Self-discovery is a major part of growing up, whether for finding new interests or figuring out who they are. This is extremely important during one’s teenage years as they are awkward and don’t quite know exactly who they want to become in the future. Many of these discoveries in teens are about their sexuality which is no longer a taboo subject in this generation. Because the media is more welcoming toward discussing LGBTQ+ issues and including representation of this community through television and film, it has become an easier topic to address.
Yes, this representation makes many members of the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable in the presence of their peers, but this isn’t always the case. Several students throughout our district share experiences in this community that has made them accepted among their peers. Still, one student, in particular, has had a remarkable story filled with the struggle of feeling accepted by his family because of his sexuality. However, this hurdle has not stopped him from expressing his true self and has not hindered his plans. This student is Zyaire Haywood.
You may have seen Zyaire around the school with his exuberant personality and positive energy diffusing through any hallway at Hills West. Although he has only begun his studies at West this year, he’s made his mark as a student with a huge personality. But many students don’t know that life for him hasn’t always been the easiest. He has recently been living in an adult home in East Northport because he wanted to focus more on his plans with as few distractions at home as possible.
But before this, while balancing his education and personal life, he was admitted to a residential treatment facility from 2019 and 2020 because of his past behaviors. Before he was admitted, he was seen as physically and verbally aggressive but later learned how to repress these actions. Because of this time in the facility, he believed that it was a positive experience, and it “helped him have a better outlook on life.” His biggest takeaway from this was to “use your words, not your hands.”
Zyaire believes that he has a supportive family as his siblings are always there for him. He said, “It’s been pretty hard trying to move around familywise. My brothers and sisters are having a hard time with it too.” Compared to his siblings, his mother has needed more time to come to terms with this situation. Haywood said, “My mom and I always had little petty arguments, little itty bitty arguments, but it’s fine, though. We’re trying to get over it cause I’m 18 now, and my mom is about to be an old enough woman to grasp this” in response to how they interact with one another. Although he has been at this place for a few weeks, he has learned several lessons from this experience. “It has shown me that independence is key to life because, without independence, you can’t use your parents and family for everything, so you have to gain independence.”
Concerning being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Zyaire acknowledges that there is a lot of stigmas. When identifying as heterosexual, however, there has never been opposition to this because it is seen as the “default” even though love has no standard. He explained, “Being gay or lesbian or transgender is harder because your family may not accept you. Your brothers and sisters may not accept you. Your friends may not accept you. For instance, just because you’re yourself does not mean you have to stop doing things for other people.”
Despite all of this, Zyaire knows that his time living away from home will not halt his plans for the future. In fact, living in this facility has given him a great sense of confidence and self-reliance because he can navigate life independently. This has also given him more time to focus on producing music and get a start on preparing for college, where he will be studying culinary arts. “Even though I’ve been through a lot, it has made me a stronger person. I see that in myself; my confidence has grown,” he said as a result of his unique experience.