Carnegie Mellon University

“Bravery”

First Place for College Prose

“Homosexuals betray the laws of nature!”

It was during a history class. The teacher’s words left a bitter taste and made me feel dizzy. I wanted to stand up and demolish her “argument,” as I did in many debate competitions. Angry, sad, and shocked, I looked around eagerly to find another pair of eyes full of these emotions.

Some of my classmates bowed their heads, some kept spinning their pens with boredom, and some curled their lips to a contemptuous smile. Silent, sat still, in the same postures as any other class. Will there be an eruption under the deadly quiet sea?

It’s the 21st century! Scientific discovery of sexual orientation spreads everywhere online and there are already numerous voices overtly opposing the prohibition on same-sex marriage. How can she use these irresponsible words to mislead kids as a history teacher?

I’ll stand up. But she’s the AUTHORITY. The school will take disciplinary action against students who “improperly” challenge the authority—of course homosexuality is “improper” under this circumstance. I want to stand up. Am I crazy? I want to stand up.

The bell rang.

I realized that I had clenched my fists and my hands sweated. I could only mutter to myself, “You are wrong.” My desk-mate made no response. My words and courage died with the piercing bell to end class. As Dr. King advised, I would never forget the silence of my friends.

 

**

 

“Girls can just pick Liberal Arts, but we boys should be excellent in Arts and ace the Sciences as well!” A teacher blasted these words to the whole grade.

Does he understand what he just said? It’s the whole class’ advisory assembly for choosing between Arts and Sciences concentrations! This is sexism. Social bias like this had trapped people in a vicious circle of “men’s superiority in science” theory. Biological differences haven’t been proven to cause general intelligence discrepancy between males and females. How dare he said those irresponsible words!

I need to stand up. But he’s on the stage and with the microphone; there are too many people. I have to say something. Did I misinterpret his words?

“Is this sexism?” I asked classmates beside me, thawing my frozen fingers on my burning cheeks. “You are just too sensitive.” Some girls said. “Yeah, what’s the point?” Some boys asked. I suddenly felt like a stranded fish, struggling to catch my breath.

 

**

 

A little girl came to me. Doubts fill up her bright and innocent eyes. “Mummy, my teacher said homosexuality is wrong and girls can only do Arts. I think my teacher was wrong! But what should I do?” I crouched down to rub her hair and said—I woke up from this dream.

I don’t want this future conversation with my daughter to end up with “Mummy encountered similar challenges before but I did nothing.” I don’t want her classmate to say “you are too sensitive” when she expresses her concerns.

 

**

 

My country hasn’t legalized same-sex marriage, and backstreet sex-selective abortion is not uncommon in some underdeveloped areas in my country. However, it shocked me that in a developed city like my hometown, there were still teachers who make biased statements towards individuals’ sexual orientation and overtly state that boys are more intelligent than girls. Instead of being offended, many students even can’t recognize the bias.

Lack of awareness and inaction are the most terrifying of all.

 

**

 

“. . . You're really credible and influential to students who are just forming their values and independent views. I plead with you to make your words as objective as possible and help us think critically. Simply pointing out it’s only your personal belief and encouraging students to always take different perspectives would help a lot. I respect you, but I suffered from your words. ‘Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas. . .’"

I regretted not being brave enough to stand up and respond instantly. I regretted not being brave enough to confront the authorities in person. I regretted not being brave enough to make this letter public. I hated myself for being so weak and unconfident that I was changing nothing.

I need to be stronger. To use my strength, to use my knowledge, how can I help and forward changes?

 

 

**

 

Attend local college lectures on gender studies, organize events to promote acceptance and understanding of homosexuals, and talk with professors and students about equality among boys and girls... I had tried all of those to raise awareness of our biased social environment and appeal for more rational thinking. Some succeeded, some failed.

Being brave takes time, but take it.

It is hard, but make it.

Be patient, keep trying, and keep encouraging yourself, because “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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