As a gay man, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming to West Chester. However, I told myself that I should go where I want to go to college. After living in and outside of Philadelphia, I never had encountered any real homophobia. I grew up in a very accepting environment. I attended a high school whose atmosphere I felt very comfortable in. I laughed at the notion of a hate crime ever happening to me or that my safety may be in jeopardy because of another person’s ignorance. However, this notion has changed drastically. Last week, I attended a party with a large group of my straight friends. Having an 8 a.m. class the next day, I decided to not drink. The night was quite enjoyable until a kid purposely spilt his beer all over my left side. He then pushed me and it was then when I told my friends that it was time for me to leave. As I began to leave, I realized that by leaving, I would be automatically telling him that he affected me and that he won. So I stayed. My friends and I decided to move into another room to avoid him. However, this kid continued to make eye contact with me. He then began to mouth the word “faggot” at me and did gestures to imply different sexual acts. I looked away and the next thing I knew, I felt my jaw being kicked. My glasses flew off my face and I fell to the floor. I soon became soaked in beer as I fell into many people. As I tried to prop myself up on my hands, I couldn’t. While pain was evident, what was more evident was the shock I felt. It was easy to understand that homophobia existed somewhere in this world, that it affected someone else. My friends labeled this as a hate crime. I thought hate crimes happened to people in Laramie, Wyoming, named Matthew Shepard. But, it was happening right here in West Chester and it was happening to me. This shocked me and still does as I sit here and write this article.
For every unaccepting student at West Chester, there are a handful of ones who are accepting. However, it only takes one person to make another cry. It only takes one person to make another bleed. The ones who make up the majority need to take the role of an activist in their everyday life so that people won’t be hurt. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Let those who may be too ignorant understand that we live in a world where are all equal, but definitely not the same.
In the end, the kid just got kicked out of the party. I went away from the experience with a sore, bruised jaw and a chipped tooth in the back of my mouth. The chances of this person being caught are very slim, but I hope that something good can come out of this experience. That is my reason for sharing it with other students. I am very lucky because a lot of people, especially my great group of friends, were supportive and did not stay silent. However, their apologies are not the ones I need to hear. My friends aren’t the problem. It’s that kid in my class. It’s that one kid at the party. What happened could have been much worse. But what will happen next time? I – or my friends – could be hurt even more and that is something that scares me. This is where I want to go to college. This is where I will go to college. My name is Alexander Kacala. I am a gay student here at West Chester University. These words are simple, but they are words that I will say with passion and with pride.
Alex Kacala is a student at West Chester University.