ACCEPTANCE IS KEY AT GREENWAY
It was a Thursday at 2:37 pm, and I nervously checked the time on my old phone with a dusty purple case. Trudging up the stairs, thoughts started to race through my head. What if I didn’t fit in? What if they judged me? It had been a long day, and I had suddenly started to second guess my decision to come. I turned the corner, and the sound of laughter flooded over me. People stood at the door of the classroom, each donned in any number of pins, backpacks, shirts, bracelets, necklaces, socks, and even nail polish. All in every color of the rainbow. There were people of every height, style, and age. Yet they all had one thing in common, they were like me, members of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club. They carried wide smiles and open arms. Everyone had a story, but one struck me differently than I expected.
He had been ridiculed for wanting to come to Greenway. Greenway was called, “That Gay School.” Stained with a label all too permanent, carrying much more weight than anyone could really understand. Yes, Greenway has a GSA club, and many staff members and counselors are openly allies or have LGBTQ+ posters, pins, or stickers in their offices, but students know that’s not what they mean. People know how others use that word. If something is lame, it’s gay. Kids have heard it their whole life. “We have homework today? That’s gay.” “They lost, what? That’s gay.” Gay and lame aren’t synonyms, and growing up in 2019, everyone should expect more. Greenway is already delivering it.
According to The Human Rights Campaign’s article on Growing up LGBT in America, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say that they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at. Furthermore, 26% of LGBT youth say that their biggest problem is not being accepted by their family, and trouble with school and bullying. Whereas 22% of Non-LGBT youth say that their biggest problems are studying, exams, and grades. A staggering 92% of LGBT youth say that they hear negative messages about being LGBT at school, on the internet, and by their peers.
These numbers have to improve, and school counselor and GSA club director Ms. Braun is ready to make changes. She said this about how a safe environment at school can benefit students, “When students feel safe in a classroom then they can let their guard down a little bit and they feel that they can pay attention to the learning and activities. Rather than having to spend their attention worrying about, is that kid going to be rude? Is the teacher going to misname me? Is the teacher maybe not going to squash an inappropriate joke that some kid might say? So when kids feel safe in a classroom they don’t have to worry about any of those things, and they can focus on the learning.”
Having a support system of other students can be helpful. Sophomore Jayden Hanson said, “A strong support system for me helped me decide who I wanted to be, so you could have a chance to be who you want, and if you don’t like it, you have a chance to change it. You don’t have to stick with something until you find what’s perfect for you.”
Not only can supportive staff and peers help you discover who you are, but many students believe it can do much more. When asked about how relationships and students morale can be affected by trusted staff and adults Senior Samantha King said, “Some LGBTQ kids, especially when they’re still in the closet, have trouble talking to their parents about issues, and that creates a lot of lying and mistrust, and cause kids to not trust adults. But having these adults like Mrs. Braun and Mr. M, who kids can trust and talk to, or even just vent to about something, helps students be able to trust people and get emotions off their chest, instead of doing stupid or rash things.”
Greenway staff members are allies, and the GSA club director Ms. Braun is there every step of the way. Braun said, “I’m so proud of the community that our students have created on campus. And I’m so proud of all of the students that I know are allies who don’t necessarily want or need to come to our club, but they’re friends with everybody. Kids are supportive of their LGBT friends. And they stick up for their friends when somebody is being rude. And I’m just really proud of that here at Greenway.”
Greenway is taking big steps for the LGBTQ+ community, but there’s still a long way to go, and students are ready to talk about it.
Freshman Max Nehrkorn said, “Something that I would like to see change, not only at Greenway but in the United States, and really the world as a whole, is that I want the phrase ‘That’s gay’ to not have a negative connotation anymore. Like when somebody says, ‘That’s gay,’ I think, oh that’s lovely. Oh, that’s amazing. It must be so great. But a lot of times when somebody says that something is gay, they mean that it sucks. No! Gay people are amazing, why would that suck? So I just want there to be positivity connected to ‘that’s gay’ rather than negativity.”
“I’d like there to be less discrimination just because you do something, dress a certain way, or want to be called these pronouns,” Hanson said. Students are ready for changes, however, in the meantime, Greenway is proud to own the title of “That Gay School.” The Demons are taking the world by storm, one kid who feels like they finally belong at a time.