Ahkee: I remember when Aaron told me he was gay. We were in band together just hanging out, it was really chill. When others are being mean towards him or something like that I just think, “That’s my friend, it’s not going to change the way I feel about him. You may feel differently, and that’s on you. That’s not me.” I trust him heavily, with anything. I could call him at 2 in the morning and he’s on his way.
Sometimes I would be hanging out with Aaron, and other people would invite me to do something with them but say that I couldn’t bring him, while he was standing right there. When I would ask them why he couldn’t come, they’d say, “You know why,” but I really didn’t. Stuff like this can happen just because of someone’s sexual preference. I don’t know why; it’s weird. Why can’t people just be people?
Jamilla: I have known Aaron since he was in the sixth grade, but didn’t grow close to him until I started teaching him in eleventh grade. By that time he had already come out. Having Aaron at school was so good for other people who might not have felt comfortable with expressing themselves. He led the way in that respect.
Ever since I started teaching, I have practiced acceptance of everyone. That way people who have been in situations where they feel excluded can form a relationship with me, one that they might not be able to get from other adults in their families. You never know whether you’re the only person who’s giving them the type of reassurance and acceptance that they need in order to keep going.