Friday, September 11, 2009

Gay/Straight Alliance

This past Saturday evening, Chris and I had over our next door neighbors for dessert and refreshments. The patriarch is Phil, and he's in his early 50s. Mandy is the mother and in her late 40s. Lindsay is the only daughter, and she just entered grade 11. And Jeffrey is the only son, who started grade 8 this September. The family is good people, and more than with any of our other neighbors, Chris and I have really hit it off with them.

We talked about a lot of things over the course of three or so hours, but I saw an opportunity to talk to Lindsay about something I'd wondered for a long time. I asked her if there was a gay/straight alliance club at her school. For those unfamiliar with this, the gay/straight alliance club is intended to create a greater awareness, understanding, and acceptance of the differences between gay and straight students in grade school, ostensibly to put an end to the teasing and bullying of gay students just because of their sexual orientation.

(I have to say this: I know that kids are far more sophisticated today about things like sexual orientation than I ever was way back when, so I'm convinced students who identify themselves as being gay know there's more to it than just having sex. Or at least I hope they do. Perhaps I'm naive, but I just don't think the opportunity to have gay sex while in high school comes up all that often, which allows young people to realize there is something more compelling about being gay than sex.)

Anyway, in answer to my question, Lindsay told me that the school she was about to enter grade 11 at, and which she attended last year, didn't have a gay/straight alliance club. She added that she didn't think one was necessary. She said most of the school knew of at least one openly gay student, but she was sure everyone accepted him regardless, and there was no need for a gay/straight alliance club.


Doubtful as I was that this was the case, I made some comment that I was impressed with how much had changed in the public school system since I attended, and that I was grateful this one gay kid didn't have to go through the hell I did. But what I really wanted to ask Lindsay was whether she had ever spoken to the gay student to ask him about his school experience. I wanted to know if he'd tell her there was no need for a gay/straight alliance club. In short, I wanted to test for myself what she'd said to determine if it was really true.

So let's play "what if" for a moment:

What if a new male student arrived at school, and he was a real flamer? What if everyone saw him mince or prance or sashay down the hallway to his classes? What if he had a limp wrist and gestured exaggeratedly? What if he spoke in an affected way when he opened his mouth? What if he wore his straight-legged jeans inside a pair of high boots? What if he wore a bag over his shoulder that looked like a purse? What if he carried his school books in the crook of his arm and not at the side against his leg? What if he was hopelessly inept with a ball, any ball, in P.E. class? What if his gym teacher expected him to take showers in communal stalls at the same time as all of his jock peers? What if he enrolled in drama, singing, or typing classes? What if he volunteered to work on the debate club, or to write for the school newspaper?

With all due respect to Lindsay, is she telling me that all of the students she attends school with would accept this young man just as he is, and none of them would tease, ridicule, or taunt him whatsoever if he did one or more of the above?

If that is really and truly the case, then I'm deeply impressed with the school system these days and with students in general. And I'm overjoyed that this young, gay male student is able to truly be himself in a school filled with peers he is very different from.


  1. Things have definitely changed. "Normal" now is not what normal was when we were in high school. Yet I see people as more accepting of some things and less accepting of others. It's a weird thing.

  2. If I had the chance, I'd like to spend time in a school today, in the company of the type of students who were marginalized when I went to school, and I'd like to hear them talk about what their lives are like now. What happens in school stays with us forever, in one way or another, despite our best efforts to overcome it.

    I'd love to find out if today's students will be better adjusted when they graduate than I was when I graduated. I want so much more for them than I had. I suppose because I was never a father, I look at being a father in a global sense, and I want for today's youth what I didn't have.

    I pray things are better now. I pray that kids leave homes and schools with a healthy sense of self-esteem. I pray they have an easier time realizing their greatest potential.