Eric Snyder, 17, New York
When people hear that I’m from New York, the first question that they ask me is usually “Oh, so are you from the City, the Island, or Westchester?” Surprise! The correct answer is D, none of the above. I’m from a land known to outsiders as “Upstate New York.” In our native tongue, this translates to “Snow Hell.” For those of you looking for an actual answer, I live in a small town right over the border from Massachusetts.
Our school district is classified as rural fringe. It’s more rural than fringe where I live though. I mean, I’m not talking about living in the boondocks here, but you’d be hard pressed to describe even the most developed parts of town as suburbia.
We’re caught between extremes - urban Albany, and rural farmland. Progressivism and conservatism. Understanding and intolerance. Most have just learned to agree to disagree, and LGBT issues go ignored, or worse, unspoken. The problem lies not with hyper-prevalent hatred and discrimination, but with a lack of caring with what does happen. People aren’t homophobic so much as they’re homo-apathetic. This has translated into a real lack of awareness surrounding LGBT-related anything.
Take me, for example: I didn’t know what gay meant, like, actually meant, until I was in 7th grade. Until that time, I thought it was just a synonym of the word “bad.” Being one of the only LGBT-identifying students at my school didn’t help. Even now, I’m one of the only queer kids I know. That’ll be changing as of next year (Tufts 2018!), but high school so far has been less than amazing.
I’m a Boy Scout too. It’s been interesting, to say the least. On one hand, my involvement with the organization has been valuable - I’ve learned how to become considerably more self-reliant and independent, and the myriad experiences I’ve been exposed to have, excuse my cliché, broadened my horizons. Conversely, membership has also been very limiting. If you want to come out, that’s fine, but be prepared for expulsion if you do. It perpetuated a lot of shame, and caused me to question the “morality” of my own sexuality. Does that sound silly? Maybe. But when you’re 13 and gay is a dirty word, it can do some damage. Make no mistake though, I realize that I’ve had it better than most.
But that’s me.
Lacking options in my own school and community, I now work with the Capital Pride Center of Albany. I’m on the Center Youth Action Team, which is a fancy way of saying I’m a peer educator. We make appearances at local schools to combat stereotypes and teach people about issues still prevalent amongst queer communities, like racism and erasure of the LBTQ of LGBTQ. We talk about allyship, and how they can better serve the community. We talk about extending that great acronym that we’ve become so familiar with so that way we can incorporate all of our identities under one banner - we’re trying to make the rainbow a little less monochromatic. It’s a simple service, but an essential one. I want to give others the resources and support that I didn’t have.