Awareness, Access to Resources Are Key for LGBT Students
Because of our heteronormative culture, and the fact that most people identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, it’s assumed that the only truly necessary lessons and resources are those specifically for straight cisgender people. Because of this, many aren’t informed on subjects others don’t have any problems with. For example, in health classes, sex ed is only taught in one context: a cisgender male and a cisgender female.
Same sex couples are excluded from this without most people’s knowledge, and may end up having to find out in an unreliable way such as the internet. Teachers of health classes should assume that there are students in the class who are, or may someday be in, a relationship with someone of the same sex. Counselors and/or teachers should be available to students any time they have a question or need any kind of support. Pamphlets and other written resources should be placed somewhere anyone can easily find them to take and read. Schools’ Gay Straight Alliances are usually the place to get this kind of thing, but to better publicize them would be much more helpful.
High school students are growing up; they’re maturing and finding out who they are as an individual. Whether it be career goals, personal interests and hobbies, or gender and sexuality, teenagers discover more about themselves in these four years than they probably ever have before. Vast amounts of resources for different career paths and hobbies are provided by the school, but when it comes to the LGBT community, most are silent. Without school resources, students who are closeted, have unaccepting guardians, or otherwise can’t easily access information on these topics may struggle to find out on their own. This shouldn’t be a problem; schools should be reliable for helping students on any subject – including the LGBT community.
Imagine a boy in high school; he has to use the bathroom, but he’s transgender. Going to either bathroom – the boys’ or the girls’ – would make him feel out of place and alienated, and it’s very likely that he could be subjected to harsh comments and bullying by his peers. If the boy’s cisgender classmates don’t have to think carefully about which bathroom to use, or deal with the pressure of their peers when entering one or the other, then why should he?
Students’ identities are most explored in their teenage years, and looking to their high schools for resources on gender and sexuality should be as reliable as when looking into different occupations. Whether it be better education, counselors and teachers, or even just helpful written articles, questioning (or knowingly LGBT) students don’t deserve to be left in the dark.
The GSA, or Gay Straight Alliance, is known as a place for students to meet other people they can relate to, talk about LGBT issues, and get information on upcoming events. In some schools, GSAs are poorly run and often get off topic very easily, and in many others, there’s no GSA whatsoever. A well-run GSA in every school is the most valuable resource LGBT students can have, and if there isn’t one people could miss out on a good opportunity to explore themselves as individuals while also as getting involved with others and the community.
Ash Staples is a student at Mount Desert Island High School. She produced this piece as part of the 2017 Raise Your Voice Workshop in Orono sponsored by Maine Public and the Maine Writing Project.
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