BRIAN CEBRA 5/12/2016
High schools are a tough place to fight for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) rights. Society seems to mandate separate sports teams for girls and boys, separate locker rooms for girls and boys, and Prom “Kings” and “Queens”. Many young people who are questioning their gender identity feel left out of this. That is where the QSA, or the Queer-Straight Alliance comes in.
Immediately upon entering a QSA meeting, one gets a sense of comfort. Everybody is involved; everyone is very open and relaxed. The meeting starts with a sort of “roll call” where everyone in attendance says their name, and which pronouns they prefer. Then, the meeting continues to a “personal news” segment, which can range from sexual health news to new scholarships. Club Ambassador Anna Modeiston says that the club is a “home within the school” for many of its members. She says, “discovery is a huge part of this club. So many people come in as freshmen and try hard to present themselves, but [I can] see how they mature and develop”. Being a member of QSA allows members to “discover now who they are” while they are still in high school, says Anna.
The topic of the meeting I went to shifted to the passage of House Bill 2 in North Carolina, bill that requires people to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate, as well as writing up a state anti-discrimination statement that fails to include gender identity, among other things. According to QSA Club Co-President Chevy Whitson, “It would force trans people to be in a bathroom that could worsen their dysphoria or just make them unbelievably scared”. Yet, everyone was willing to acknowledge the fear of sexual predators taking advantage of a one- or two-bathroom accommodation for the LGBTQ population. However, despite this, the QSA club at CHS has made enormous efforts to prevent CHS students from facing similar discrimination, including the establishment of a gender-neutral bathroom near the band hallway, and raising awareness of LGBTQ issues through events like last week’s Pride Week. Chevy argues “Three bathrooms could work. Male, female and gender neutral”…“a gender neutral [bathroom] needs to be included for those who don’t feel safe in a specific gendered area or just don’t want to be there”.
Chevy and Anna agree that the LGBTQ population of CHS is at least 100, or about 1/12 of the school. Yet there is still much more that needs to be done. At Monday’s meeting, one student mentioned, “I would not go to a gym unless it was an LGBTQ gym”. Chevy recounts that it was “terrifying” to come out. He recalled that “it was scary to come out to [my] friends, to [my] boyfriend, and eventually [my] teachers”. He has faced “a teacher that continually misgendered him and another student on purpose”.
With issues such as North Carolina’s House Bill 2 being hotly debated in national forums, CHS’s LGBTQ population may face an uncertain future. But, they are succeeding in making CHS the best possible place for them now. Chevy was able to make the transition from Elektra to Man Choir, and get his gender changed officially with the school system. As to the future, Anna says, “It doesn’t get easier, but we get stronger”.