also worried that I couldn’t be myself there because he still didn’t know. I remember for Christmas I got a huge pack of Sharpies from my mom that year, I used them to doodle on everything I owned, of course! February rolled around and my best friend decided that it would super fabulous if she painted my nails with my huge pack of sharpies. So, I let her! Why not!? When I got home I heard one of my younger sisters say, “why are your nails like that, only gay people do that, eww.” Almost in harmony, my dad said, “I couldn’t have said it any better” then he turned to me and asked me why I had done that. I instantly ran to the bathroom and found any liquid that would take the sharpie off; then I sat in my bedroom floor for the next half hour crying because I was terrified my dad would find out. He came into my room, sat down, and asked me what was wrong, did something happen at school, did I fail a test, did my mom call with bad news? The fact that he watched me scrape the sharpie off of my nails while pretending he had no idea what I was crying about pissed me off. So finally I threw a single finger up towards one side of my room. He looked in that direction and the only thing there was a huge poster of one of my idols, Lady Gaga. I laughed and said “dad, I’m gay.”
He sat there for a while, at a loss for words. All I could do was laugh because I couldn’t feel a weight on my chest anymore and I felt free. He stood up and walked out without saying a word. When he left my room I started to feel scared though, I didn’t know if he would come back into my room and scold me or tell me that he couldn’t love me like this. However, he returned to my room, sat back down on my bed, and told me that he would always love me but he couldn’t accept that I was gay.
Since then I have came out to everyone who knows me. I kind of say I have left my cocoon and blossomed into a gay little butterfly! My dad and I have grown farther apart but recently we’ve been working towards getting closer and spending more time together. The rest of my family has embraced who I am and loves me either way!
So when I watched Prayers For Bobby one night I felt that I needed to be there for people. No matter if it was for their sexuality, gender identity, or how they looked! I knew that I had been one of “the lucky ones” and I wasn’t shunned for being who I simply was. I sought out a way to get involved, I emailed my local PFLAG Chapter and from there, my activism started.
On January 18, 2013, I was sexually assaulted in my previous school’s bathroom. Before this occurred I was focused on preventing LGBTQ bullying in all K12 schools simply because “it was wrong”, after the attack, however, bullying prevention had a whole new meaning. I have worked hard with the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and many other organizations to spread my experience as an out gay student in a rural town right in the middle of the Bible belt of America. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon and I know that being a YouthLink Scholarship recipient will only give me more tools to make all schools safer and more inclusive for ALL students! Hi, I’m Andrew, and I’m ready to kick ass at Creating Change 2014 and the years ahead of me!