August 11, 2017
I took a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out. The thin paper with my speech was clutched tight in my shaky hands. I breathed in again, but I was still shaking.
You can’t do this. You can’t do this. You can’t do this. My brain yelled at me. I whimpered and fell back against the wall.
“Ollie? Are you okay?” My mom pushed open the curtain. My mother was a plump woman with a sweet, blue-eyed gaze and peachy, blemish-free skin. She gave me a worried smile.
“What’s wrong, pumpkin?” Mom asked.
“I can’t do this.”
“Oh honey.” Mom hugged me. “Deep breathes. You got this. I love you.” She kissed me on the head, ruffled my dark hair. I watched her leave.
“And now, for her speech on LGBTQAI+ rights, Oliver Ricci!” Jola, the announcer, shouted to the crowd. The crowd was deafening as I stepped onto the stage. Millions of people flooded the streets. Jola whispered “Good luck” as I walked on stage. A stagehand helped me lower the microphone. The crowd was silent. Staring. Phones out. Watching.
I took another deep breath. Smiled slightly. Cleared my throat. And began.
“Hello. I am Oliver Ricci. A asexual male from Austin, Texas.” Some people let out shouts and I smiled bigger. “In my city, I am not welcome. In my state, I am not welcome. That is unjust, and just not right. My name is Oliver, and I am male. When people call me male, it feels good. I know I’m male. And that’s fine with most people but only because males get privileges others don’t get.” More shouts of approval. “We are all equal. Pansexual and straight, male and female and non-binary, asexual and aromantic and ally. White and black. But like pieces on a chess board, white goes first. Straight goes first. Because some of us may want to change, but we don’t always know how.” I looked back down at the paper. “Some of us may not want to have sex. Like me. And we’re not plants.” Some people laughed. “I might be different from your daughter, your son, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter. But it’s not right for me and my friends to be treated unfairly. My closest friends are pretty much the only people in my city who support me. Rei, who is queer. Marcus, who is bisexual.” The pan and bi people in the audience cheered. “And Sora, who is genderfluid and pansexual. We have to stick together because no one else in our neighborhood believes we are equal.” I took a moment to catch my breath. “We need to stand up to our homophobic neighbors, friends, family and make this right. Thank you.”
I walked off the stage. The noise was even more deafening now than in the beginning. Mom came up and hugged me tight.
“You did such a great job, sweetie. I love you so much.”
“Thanks Mom.” I said, pulling away. Someone texted me and my phone buzzed.
Sora: HOLY GOSH OLLIE I LUV U SO MUCH
I laughed out loud.
Oliver: So you saw it?
Rei: HELL YEAH WE DID!
Marcus: Dude ur already viral. Views on YouTube r rising by the second
Sora: Ols, ur going into the books
I smiled to myself. I had made a change. People all over the globe would see this and hopefully change.
There are so many things in the world that need changing. And sometimes it’s us. Our behavior can affect a lot. How others feel, how we are, us, our planet. But I know that sometimes, this happens. People point fingers. People point middle fingers. People judge, people love, people hate, people cry, people live, and they die. It’s all a part of us. But some can’t change these things. That’s where we come in. All of us who believe in something can make change.
Rei: Ollie? Hello?
I was snapped out of my head.
Oliver: yea, sry
Rei: np. I gtg. Stay awesome!
“I will.” I whispered as I shut down my phone. I got into my mom’s car where she was waiting.
“You realize some people might not like your speech, right? You can’t change everyone with a hundred words or so.” Mom said. I nodded.
“They don’t have to agree. I just want to do something.” I said.
“And you did.”
. . .
August 11, 2022
Exactly five years after my speech, I marched down the streets of Austin, holding a sign reading ‘WE ARE ALL EQUAL’. My friends stood beside me as I led the parade down the street, passing the police officers monitoring us without a glance. Shouting filled the street, the noise of footsteps ringing in my ears. I smiled wide, my steps strong. A breeze played with my hair. Sora, Rei, Marcus and I linked arms.I knew that again, I was doing something. Standing strong. Standing UP. Making sure everyone knows we are here and not invisible. We’re all here, pansexual, asexual, non-binary, genderqueer, agender, bisexual, gay, aromantic, transgender, lesbian, allosexual, androsexual, closeted, cupiosexual, demiromantic, monosexual, polysexual, sapiosexual, and allys. Everyone. Standing so that no one can make us back down.
A little note (this is not part of the story),
I really hope this has inspired you to follow your dreams and stand up for yourself and what you believe in. This was loosely based off of me and my friends; Rey, who is queer, Syl, who is genderfluid and pansexual, and Margaret, who is bisexual. And me, who is questioning (but still awesome!). No, I do not live in Texas, and please, if you live there and are LGBTQAI+ or an ally, please don’t think this was targeted to say all people there are homophobic :) I still like you the same. And to all the LGBTQAI+ people reading this: I support you with my whole heart, no matter who you are. So even if no one else supports you, know that you are not alone. But anyway, as Rei would say, stay awesome!