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LGBT acceptance at Central

courtesy of Flickr user: Krytofr

courtesy of Flickr user: Krytofr

Sophia Esquivel, Staff Writer

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As far as you may have thought we’ve come in the fight for LGBT acceptance, LGBT students are still four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight students. They also have shockingly high rates of runaways, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Every high school says the safety of their students is their top priority. If this is true, why are so many LGBT students feeling so isolated?

Over the last decade, there have been several advancements in the acceptance of LGBT people in high schools, and on a larger national scale. From the legalization of same-sex marriage across all fifty states in 2015 to the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2015, however, discrimination is still alive, though much more subtle and difficult to detect. It is easy to dismiss as a misinterpretation, but it’s still very real to many students.

Though they don’t typically have to deal with discriminatory verbal or physical abuse from students anymore, they still face the potential of losing friends or being, in a way, shunned by their peers. Eleventh grade student, Nathan Rodriguez has dealt with this first hand. He described how he had some friends who stopped talking to him entirely after he came out as bisexual. Or about how he lost a significant amount of Instagram followers after posting about his same-sex relationship. Though he was never overtly attacked or insulted, the experience left him feeling snubbed.

In schools, LGBT issues are generally still considered a “dirty” or “controversial” topic. Teachers shy away from discussing discrimination, bullying, or mistreatment of LGBT students. Historical contributions of LGBT figures are overlooked in classrooms.  In health classes, curriculum is tailored for straight kids, not LGBT kids. They are ignored when they need to know how to be safe. Just like any other kid.

Some students remain in the closet. Whether they suffer from internalized fear or they have received the message that there are still penalties for being themselves. Anticipating judgment can just come down to numbers, as students consider the odds of a negative reception. Transgender student, Alex Fuentes said, “Being at two different campuses with so many different kids, it’s incredibly hard to feel comfortable knowing that a good majority of them won’t accept you for who you are.”

According to the 2015 GLSEN survey, 85 percent of LGBT students have experienced some form of verbal harassment. Sixty-six percent have faced LGBT-related discrimination at school. Over half of LGBT students had encountered discriminatory practices at school.  Practices such as being disciplined for displays of affection that non-LGBT students aren’t punished for. Bisexual student, Karen Raley said she was busted for holding hands with another girl. Forty-two percent of transgender students were not permitted to use their preferred name, 59 percent were not allowed to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity, and 32 percent were prevented from wearing clothing that matched their gender identity.

GSA (gay-straight alliance) clubs can be a fantastic resource for LGBT students. However, joining a group like this can make it easier to target students, GSA clubs are ridiculed by other students, excluded by staff from yearbook photos and other typical club activities, or their posters or other club advertisements are vandalized. Fortunately, the GSA club here at Central has not suffered such disrespect in the recent years.

The good news is many students do report feeling more accepted at school than they do at home. The bad news is, unlike other members of groups enduring discrimination, gay or trans students have a higher risk of developing depression or suicidal thoughts.  This reality underscores how much we need to protect and accept our LGBT students because so many of them still don’t get support at home. Multiple students at Central reported being “out” at school but not at home because their parents are homophobic. The fear of being different is often the root cause of kids not wanting to come out, especially with LGBT people still being the butt of jokes in films and television and the lack of positive media representation in general.  This is why we must, as a school, provide a safe space for our LGBT students.

Multiple LGBT students at Central have reported being mocked or teased for their sexuality or gender identity. Eleventh grade student, Karen Raley said that she had friends tell her that bisexuality isn’t real and that she needs to “choose one.” Some even reported teachers and staff not respecting them. Former transgender Central student, Riot Rodriguez said that staff could’ve been more accommodating while he was attending Central. He said that they did not use his preferred name and pronouns during his time at Central which made him feel insulted and that he wasn’t being taken seriously. Though many gay and lesbian students have made strides in acceptance, more marginalized groups, such as transgendered or bisexual students, are still facing the feeling that their identity or sexuality isn’t real.

We, not just as a school, but as a society have come far in the fight for LGBT acceptance. But our work isn’t over, not everyone feels safe, yet. Tenth grade student, Josh Perales said, “…considering the school does almost nothing for the LGBT+ community, I feel we need the representation.” There are many things we can do as a school to become more inclusive. We can start with reinstating the GSA clubs at both East and West Campus and having more inclusive curriculum in health classes.   Everyone deserves to feel safe and accepted for who they are.

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