March 11, 2018
Imagine you were born with blonde hair and everything is fine and dandy. Some people like
blonde hair. Now say everyone in the world hates blonde hair, because according to their beliefs having blonde hair is wrong and you’re committing a great sin. It’s not your fault your were born with blonde hair; you didn’t choose it.
You didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey I want to be blonde today.” You could cover up your blonde hair by dying it brown…. but is it really brown? No, it’s blonde. You could spend the rest of your life with brown hair, but will you really be happy? Does it feel right to
cover up who you are just because some people don’t like it?
No. It doesn’t. A person should not have to hide who they really are. Now say that being blonde was the same thing as being gay. Would it still feel wrong to cover up who you really
Many individuals and students at WHS live with issues similar to this: whether it’s because they can’t date who they want because their peers frown on homosexuality or they can’t express themselves as who they feel they are because they aren’t following their physical gender.
Too many gay, lesbian, transgender, and asexual individuals are living in the shadows, not able to break free from society’s chains and live as themselves. Not able to hold hands with
their boyfriends or girlfriends. Not able to dress in a way that would be considered “different.” As a society, we should embrace those who know who they are and what they want.
Let boys date boys and girls date girls. Let girls wear ties and boys wear dresses. Let people be happy with who they are and who they want to be. Let us be us.
Homophobia: “it breeds fear and doubt”
“When we speak, no matter who is around, what we say matters,” said senior Sofia Rayas.
“Because of that, our words must be accepting.”
“As I am a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)
community myself,” said Rayas. “and since I have many LGBT friends and family members, I have a commitment to making sure I’m aware of the situations and conditions people within the community face. And, as growing numbers of individuals are becoming comfortable
enough to come out to their friends and families, I also have a responsibility to speak up.”
The Minnesota Department of Health’s Student Survey recently identified how many individuals are becoming comfortable in their identities, simply by asking high schoolers about their sexualities.
The findings from 2016, which state that seven percent of junior males and 17 percent of junior females did not identify as straight in Hennepin County is especially notable, according to Rayas, because those numbers are a direct result of the increased levels of discussion and education regarding the LGBT community.
“A collective effort of individuals being more accepting is allowing people to identify as they please,” said Rayas.
The same survey states that two percent of males and six percent of females identified as “transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or unsure about [their] gender identity,” which were included as possible identities for the first time.
The survey went even further, asking how often individuals felt as though they were harassed or bullied as a result of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
96 percent of both male and female juniors said they had not experienced any sort of harassment in the last thirty days. Two percent of males and three percent of females reported that they were bullied a number of times, and one percent of both groups said they had been bullied once a week. One percent of junior males indicated that they were
harassed every day in the past thirty for their real or supposed sexuality.
Rayas said that “even though those numbers can be seen as an incredibly small portion of people, they still mean that students are forced to live with the distress associated with any form of harassment, simply as a result of their identity. The fact that there are still kids in our state that feel this way suggests that there is more work to be done to support LGBT individuals.”
“Going back to my high school experience,” said Associate Principal Tyler Shepard, “it wasn’t acceptable to be gay, and it wasn’t acceptable to talk about being gay. There was a lot of fear associated with the identity, and it is really exciting to see students who are now comfortable with sharing their sexuality or identity. Back then, this wasn’t acknowledged at all. It was avoided.”
Rayas said that while those belonging to the LGBT community are not regularly exposed to verbal or physical attacks based upon identity, insidious forms of homophobia and transphobia do exist. “The ways in which LGBT people and ideas are mocked as jokes or treated with hostility is a great danger,” said Rayas, “as it breeds fear and doubt.”
“I feel as though hateful or judgemental comments are constant,” said Rayas. “And I find it disheartening that, when I walk through the halls, it’s almost like I can hear a chorus of the term ‘faggot,’ or, much more likely, words with similar, negative meanings. While I don’t always take those comments as personal attacks, it really says something about the mentalities of my peers.”
When asked about any possible hostility within the school, Shepard said that all forms of bullying are stopped by staff members if they are seen at Wayzata, as “the school must be a safe space for all students.”
And beyond the school’s efforts against bullying, Shepard said that the curriculum being taught by current teachers and staff members are often intended to encourage conversation
about LGBT issues.
“As a member of the staff,” he said, “it’s been nice to see the culture grow to make sure that our school is an inclusive place, with teachers becoming more and more comfortable
with talking about these things.”
According to Shepard, as it is immensely important “to make sure that all student groups are represented in the building, and that they all have a voice,” he listed various programs devoted to the comfort and inclusion of all students, including GSA (Gender and Sexuality
Alliance) and Dare2BeReal, as well as systems through which students may speak up, like the Wayzata Wellness Tipline.
Rayas said, “I think it’s really important that we are thinking about this topic. And it’s even more important that we are talking about it.
Knowing that many of my teachers will not tolerate any sort of homophobia, transphobia, or prejudice, is really comforting. And I hope I will be able to say the same of my peers soon.”
An Honest Perspective on Gender Identity
The common perception of gender is binary: male or female. You are assigned one of these at birth and are expected to be okay with it. In modern society, it is becoming increasingly more acceptable to be openly transgender: not identifying with the gender assigned at birth. But what if you do not identify with either of these binary genders?
This is the position I have always found myself in. I’ve never been a girl or a woman, but the idea of being male felt wrong too.
