Queer teens often face hostility in their day-to-day lives. No place is perhaps more hostile than school. For this month’s column, the Beacon youth are sharing stories of experiences we have had in school, both positive and negative. These are a few of the those experiences.
One thing that many of us have faced is the blatant disregard for queer identities in school sex education. Sex ed is lacking as it is, but for LGBTQ teens, the experience simply does not address our needs. There is basically no mention of queer identities, let alone how to have safe sexual encounters between same-sex couples. Asexual youth are also often alienated, as there is a large message that anyone who doesn’t want to have sex is broken or wrong.
Some of us have had very positive experiences with teachers, others . . . not so much. It seems to be common for kids in same-gender relationships to be disciplined for public displays of affection that are not disciplined among straight students. Other kids report teachers being extremely accepting; one of our members had his first coming out experience with his English teacher, who was very supportive.
The response can be even more varied for trans students, with some teachers refusing to respect names and pronouns, even going so far as to cross out a student’s chosen name and replace it with their legal name, and others going out of their way to help trans youth feel supported in school.
Bullying also frequently comes from other students. We’ve all probably heard “that’s so gay” more times than we can count, and several of us have been the targets of slurs. Some of us have confronted bullies, many times with positive results. But standing up to these people can be terrifying, and many of us fear for our safety too much to attempt to fight back.
Supporting LGBTQ students is extremely important. We can’t fight the oppression ingrained into the school system without help from adults. School environments can be the biggest sources of fear and depression for many queer teens. Some students dread going to school because of how they are treated, even to the point of considering suicide.
We as students need to be given a voice, a way to rise up against unfair treatment in schools, and sometimes that only happens when people demand to be heard. We encourage you to add your voice to the chorus of voices speaking up against discrimination in schools. l