Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people (LGBTQ) have just celebrated their constitutionally granted right to marry whoever they please. In recent years, LGBTQ people have become more widely represented in the news. Acceptance is more common than ever.
The SLVHS Claw recently spoke to the officers of SLVHS’s GSA, or Gender-Sexuality Awareness Club. The officers, who all share in leading the club, spoke about the club’s goals and gave some basic information to teach students how to be a better friend, supporter and ally.
“[A good ally] always listens, learns and supports,” said officer Valo Kalvan. And “a good ally is someone who speaks up when they need to to defend LGBTQ people when they are not being spoken for,” adds officer Vincent Oxenhandler. The GSA serves to inform students of current LGBTQ issues, terms they may not know about, and how to treat LGBT students in a respectful way.
The officers said the club has many goals for SLVHS, including gender neutral bathrooms and workshops for teachers.
Oxenhandler said that “many students do not feel safe in gendered bathrooms,” and officer Andy Hayward said that “we had a transgender workshop for teachers a few years ago about how to be more inclusive [of transgender students].” GSA would like to revive this workshop, and it would mainly involve pronouns teachers may not be aware of.
So what does it mean if a person does not identify with he/him or she/her pronouns? “They prefer pronouns that are neither of those things, but it means nothing as to who they are as a person,” said officer Salem Maness. Oxenhandler said that a person’s choice of pronouns is not limited to simply a person’s anatomy or the way they dress, it is “the way they feel and see themselves, and the way everyone experiences gender is valid.” At GSA, they believe people are not required to be cisgender, or the gender assigned at birth.
“There are a lot of identities besides straight, gay, bisexual: like pansexual, asexual, aromantic, and nonbinary that are becoming a lot more relevant,” said Oxenhandler. Officers at GSA try to answer questions regarding these sexualities.
“I feel like younger people are very good at updating themselves on what people identify as, but it surprises me because they don’t realize use of they/them pronouns and being pansexual are correct [identities],” said Kalvan. The GSA attempts to remove stigma from these identities.
Many people who are not cisgender have sensitivities surrounding their gender. All officers agreed that if a person is uncertain about a friend’s pronouns, the best thing to do is ask. “It saves a lot of embarrassment and bad feelings,” said Kalvan. “It lets your friend know that you respect them and can help them.”
Additionally, the officers describe good allies as people who respect an LGBTQ person’s opinions more accurate than their own, and listen actively when they are speaking. They also learn about LGBTQ people directly from them. “Go to the GSA club and pride events! There are forums online they can read and put yourself in the community,” Maness said. If someone cannot attend meetings for whatever reason, they can also look to the internet. It is a wonderful thing. “Allies have to know respect comes from understanding,” Kalvan said.
Maness hopes “[straight allies] have learned something to make the school safer” and that this article is a “wake-up call” to pay more attention to LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students are in this school, and GSA wants to make sure all people are aware, informed and respectful.
The officers finally offered a word of advice for LGBTQ students at SLVHS. “Do what you need to feel safe and comfortable, no matter what that means to you,” Oxenhandler said. Hayward added that “[no one] owes anyone an explanation of what your identity is, or an explanation of who you are. If you’re looking for a safe space, come to GSA.”
SLVHS’ GSA meets at lunch on Tuesday in Kahl’s room, G2.
By Robert Jeffery