This does not have anything to do with the way I wear my hair, the clothes on my body
or the way I talk. These physical characteristics are just my ways of showing others who I
am. Just as someone with a fear of cats would feel uncomfortable bringing a cat with them
everywhere; I feel uncomfortable presenting myself in a way that is very masculine or very
When asked about my gender, I say I am non-binary: neither male nor female. I use gender-neutral pronouns and nouns. I am a child, a sibling, a partner. When I tag along with a friend they ask the group with gender-neutral pronouns: “They’re tagging along, is that okay?”
I shop in whatever clothing department carries sizes that will fit me. I wear makeup when I want to. I bind my chest when I can, but I also wear dresses to school dances. This is how I tell others who I am. I am not a pre-everything- trans-man or a butch lesbian, I’m non-binary.
The Unknown Struggles of Female Weightlifting
Trying to find the medium of being a beauty that is a beast is challenging when my body does not look like a fitness instagrammer. My body goes through a second puberty of simultaneous weight gain and loss, and I feel awkward in my own skin, thinking to myself, “Do they see my insecurities?”
This overwhelming lack of confidence makes it hard to keep pushing towards my goals when other outlets seem to be taking a giant step back.
I may look like a “brick house” that can hold hundreds of pounds while defying gravity, but in reality my reflection casts a mighty shadow that screams 220 pounds to make me feel like I should be shoved into the pretty damsel in distress model.
Diet has become a four letter word that generates hate, but in this case it is a necessity. 1,800 calories is the limit for each and every day. Meals consist of carefully planned protein, carbohydrate, vegetables, and fruit.
Numbers are involved in all aspects of living. The number of sets, the number of plates, the number of snacks, the number of hours of sleep, and the number on my jeans. My body. My body is in constant agony, but I cannot vocalize the pain since I am choosing to put my body through the ringer. The appeal of weightlifting to have a healthier lifestyle is all fun and games until I realize I actually signed up for a change in identity.
“Love is Love.”
So often, I see and hear about people who struggle to be who they are, to be proud,
comfortable, and unapologetic about themselves. This piece was inspired by my friend who
is so unapologetically and courageously herself, despite outside forces that may try to
silence her. There’s so much beauty in being proud.
Two Sides to a Person
There is little comfort that I find in being myself: bisexual and trans. Despite the impressive
strides towards LGBT rights in America, I continue to have a personal struggle with acceptance and judgement I receive from society and from the LGBT community itself.
My existence has become, in a sense, two-sided. Around my straight and cisgender friends, parents, teachers, and community, I have an obligation to be silent about my sexuality and gender. Being unable to speak about my identities in regular situations means I must find a voice in LGBT communities, but since the community lacks cohesion, there is little solace to be found. Disagreements within these circles is rampant. Like many other LGBT people, my daily social interactions revolve around juggling these two realities.
Being gay and trans in everyday life is exhausting. Homophobia and transphobia percolate through my everyday interactions. And in school, it’s clear that my identity is something that will only be acknowledged at the discomfort of others.
With the exception of a few who are vocal about our presence and rights, most of my straight and cis peers simply tolerate LGBT presence, at best. It’s hard to go a week or two in school without hearing people calling a transgender boy a girl, or noticing that people start avoiding someone who is openly proud of being gay.
It becomes a lot scarier when you know you’re the only LGBT person around. That’s when people start saying hurtful things, and it happens often. Homophobic and transphobic slurs are constantly uttered in the hallways and in classrooms, and it’s impossible to escape from them.
I remember one instance after getting onto a new bus and quietly speaking to my transgender friend about developments in his gender transition. A day or two later, sitting silently together, my friend and I heard a group of boys just a few seats behind us lamenting the existence of trans people, calling them unnatural and disgusting.
Whether or not our previous words prompted the outburst, we felt an acute fear. Had we been speaking too loudly about being trans? Did they want to scare us? Would they hurt us given the chance?
These situations, I believe, have been unnervingly common for most LGBT students. And for some, the fear doesn’t subside. It is that fear, no matter if it is initial or lasting, that creates fear surrounding coming out, even in a school as supportive as Wayzata.
Finding oneself in the labels that become more restrictive and more rhetoric-based hurts kids who are questioning their identity. And it hurt me. Growing up with only a basic understanding of what LGBT people could be, meant that I was only able to refer to my differences with certain vocabulary.
To be honest, even with a sea of specific terms, I had no idea how to reconcile my gender identity and my sexuality, especially as that sea of terms disregard the “T” in LGBT altogether. I didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender until I was a teenager, and it took a couple of years for me to become comfortable with the term “nonbinary.”
I have found this rhetoric to be, in some ways, dangerous. When cisgender and straight people interact with the LGBT community by accepting these limiting labels as a standard, they further homophobic and transphobic sentiments outside of the LGBT community.
It leads to the popularization of slurs and misinformation, and nearly every LGBT student I’ve spoken to feels similarly. When you’re a questioning kid trying to find consolation in your identity, comfort is difficult to find when you are required to balance a list of terms, descriptors, and identities.
This multifaceted, double-sided experience forces teenagers to close up. It builds insecurities and doubts and worries. But in the face of those worries and despite the struggles LGBT people have always confronted, we have been resilient. And that resilience will not stop now.
*This is a piece written in the Trojan Tribune in March 1992 and is purely for commentary purposes to show subjects that have potentially changed within society and others that have not.*