Breaking the Silence: A Reflection

Alexandra Phelan '19, Online Media Editor

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Originally featured in the November 2017 Edition

I often ask myself who I’d be if I never came to Baldwin. I’ve spent 12 of my last 17 years on this school’s campus, so the vast majority of my formative experiences happened within these walls, particularly from ages 12 to 14. As many of my friends will agree, the Baldwin Middle School hallway has a distinct smell precisely described as “uncomfortable” and “hormonal.” (If you’re in Middle School right now and are reading this, sorry, but you will know exactly what I mean on your first day of freshman year). The brunt of my discomfort was caused by my difficulty understanding my place in the LGBTQ community, a group I barely knew existed. Because of this journey, a confusing and constant process, I’m thankful I began at Baldwin.
As a small and awkward sixth grader, I admired every student older than me. Their words and actions dictated to me what should be expected of myself and my peers as we aged through the School, and I am lucky that that influence was majorly positive. In May 2013, I had already known for three months that I was not straight, but it was still something I didn’t share with most people. Seeing students, both my peers and those my senior, wearing rainbow pins in support of the National Day of Silence changed everything. I can pinpoint that day as the first moment I realized I wasn’t alone. We wrote on whiteboards and typed our answers in class, and the extent to which people kept their silence was shocking to me. I wore a rainbow with pride for the first time that day, inconspicuous enough in that setting to not raise any eyebrows. Progress is not linear, though, and I took it off before I left school, and four and a half years later it’s still zipped away in a pocket of my sports bag.
I’m a junior now and nowhere close to that person anymore. I’m out to everyone I know, and conversations about my sexuality are no longer biannual events occurring exclusively on the Day of Silence and National Coming Out Day. I’m lucky enough to have never been made to feel unsafe while on Baldwin’s campus, but I know that my pride is a privilege and one I wouldn’t have been afforded should I have grown up even an hour west of here. The President of the United States seems to understand the identities of LGBTQ persons as so ludacrous that he feels it’s appropriate to joke that his Vice wants to “hang them all” (newyorker.com), so I’d be tone deaf to assume that I can speak for everyone in the community. But every time I see someone with a rainbow pin on her lanyard or blazer, regardless of how she identifies, I’m filled with a renewed hope that the confused sixth graders of 2017 will spend a little less time than I did feeling lost and alone.
When you’re still in the closet, the idea of people finding out against your will can be paralyzing, but silent reminders of support make the decision to come out just the slightest bit easier. The words of encouragement I received from students I was merely acquainted with are messages I will carry with me every day, even beyond graduation next year. To the question of who I’d be if I didn’t come to Baldwin, I’m not sure I’d like to know the answer.

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Breaking the Silence: A Reflection