Blog Post

This I believe…

This essay was written by NARAL Pro-Choice Intern Cole Wojdacz three years ago when Barack Obama was still president and things were very different than they are now. These words were relevant then, and they are even more relevant in the current political climate. We need to build our community strength, our organizing power, our support systems, our collective voice use these tools to fight back against the realities we are now facing. We have at least four years of a Trump administration, we have two years still left with the Kasich administration, with the very real potential for four more years under a different conservative governor. We need to speak out, we need to show up, we need to donate time and money, and most importantly, we need to speak our truths.

Throughout my life, I have never been drawn to conflict. I will bend over backwards to make a losing situation into a win-win scenario. This has worked well for me; I make friends quickly and I usually feel at ease in many different situations. But in the summer of my 16th year, I learned that sometimes avoiding conflict could come at too high a price.

We were all hanging out in the basement, which was about ten degrees colder than was comfortable and everyone was engaged in the conversation. Draped over the tattered collection of cast-off furniture were five of my best friends; lanky teenage guys who were smart, funny, and always sweetly protective of me. As an only child, being treated as an honorary little sister is one of my all time favorite feelings. Everything was relaxed and normal until one of them knocked his full drink off the table and onto another guy’s backpack. The backpack owner turned to the clumsy one and called him a faggot. When I heard that word it was as if battery acid was being poured into my stomach. The word appalled me. I chose not to speak up for fear of alienating myself from this group of people, and I dwelled on this choice for the rest of the night. The use of that word, my least favorite word in the entire English language, made me lose respect for these guys that I had come to love. And even worse, it made me lose respect for myself because I didn’t voice my discomfort.

The next time it happened a little bit differently. Instead of using the word faggot someone said that something was gay, implying that it was stupid. The use of the word gay in a derogatory fashion, though not as immediately nauseating as the previous incident, brought the night to a halt for me. I remembered how I had felt before when that terrible f-word was used and how much it had cost me in self-respect when I failed to call out my friend. As I thought about that experience I realized something that I hadn’t before. I have to fight for what I believe in. This time, I spoke up. I told them that using that kind of language was homophobic and hateful, even if they didn’t mean it that way, and that it was not okay with me. They were taken aback at first and didn’t really take me seriously, but at that point, the ice was broken. I was now able to confidently raise the issue of offensive language whenever it was necessary. I learned to let people know how much it bothered me, and, in general people really tried to change the way they spoke. This highlighted the fact that many people often just don’t think about what they’re saying. Most people don’t mean to be homophobic; they just don’t know any better and haven’t thought about what these words actually mean. My new, hard won habit of speaking these truths also elicited a change in me. I was no longer afraid of the judgment of others. The pride that I felt in advocating for what I found important allowed me to begin to feel comfortable doing it in all settings — formal or informal, with adults and peers alike. It helped me find the self-confidence that I had lost previously, and become the advocate that I am proud to be today.

This experience opened my eyes to two things I now consider to be fundamental to the way I want to live my life. The first being that I must stand up for the things that I believe in, because I can’t count on anyone else to do it. The second is that, though it might be risky or uncomfortable, you must always, without fail, speak your truth.

This essay was written by NARAL Pro-Choice Intern Cole Wojdacz three years ago when Barack Obama was still president and things were very different than they are now. These words were relevant then, and they are even more relevant in the current political climate. We need to build our community strength, our organizing power, our support systems, our collective voice use these tools to fight back against the realities we are now facing. We have at least four years of a Trump administration, we have two years still left with the Kasich administration, with the very real potential for four more years under a different conservative governor. We need to speak out, we need to show up, we need to donate time and money, and most importantly, we need to speak our truths.

Throughout my life, I have never been drawn to conflict. I will bend over backwards to make a losing situation into a win-win scenario. This has worked well for me; I make friends quickly and I usually feel at ease in many different situations. But in the summer of my 16th year, I learned that sometimes avoiding conflict could come at too high a price.

We were all hanging out in the basement, which was about ten degrees colder than was comfortable, and everyone was engaged in the conversation. Draped over the tattered collection of cast-off furniture were five of my best friends; lanky teenage guys who were smart, funny, and always sweetly protective of me. As an only child, being treated as an honorary little sister is one of my all time favorite feelings. Everything was relaxed and normal until one of them knocked his full drink off the table and onto another guy’s backpack. The backpack owner turned to the clumsy one and called him a faggot. When I heard that word it was as if battery acid was being poured into my stomach. The word appalled me. I chose not to speak up for fear of alienating myself from this group of people, and I dwelled on this choice for the rest of the night. The use of that word, my least favorite word in the entire English language, made me lose respect for these guys that I had come to love. And even worse, it made me lose respect for myself because I didn’t voice my discomfort.

The next time it happened a little bit differently. Instead of using the word faggot someone said that something was gay, implying that it was stupid. The use of the word gay in a derogatory fashion, though not as immediately nauseating as the previous incident, brought the night to a halt for me. I remembered how I had felt before when that terrible f-word was used and how much it had cost me in self-respect when I failed to call out my friend. As I thought about that experience I realized something that I hadn’t before. I have to fight for what I believe in. This time, I spoke up. I told them that using that kind of language was homophobic and hateful, even if they didn’t mean it that way, and that it was not okay with me. They were taken aback at first and didn’t really take me seriously, but at that point, the ice was broken. I was now able to confidently raise the issue of offensive language whenever it was necessary. I learned to let people know how much it bothered me, and, in general people really tried to change the way they spoke. This highlighted the fact that many people often just don’t think about what they’re saying. Most people don’t mean to be homophobic; they just don’t know any better and haven’t thought about what these words actually mean. My new, hard won habit of speaking these truths also elicited a change in me. I was no longer afraid of the judgment of others. The pride that I felt in advocating for what I found important allowed me to begin to feel comfortable doing it in all settings — formal or informal, with adults and peers alike. It helped me find the self-confidence that I had lost previously, and become the advocate that I am proud to be today.

This experience opened my eyes to two things I now consider to be fundamental to the way I want to live my life. The first being that I must stand up for the things that I believe in, because I can’t count on anyone else to do it. The second is that, though it might be risky or uncomfortable, you must always, without fail, speak your truth.


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