I went to high school in Plano, Texas, but somehow I discovered Ani DiFranco and Bikini Kill and lots of other cultural gateways to feminism before I reached my junior year. I was a transplant from Brooklyn, and I was growing up with (secretly) lesbian parents. I only confided in two friends about my mother's relationship with her partner, but I'm sure many others assumed, correctly, the truth about my family. At school, however, my primary identity was pretty much Angry, Loud Feminist. (Keep in mind that last word was always lobbed as an obvious insult.)
Here's what life is like when you're known for your feminism (when you're known at all) at your huge, conservative, sprawling, football-obsessed suburban public high school:
Kids tell you that they're gay. I was often one of the first people friends and even acquaintances came out to. My "acceptance" speech became so familiar to me that by the end of high school I could recite it almost as a matter of rote.
Girls seek you out after they've been raped. They never used the R-word, but victims of sexual assault would find me and tell me the details and wait for my interpretation. When I asserted that what they were describing was rape, they generally denied it. But I hope in those moments I was able to offer some comfort and plant the seeds for future healing.
Dudes call you a dyke. In their defense, they were half-right, at least in my case. Still, it was kind of awkward for my boyfriend.
People you don't even really remember sticking up for thank you years later for being their champion. Granted, I was probably a little too combative in high school. But in the years since, a number of people have thanked me for defending them against teachers and peers, often recalling anecdotes and scenarios I'd never even registered as particularly significant.
These days I try to use humor instead of righteous indignation as my main rhetorical device, and I strive to be more humble, gentle, patient, and understanding. Still. It's nice to hear that my attitude problem in high school helped me protect others at least a fraction as much as it helped me protect myself.