Homophobia: “it breeds fear and doubt”
March 11, 2018
“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.”