Abbey Jones • Event Coordinator
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgen- der (LGBT) community at Hayes is alive and thriving. This year, the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) has been working hard to promote equality in the building.
According to Nobullying.com, the Human Rights Campaign found that LGBT youth are twice as likely to report physical assaults, including at school. 26 percent say their biggest problem is fear of being open about their sexuality. It is clear that students who are not straight are more likely to be bullied, something the Hayes GSA has been trying to prevent.
“This year’s group of kids are very energet- ic and very passionate, and that’s very refresh- ing,” said Ariel Uppstrom, a GSA adviser and English teacher.
Uppstrom said that the club was started before she arrived, when students came to a guidance counselor wanting a safe place for LGBT teens to meet. Uppstrom also mentioned that GSAs all over the nation must be started by students that also have a teacher sponsor.
“Surveys have said that students and chil- dren get bullied because they are perceived to be LGBT, not necessarily because they are, and I think we put a lot of labels on people instead of just looking at them for who they are,” Uppstrom said.
“There’s still so much work to do, even though our GSA has come a huge way in our school in making a safer place,” Uppstrom said. One overall goal for the GSA is being able to make Hayes a safer and more open place for LGBT youth.
“I’m glad I’m blessed with the confidence and the friends to be able to express myself freely throughout everyday life,” said junior Luke Lucas.
Lucas is one student who ar is able to express his sexuality freely in school, but some students aren’t able to do so. He and the rest of the GSA know that some students don’t have the support that someone needs to come out to their friends or family.
Recently, the GSA and other LGBT support- ers have been working on making it known that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgen- ders are not the only people on the gay spectrum.
Uppstrom says that transgender equality is the next big step that equality fighters need to take, explaining how the English language is very restrictive to male and female pronouns.
There are more sexual orientations than the four highlighted in the ‘LGBT’ acronym, but they are not as widely rep- resented due to the fact that smaller sections of sexualities are not as well known as the four well publicized gay identities.
For reference, ‘gay’ is an umbrella term that includes everyone on the homosexual, but it also refers to gay men. A lesbian is a woman who is only attracted to women. Bisexuality is when a person who is attracted to both the opposite gender, as well as their same gender.
Someone who is transgender identifies as the opposite sex of which they were born to, whether they undergo physical treatment to change their sex or not.
Some of the the smaller sections of sexuality in addition to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders include asexual and pansexual.
An asexual is someone who identifies as not having a sexual attraction, or does not become sexu- ally attracted to someone until they have a personal connection with them. A pansexual is someone who is attracted to all genders, and pan- sexuality includes being attracted to transgendered people or who do not identify with a gender.
Finally, the term ‘non-binary’ includes those who do not identify with a gender, meaning they do not see themselves as a boy or a girl. It also includes people who are gender fluid, meaning they go back and forth from identifying as a boy or a girl.
This year, the GSA made new posters for teachers to hang in their rooms. These colorful posters, which feature many of the sexual ori- entation symbols as well as the different sexu- ality flags, stand out among dull chalkboards and classroom doors.
One thing students in the GSA are also especially appreciative within the school is the staff support they receive.
“It makes me so happy, and it makes me feel so reassured that my coworkers are in this job for the good of children,” Uppstrom said, noting the signs. “It makes me happy that kids can see… an adult that cares about them,” Uppstrom said.
“The signs give you a place of safety and a place of confidentiality,” freshman Griffin Clark said. Clark identifies as bisexual, only recently coming out to close friends and family until now. “I’m totally okay with who I am. I’m really, really happy with my character,” he said, playing off his already strong theater involvement at Hayes.
“I feel that teachers give that connection between friends and family,” Lucas said. Lucas, along with many other students, have shared their personal stories with Uppstrom.
“[The GSA] gives me a very easy outlet and platform to help other people,” senior Lydia Gray said. Gray a major advocate of LGBT youth at Hayes as well as an officer of the GSA. The day before Ally Day, for example, Gray was handing out pins for people to wear in support of LGBT aware- ness to anyone that wanted one.
“The GSA, for me, is an outreach for other kids.” Lucas said. Anyone can be apart of the GSA, and people do not have to tell others what sexuality they identify as, but there are some students who only feel comfort- able sharing their sexuality to the other members of the club.
“For some kids…The GSA meetings are the only times they can be themselves…this is a sanctuary for them,” Lucas said.
“The youth are the people who are going to make our world a better place,” Uppstrom said.
She and the members of the GSA, as well as parts of the general population at Hayes are commit- ted to helping the school become a more inclusive place for all people, not just LGBT youth.
“Humans are humans; we’re all the same,” Lucas said.
Clark has a similar perspective on why GSA is important.
“People will become fully accepted,” Clark said.
Gray said that she is involved with GSA because it gives the opportunity to promote equality, which she feels very passionate about.
“I’m a walking example for something I care about. I care a lot about equality… and I have a lot of chances to educate people,” Gray said.