By: Bella Carstea
We’ve all seen the “Safe Space” posters hanging in classrooms, the rainbow mural in the math hallway calling students to be themselves with pride. But is that enough?
As a senior at Glenleg who has been out and proud for six years, I’ve seen the improvement our school has made in the past four years. Even something so simple as a rainbow pin on a teacher’s lanyard that tells a student “You’re safe to be yourself here,” presents such an invaluable message.
While physical representations of support are necessary, it’s important to continuously acknowledge that all students must be respected. To this end, there is more work to be done here, throughout our country, and the world. Sometimes, hearing and listening to perspectives can be a unifying experience.
I asked members of the LGBTQIA+ community in our high school community to express their viewpoints and perspectives:
I feel like after COVID, people have been way more comfortable expressing themselves for who they truly are, so it’s nice to see more of the LQTBQ+ community around school out and proud. (Senior)
I just came out this year and so far everything has been positive, but I’m also not super vocal about it so the odds of somebody outside of my friends knowing are low. (Senior)
Pretty good, overall, but to be honest I’m not out out, though most people kind of assume. I’ve not had anything directed at me, but I have heard people make general comments, like using f*g in daily language. (Sophomore)
I am very lucky to be in a friend group that has a lot of allies and other queer people. This year has been pretty good considering lots of things. My bus has always been a not great place, especially in middle school. I would get into debates with people because they would call a non-binary person “it” and the wrong pronouns, or trans people by their dead name and wrong pronouns. This has continued into this year. That doesn't really surprise me. I have heard lots of slurs among other things. (Sophomore)
Ok [I guess]! I wish our school was a little more open and less close minded. I think [a] lot of people have lived their life with only straight people and think it'd [be] weird otherwise! We don't have a lot of minority groups in GHS. (Sophomore)
Pretty good. This year I started going by my name and proper pronouns and overall the staff and people in my classes have been supportive and respectful. (Junior)
I asked a few seniors their thoughts on how Glenelg has changed from their freshman year. To me, it seems that being shut inside for two years has let students figure out who they are without the influence of their peers. Coming back together two years later there seems to be more confidence in ourselves and our school to protect us.
So much better. I wasn’t out until this year, but I’m a lot more confident that people will be supportive than I was three years ago.
The community has definitely grown in size and support.
With the circulation of the rainbow pins, safe space posters, and other prideful decorations I asked what students thought of them.
I like them, but I think most of it is just performative activism. (Senior)
They’re great and we need to make more of them! (Senior)
I love it all!! More visible support the better! (Senior)
The posters are pretty cool, but i think that the most important thing was the rainbow pins, they are subtle enough to not draw attention to anyone, and they are really good at showing that we are not alone. (Junior)
The GHS poster is cool, mural is cool, pins are good in concept but there was a period where people would get a bunch as a joke, put them on their friends as like a “haha gay” thing which idk about that one. (Sophomore)
They are good in theory, but just seem like they’re pushing (people could easily make fun of or vandalize them). Makes me feel accepted though. (Sophomore)
I think that while thought is in the right place and it is a step in the right direction, most people don't notice or care. (Sophomore)
They are cool, but I wish they would spend less time on pins and more time on actual issues the community faces in the school. (Sophomore)
It’s nice to have pushes from the school, telling students they belong but belonging is the bare minimum. We need to press for more change in our school. The rainbow pins were, in my opinion, the largest step forward. Physically being able to see who is on your side is so important especially if you’re struggling to come to terms with your own sexuality and or gender identity.
There’s mention of performative activism, when someone outwardly claims to support a cause but everything is surface level, where there is no actual change to protect those at risk. It’s showing the public you care without having to do any actual changes the group wants to see.
So if posters and pins don’t create enough change, what more could be done?
Policies that actually protect queer people. (Seniors)
When I was in freshman year the health class had a day about LGBTQ+ issues and the teacher seemed uninformed about the issues, and didn’t stop people from making insensitive jokes… just a more complete understanding if these topics are going to be discussed in class. (Junior)
I wish there was an easier way to display preferred names and pronouns. (Sophomore)
Finally, I asked queer students what they would say to those who may be unsupportive:
If you are unsupportive because of something that they can’t control, I am sorry for you. I am sorry that you live your life through a lens of bigotry.
It’s literally not a matter of not supporting cause it’s like no one else’s business. Just chill out [I guess] and move along in your life like the rest of us.
Please just mind your own business. It’s hard enough being in high school and figuring out who you are without being commented on every time you walk by. We are truly normal people and there’s nothing wrong with loving who you want to love and being who you want to be.
Someone being queer literally does not affect you.
I wish you could understand that our sexuality is a part of us just like race, we don’t choose it. Even though you may not have much experience around or with people in the community doesn’t mean it isn’t more normalized in other places. Accepting others and trying to understand perspectives is how we as a community grow and how you as an individual become a better person.
What makes us different?
Change is never easy, but it is necessary, especially in a nation that continues to bear witness to beautiful outpourings of support, but also to the perpetuation of intolerance. We should all be disheartened and outraged by the recent Florida senate’s passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which, if signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, would ban classroom discussion of sexual orienation and gender identity in primary schools.
We have to do better. And we can.
Having a non-gendered restroom in our school is absolutely a step in the right direction, though adding more, if possible, would be beneficial;
More and more faculty, staff, and students are using proper pronouns;
There is an increased presence of LGBTQIA+ symbolism in our hallways;
and the call for acceptance has grown exponentially.
In our school, there is more sensitivity and awareness when it comes to LGBTQIA+ topics, but it’s not full-proof. Not yet, at least.
I am proud to be a member of the queer community, and appreciative of the support of my school, teachers, family, and friends. But knowing that some are not supportive, means our collective job is not done.