The week of February, 15 was Ally Week at Spring Lake High School. Throughout the week, Mrs. Draeger posted LGBTQ+ statistics to the Schoology homepage in order to raise awareness and promote acceptance. Students could pick up free awareness ribbons from the Media Center or Mr. Schiewe’s desk. Students and teachers could be seen throughout the halls sporting rainbow ribbons or rainbow masks to display their support and help work towards a community of acceptance. While flamboyant displays of pride and quiet shows of acceptance were evident throughout the week, it has become increasingly clear that Spring Lake High School still has a long way to go towards supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community.
One startling Schoology post from Mrs. Draeger claimed that 92% of LGBTQ+ youth share that they hear negative messages about being LGBTQ+, mostly through school, the Internet, and their peers. From whispered remarks to public posts, it is not hard to believe that this negativity is abundant. Some students complained about the rainbow flags, even going so far as to post on their Snapchat stories to make their disgust public. There is only one week all year where attention is openly brought to members of the LGBTQ+ community to help them feel more accepted and proud of who they are, so there is a problem when other students think this one week is too much. It has come to my attention – much to my disappointment – that many of my peers would rather have people of different sexual orientations and identities sit quietly in the shadows. The thing that makes high school so important and wonderful is the diversity of the student body. We should be celebrating the differences in our peers, rather than pushing them to the wayside or making snide remarks to our friends. We all know how hard it is to be in high school, so why are we making it harder for others? I find myself constantly torn between fitting in or being myself, scared of what others will think of me for the things I like or the clothes I wear; I can’t imagine adding my sexual orientation onto that. We should be working towards a community where kids are comfortable being exactly who they are, yet Ally Week has shown the true colors of some students who would rather continue feeding a culture of homophobia and intolerance.
I reached out to Truce Glore, a transgender junior at Spring Lake. When he originally came out in eighth grade, he shared that many of his issues were at home rather than school. His parents weren’t accepting of the transition, and thus Truce shared, “I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair, wear certain clothes, wear a chest binder, use my preferred name and pronouns, etc., which made transitioning from female to male and being accepted at school a lot harder. People struggled with using my correct name and pronouns, and I got bullied by some kids here and there from 8th-10th grade.” Truce struggled at first, being one of the only openly gay students and the only openly transgender student in school. Luckily, Truce found his place in high school theatre and saw a more accepting community of students: “Seeing more people being out, more acceptance, and a push for acceptance has been something I have loved seeing each day.”
When asked how we can work towards a more accepting school, Truce shared that it will be difficult, but he is hopeful that it can be done. There was push-back on the pride flags and gender-neutral bathrooms installed by the LGBTQ+ club, but Truce said that the exposure, though negative, was great. “Truthfully, I think more exposure and education surrounding the LGBTQ+ community is needed. There is so much stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, especially within the student body,” he shared, suggesting that more exposure to the LGBTQ+ community would help make LGBTQ+ students feel more safe and welcomed at school. Even if a student doesn’t understand or accept the LGBTQ+ community, Truce calls for them to “respect one another and be kind.”
Finally, even if you aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community yourself, there is so much you can do to promote acceptance as an ally. I asked Truce what makes a good ally, to which he answered, “the main part of being an ally is continuing to educate yourself and others around you.” Rather than leaving members of the LGBTQ+ community to educate others and raise awareness themselves, allies can help take this weight off of their shoulders. Support from LGBTQ+ allies is crucial to promoting acceptance throughout the school and community. Truce leaves us with one final message for acceptance at Spring Lake: “Openly supporting the community and educating others helps to greatly de-stigmatize the community, increase acceptance, education, respect, discussion, and empathy.”
Overall, ally week is an important step in making every student feel welcome and accepted at Spring Lake High School. While many students and teachers show their support, there are just as many who damage the impact through their ignorance of the LGBTQ+ community. Education and respect for others can help us take a big step forward.