Color guard generates security, confidence


Avantika Khatri

Trying something new: Learning new flag patterns, sophomore Jake Phillips follows the instructors' motions in preparation for Friday's halftime performance.
When sophomore Jake Phillips first came out of the closet at the end of seventh grade, he lost many of his “friends,” and his par­ents struggled to understand. At that point he could have retreated from the fear of rejection, but instead he chal­lenged convention by trying out for cheerleading at Jefferson Junior High School and then by joining color guard at RBHS.
Over the last three years Phillips has stayed true to himself regardless of what others have thought, but he has faced suffering along the way.
Though he believes the world has grown in acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, there are still people who don’t understand what he feels.
“Being a part of the LGBTQ my­self, it’s something that I feel very pas­sionately about because of the things that I’ve been put through,” Phillips said. “Things happened at Jeff Junior. … There was one instance where I was walking to my mom’s work af­ter school … and one of the kids that went there that knew I was gay started throwing rocks at me on my way to my mom’s work, and I got to my mom’s work, and my face was cut up; I had a busted open lip and everything.”
Because Phillips could not identify the perpetrator, the school did noth­ing about the incident. But the incident made him tougher.
“I figure, what’s the point of being depressed about something when all it’s going to do is bring you down? And the past is the past, that’s all I can say,” Phillips said. “I came out stron­ger than I was. I figure if that didn’t happen, where would I be today? And I always think these experiences help in life. While, yes, they’re a bad experi­ence, it’s something you learn from.”
Though Phillips is firm in his be­liefs, having support in color guard has helped him through tough times with his parents and people at school who make fun of him. The crowd at games typically does not jeer at him dur­ing performances, but one of his best friends sophomore Courtney Wheeler said when they do, it hurts Phillips.
“At our last football game … [the color guard was] going off the field, and somebody said something to [Phil­lips], and he ran into the boys’ bathroom, and I didn’t see him,” Wheeler said. “When I was walking back out [junior] Nidhi [Khurana], who was the guard captain, told me to go to the boys’ bathroom be­cause that’s where Jake was … and he was in there crying, and I helped him stop. … People say rude stuff to him sometimes.”
Wheeler said while on the field, they usually cannot hear any name-calling, but in the stands people sometimes call him names like “flaggot.”
“If somebody does that to him, we have a thing, like a guard circle, and we all just sit down, and we talk with each other,” Wheeler said. “We just talk to him and tell him it’s going to be OK. I mean, color guard is happy, so it’s like an escape for him, and he loves it.”
It helps that Phillips has found a home in color guard, more than in his strained relationships with his parents.
“We connect as a family,” Phillips said. “If someone came up to me and started to either beat me up or try to bring me down, I know the whole guard will be behind my back. And they’ll be there in 10 seconds flat to de­fend me, to help me. And I would do the same for any of them.”
The color guard has his back even during practices. When Phillips missed a few days of practice in a row, the guard had learned many new moves, but Phillips only had to ask someone before she taught him the moves.
“ T h e y ’r e there for you; like, they make that time in their s c h e d u l e [ s ] to help you learn that stuff because they want our show to suc­ceed. They want to win,” Phillips said. “All of us do.”
In the years be­tween coming out and joining color guard, Phillips had a rough run. It wasn’t until color guard that he found a close group. Taking part in color guard has helped alleviate his tense re­lationship with his father.
“He raised me to think of myself, but once I finally did start thinking for myself, we were disagreeing,” Phillips said. “I just made it 10 times harder on him whenever I told him I was gay. … When I joined color guard, he start­ed to see what my true interests re­ally [were]. … He has a better general idea of it, and he’s starting to accept it more.”
By Avantika Khatri