Coming Out and Lifting Up

Coming out to my parents as gay has been my proudest achievement. Because of this, I was inspired to start the Gender and Sexualities Alliance at my old school, and had a whole new thing to be proud of.  However, what started out as a fun after school club ended up showing me underlying issues of bias that existed in my school and across all schools in America. Not once has the LGBTQ+ community ever come up in one of my classrooms in a positive manner. The use of hate speech is all too common in my high school and high schools everywhere. Staff intervention and inclusive lesson plans are the best ways to ensure this use of ignorant speech does not come up again, and could be great resources to teach about the community and other minority identities, but these results are not present in classrooms.  The LGBTQ+ community has no positive representation in their mainstream education, and their educators are not properly trained to handle the struggles that come with being LGBTQ+, and I desperately want to combat it. 

Without the proper training to support LGBTQ+ students, not only will teachers not be able to put a stop to the stigma against the LGBTQ+, but they will not be able to stop their own bias. In the tenth grade my drivers’ education teacher called transgender people “faggots” in front of the whole class, and upon me reporting him, only received a slap on the wrist. In the eleventh grade, I found out that some  teachers at my school did not know what the acronym LGBT stood for. This amount of ignorance and lack of training amongst staff was appalling and caused me to be quite disappointed, but motivated me to find a way to change this. I reached out to the past Gender and Sexualities Alliance adviser at the school, and with those resources and support, I made a plan to rejuvenate my heteronormative high school. 

Ignorant teachers, hateful students, and misunderstood LGBTQ teens plague schools nationwide, and this was my plan to fix mine. I started simply with printed out safe space posters and gave them to teachers I knew were allies to the community and also known to be very good listeners to their students. I would ask them to hang it up and quiz them about their knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community, offering more information they didn’t know to ensure they could better help students. From there, after receiving a positive response to the posters, I created a new poster.  On the back of each one was the definition of a majority of sexualities and gender identities that exist that teachers may not know of. I made every teacher who received a poster read the back as soon as they got it to start a conversation about how best to support LGBTQ+ students. 

Still, I had not reached all teachers, and a poster can only do so much, so I sat down with my principal to see how she supported LGBT students, and how better to reach more staff members with my message. She offered me the chance to sit in on a department head meeting and finally I felt like my start to a solution was being heard and breaking through to teachers. In the meeting, I listed off the definitions of sexualities and identities to them so we would all be on the same page. From there I  went on to describe how our school district has multiple homeless LGBTQ students, how hate speech is commonly used in classrooms, and how they as teachers could be the only adults in these children’s lives who could understand them and help them and could be the only ones who tell children to not use hate speech. 

The GSA changed how I view the education system, causing me to realize how steep the upward battle it is for a queer inclusive and safe education . With the club’s existence, the conversation about protecting and supporting LGBTQ+ students started, and I will fight to keep it alive no matter what I do or where I go.  There is so much more work to do to help LGBT youth in schools and end ignorance amongst students and staff, but with courage, passion and the will to start a conversation, change is on the horizon.

The 2018-19 Dover High School GSA

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