The GDS high school’s 2018 Pride Week helped to promote a sense of pride among the LGBTQ+ community at GDS. But despite the atmosphere of inclusivity, a group of students felt left out. Did Pride Week leave many ‘closeted’ students feeling marginalized by the GDS acceptance movement?
Events organized by GDS such as Pride Week certainly do a wonderful job of encouraging all, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, to participate. But for some, GDS holds the idea that school is a separate entity from the real world where students can safely be ‘out,’ without anyone on the outside knowing. For certain closeted students, any type of involvement with groups such as the GSA or in events like Pride Week carries the risk of information about a student’s identity making its way back to the student’s parents. An anonymous sophomore describes how their participation is forced to be limited because of their parents. “I try to make sure they don’t know. They’ll probably think that this kind of Pride Week will influence more kids to become gay,” said the sophomore.
The sophomore student says that, for them, “coming out at home is kind of impossible.” When the student did hint at their sexuality to their parents, they said that “it made my mom super uneasy and my dad took it super seriously and almost sent me to conversion camp because he was like, ‘Satan is within you!’ That was two years ago.”
GDS is sometimes referred to as a bubble because of the absence of the generic student’s experiences. “I think a large part of people here probably don’t even factor in that some parents are not accepting as a possibility,” says the sophomore. For several students, tolerance is not the standard, and they feel that they must remain in the closet, even at school. Their identities would not be embraced by their families if discovered; students fear rejection and punishment.
This is not to diminish the importance of Pride Week or the measures GDS takes towards expanding acceptance efforts. GDS has certainly helped to foster an environment where LGBTQ+ students can feel more comfortable expressing their identities. Regardless, many closeted students feel that there is room for GDS’s improvement.
There is no easy solution to the issue of helping closeted students and ensuring they are not feeling sidelined, especially during events centered around pride. Some possible suggestions have come up, such as the idea of students submitting forms to their teachers with the student’s name and pronouns, as well as what name and pronouns the teachers should use in the company of the student’s parents. Sophomore Josh Landweber comments on this proposition, saying, “honestly there’s no good answer. Sometimes it’s more destructive to force the kid when the kid has to keep using their old pronouns. Sometimes it’s worse if the parents accidentally find out and it all blows up. So it’s a mess, but I think that having that option is good. Being able to make that choice is important.”
The 2018 Pride Week was undoubtedly an additional positive step towards helping a substantial number of LGBTQ+ students, but perhaps the school needs to modify the system to ensure that future similar efforts equally benefit both publicly out and closeted students. “We talk a lot about what happens after coming out and how you can help the movement, but I feel like it’d be nice if we talked about something I guess a bit practical for closeted kids, like how to handle parents, that kind of stuff,” concludes the anonymous sophomore. “I really think we should devote a lot more time to that.”
By Berenika Prasad’20