My name is Nicole. I’m the adult facilitator for Beacon Youth Group in Topeka, a social worker and a mom of two LGBT high school students. The kids got a little caught up in all the things that happen in the beginning of the school year so I thought I would help out and write this month’s column.
First off, I am a white, cis, straight woman and try to be aware of the privilege that I am fortunate enough to have with that identity. I also try to be a good ally. I don’t feel I have the right to call myself an ally. I feel like this is a title that I have to earn.
I have also been schooled that the A in the LGBT alphabet does not stand for ally; it can hold a place for either Asexual or Aromantic. Ally is not something that I am; it is something that I try to do.
Having kids in high school is never an easy thing, but having LGBT kids makes things even tougher. In addition to dealing with homework and hormones we worry about safety. Does the school create a safe environment for our kids to learn? Do the teacher’s support my child’s identity, use the right name or pronouns? Do my children feel safe and supported from the administration down to the other students?
My oldest, who is now a senior, did not feel the high school they started in as a freshman was very supportive, so we applied to transfer to another district. This has made a huge change and my child now loves their high school. We found that the teachers are not only respectful of my child’s pronouns, but also of their issues with depression and anxiety. We are starting the process all over again now while looking at options for colleges.
My youngest is a freshman and worried about gym class. The gym teacher told her to use the locker room she felt most comfortable in. Not every school district in Kansas is this supportive. I would advise parents to talk to the administration, and see where they stand. If they are not supportive, look at other districts nearby, or even online school.
Online school is free and offers kids a great alternative to brick and mortar schools when safety is a concern. One caveat, the child needs to be self-motivated or this can be a huge struggle.
A couple additional notes, a new group is being formed in Topeka called SOFFA Topeka. It stands for Significant Others, Friends, Family, and Allies and it’s for people who are supportive of queer, trans, and/or gender non-conforming persons. Our first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 1pm at UUFT in Topeka. If you have a loved one that is trans or gender non-conforming and have questions, need resources or just want to talk, please consider attending, we would love to meet you.
Beacon Youth Group along with Topeka Pride, is hosting a Spirituality Forum on Sept. 12 at 6pm at Temple Beth Sholom. This is an opportunity for inclusive congregations and spiritual leaders to gather with the LGBT community and discuss faith and sexual/gender identity. We welcome you to join us in this discussion.