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To Two Harvard Students

An Unexpected Encounter at Tommy's House of Pizza

By Gavin Steckler

To two Harvard guys I didn't expect to meet at Tommy's House of Pizza:

You probably don't know me, which is strange considering your eagerness to be part of my life in the early hours of Jan. 22. I was at Tommy's with two friends. One was visiting me that night from outside Boston. The other was from Harvard.

Did you know that all three of us were gay? Did you know when my friend and I walked in together, or when I tapped my other friend's shoulder to say hi? I think you had a hunch, because you were watching us right away. You glared at us, whispered to each other and smirked. Then, when we sat down, you moved from an empty table and took two chairs at ours. Why did you do that? None of us knew you. We wanted to eat together in peace.

But your eyes were glassy and your expression was drunk and intimidating, which is why we didn't ask you to leave. You told us to stay and started throwing us meaningless questions. We froze and said almost nothing. We wanted it to pass. Two and a half years and this was the first time I'd been harassed at Harvard. You were actually laughing at how nervous we looked. All we did was stare down at our plates.

I really wish you hadn't done that to us. You don't know what scars you ignited. Deep within an out gay person is the buried anxiety to hide, to cover up, to shrink from being oneself--left over from a time when that's what life was about. That's what you stirred in me. You made me nervous to be out and gay on my own campus. You made me anxious to crawl back to the comfort of my own car and to my own room to be gay in peace. At the table you made me run to the safer ground of small talk and general conversation. I wanted you to forget it was a gay person you were dealing with. I wanted us to seem more "normal."

But I'm not going back there. The closet was a scared, shameful place and I am not going back there. I slammed my way out of there with all my might, and our unfortunate meeting reminded me of that other urge deep inside of me: the urge to keep slamming my way out, again and again, no matter what. The urge to rail out against whatever I must in order to be who I am.

So maybe, when the administrative process begins to reach you, you'll have a better understanding of why I'm doing what I'm doing. With the help of your intoxicated comments and my class's facebook, I've identified who you are. I wish I didn't have to go through this but I think I will. This isn't a matter of making you pay for what you've done; it's a matter of standing up for myself and for other gay people, out or in, who could just as easily be threatened by your harassment. Your bigotry deserves its own closet.

On our way home, my friend told me that it was the first time he'd been harassed. He knew that he would have to face it somewhere, he said. Harvard happened to be the place. Maybe Harvard is as embarrassed as I was by that distinction.

It's a strange thing, being harassed. Beyond all the growing gay pride and gay visibility, it can make someone feel uncomfortable being gay in the blink of an eye. That's why the response to it must be so severe. The gay community is out and it is not going back in. Drunk or not drunk, next time think twice before making us act up.

Gavin Steckler is a junior affiliated with Dunster House who is taking the semester off.

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