16-year-old boy with a Rucksack and a Quran
Imagine. Imagine you are a 16-year-old boy, wandering through your small-town streets with not only a copy of the Holy Qur’an and a heavy rucksack, but an emotionally heavy one as well; you have recently come to the conclusion that you like boys rather than girls. Life to you equals suffocation without relief, endlessly compensating for who you are, and above all, being overly tentative in the things you say and do. Are we being held hostage in something that we have created ourselves: our identities?
Allow me to present you with a more up-to-date image: after some rummaging you have finally found solace in a 20-metre-high bridge, you are sitting on its edge. You assure yourself: “No one will miss me. I’ve always been a quiet guy. They won’t even notice that I’m gone. Gone forever, with the wind. Finally relieved. Relieved from all the pain that their words have caused me.” You find yourself surprised by how self-assured you finally seem to be this moment, and wish for that to have happened more often at an earlier stage of your life. You grant the sloshing water twenty metres beneath your dangling feet one last smile, and you let loose of the balustrade that you ironically enough found yourself holding onto, as you seem never to have really held onto anything in life, and after that it is all air. You are light. You are liberated. You are everything that you have ever longed to be.
A San Francisco State University study estimates that 30 - 40% of the world-wide LGBT youth have or will have tried to commit suicide by the time they turn 24, due to verbal bullying by their peers or family members. That is up to four times as much as their heterosexual peers. No problem though right? You have already deceased – at least from within-- so who really cares about those thousands of other kids out there, fighting to make their lives worthwhile in places that beg for them to stop whining and wear the figurative uniform that is constantly thrust upon them?
Now let’s put our imaginative minds to work one more time please, and imagine that you are still that 16-year-old-rucksack-and-Qur’an- carrying boy, but this time around you are waking up, bathing in warm stinking bodily fluids, and realizing that it was all merely your increasingly regular nightmare. You open your eyes and the first thing you see is your favourite half exposed Wentworth Miller poster, and you decide that it is high time you stood up for yourself. For people out there like you. Now what do you do? What can you do? What can you say?
The most powerful weapon one can obtain after all is language. Either written or spoken, words have the power to hurt or reach one in places no weapon of war will ever be able to penetrate, namely one’s soul. Either written or spoken, words have the power to change people for good. Either written or spoken, words have the power to alienate people from each other further than any weapon can, but also bring them closer to one another even more than Boxing Day or Valentine’s Day.
You’re hesitant. You’ve been brought down by your fake friends, parents and family. You realize that you have the ability to speak up, but are uncertain how to create that atomic bomb that you have so long desired. You ask yourself: is this really necessary? Am I exaggerating? Surely it’s me: I’m the weird one, I’m the one who should adapt and fit in and dress like them and talk like them and like the things they like and like boobs like them and start playing football with them and like to bring people down and like to use my freedom of speech to ruin other people’s lives and most importantly give up whatever identity of my own it is that I have created over the past 16 years to finally have a shot at the pursuit of happiness. But that just doesn’t feel right, now does it?
Let’s come out. Let’s be out. Let’s be liberated from the chains. “My favourite Madonna song is…” Or do you feel more like saying: “I’m so manly I don’t even like girls.” Perhaps a plain old “Sorry mum, I’m about to tear your entire never-ending list of future prospects for me to pieces”. It’s all in the language. It is all in the words you choose to convey your most personal feelings that define the course of the family or marital relationships as we know them today.
Again you wake up. You remember sending your best friend a text the night before, saying something along the lines of “would you mind if I were gay?” Then you cried yourself to sleep, vaguely hoping that some alien force would pick up the digital message from the air and destroy it before it was too late. You grab your phone. No text. Your stomach churns and you feel like crying all over again. Going to school and being in a crowd has never really been your thing but today Poe’s clouds seem to hang even more oppressively low in the heavens on your way there. Of course the first person you meet is the last person you had wanted to meet: your best friend. He looks remarkably good today. He walks over to you and hugs you tight, followed by a long pause of nothingness. Emptiness. More loneliness. Finally he speaks. “Of course I don’t care you idiot, I love you.” Of course. Of course.
It’s those few words that have changed my life forever. It took quite some time and quite some people before I started to realize that no matter what other people might think of me, I would always have the power of speech on my side to help myself and other people change their lives around. The language uttered and received by one and the process of growing up are intrinsically linked. We need other people in order to be ourselves. We need connection, a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging. Language is the key to that connection.
Wake up, my dear audience. This time in reality. It is high time for betterment, for the spreading of equal normalized love through language, for the heart-felt acceptance of one another. Mothers: don’t take for granted that your children are straight. Fathers: teach your children how to love. Youth: be a hippie and love. LGBT youth: mingle. It will all be worth it.
Thanks for listening.
- Matias Marlon Nikos
This written task is to do with language in cultural context, the exploration and development of identities through language and was intended to be expressed through a form of mass communication, namely a speech.
The narrator of this speech is a 16-year-old boy who has just recently found out about his sexual preferences. He has difficulty with accepting himself and is in the process of growing up, and finds that even though he has this returning dream about taking his own life, he still has true friends who, through heart-felt acceptance, make him see that he has the power to change people’s lives around, using the power of speech as his weapon.
The audience to this speech would ideally be a very diverse group of people, in a current setting, in the West and in the Middle East. It could be recorded and broadcast for a campaign such as It Gets Better (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/), a campaign that aims to better the lives of the (young) LGBT community through persuasive speeches and texts. The internet broadcast would be the most ideal form as the speech would then reach as big an audience as possible, spreading its core message around the world. The speaker would be an ordinary 16-year-old boy, from Middle Eastern descent.
As for the form: I felt that a persuasive speech in this case would be the best vehicle for conveying its core message. Speeches and human emotion are intrinsically linked because the audience can actually see the emotions in the speaker’s face and feel more connected. As mentioned before, this highly personal speech would be most effective when broadcast on the internet.