In Defense of GSA

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In Defense of GSA

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The sudden change from middle to high school is one of the most jarring things a person can experience in their adolescence. For some, high school is an escape from the melodrama of middle school, a chance for a new beginning and new experiences. For others, however, high school is a larger continuation of the terror that is 6th-8th grade.

That’s how I felt anyways. All my life, I’ve felt different. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand why. I described myself as being “half-girl” to my friends to explain my effeminate traits. When I got to middle school, I realized I was gay, a secret I kept trapped inside me every day while it yearned to be set free. Knowing what most of my class thought about homosexuality from their jokes and comments, and believing I was a sinner, disgusting and unwanted, I turned to prayer. But nights upon nights of praying didn’t work, and after years of depression and anxiety becoming a part of who I was, I eventually accepted the inevitable. To say I was in immense pain would be an understatement. I created a resentment for myself and for my effeminate traits, which I believed made me gay.

When you live your life in a secret, you can’t focus on school; You can only calculate every move and hope to God nobody notices. Every day, I felt alone, in desperate need of a support system, and sadly, there just wasn’t one in place. Since then, other students, teachers and I have worked on bringing a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) to Cody High School. It took four years, but earlier this month, CHS had its first GSA meeting, and I’m proud to say that it was a full room.

It wasn’t an easy journey. We had a lot of support for sure. Many amazing individuals in town contacted me, eager to help. I spoke to counselors and teachers all over the state. I interviewed on Wyoming Public Radio. I even received support from Wyoming Equality. But for every helpful hand, there was a vicious remark, a cruel reminder of why this club is so desperately needed.  

“Why do we need a club that talks about how you have sex?” was a question posed by former trustee William Struemke. First and foremost, this harmful stereotype, that being gay is a “sex thing” comes in part from the idea that the LGBTQ community deserved to suffer from AIDS because we’re “sexually deviant.” As I’ve already stated before, it’s so much more than that. Queer individuals go through a number of different experiences that have to do with a number of different things. This statement also totally invalidates Asexual, Genderqueer, Transgender, and Non-Binary people’s issues. This club is in no way about sex, but even then, sex isn’t a bad thing. All high schoolers have to read Romeo and Juliet. We got the concept.

Another comment I frequently saw was “does CHS even need a GSA? I’ve never heard about LGBT bullying.” Coming from an LGBTQ+ person who has had numerous LGBTQ+ friends in the district, I am so happy you have been so privileged, but bullying and blatant homophobia is laden in the hallways of CHS from slurs used in the hallways and classroom, comments posted on social media, even acts of violence. One boy reported to me a time when a classmate poured steaming coffee on him off of school grounds. Another told me he was bullied so viciously in a class he was afraid to come to school.  Many LGBTQ+ kids I know have expressed their inability to come out to their parents.

Unfortunately, for one student, Kyle Wells, the constant bullying and torment was just too much, and in the fall of 2012, he took his own life. CHS’s motto is “Every Student, Every Chance, Every Day,” but I’m not certain every student is treated this way. For the kids unsafe in their homes, at work, and especially at school, the GSA is vitally important. As Harvey Milk said “all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

Hopefully, the GSA is all of this to the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, the school offers no real education on LGBTQ+ history or sexual education. Seventy-three percent  of LGBTQ youth have experienced verbal threats because of their actual or perceived LGBTQ identity. Ninety-two percent report recently hearing negative messages about being LGBTQ+. LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide, and 40% of homeless youth is LGBT. Gender identity and sexuality are missing from CHS’s anti-discrimination policy. These realities are so at odds with the vibrant community of so many different people who have grown together through so much of the same oppression that I love. I also hope that this club is an open place for students to learn to understand gender identity, and for allies to learn how to be supportive in a constructive way. GSAs all over the country have done so many wonderful things for their schools and their communities; it’s so exciting to see what CHS will do with ours.