Sag Spotlight: Queer students experience ignorance from their straight peers

Sara Hogenboom, Staff Writer

Check out our Storify about queer students at the high school and beyond!

Definitions for different possible sexual orientations from the April issue of the Sagamore in 2014. Page from the Sagamore archives.
Definitions for different possible sexual orientations from the April issue of the Sagamore in 2014. Page from the Sagamore archives.

I’ve been bisexual all my life, but  I can’t remember the first time I came out. I can remember the place, I can remember whom I was with and I can remember what it felt like when I said my label aloud for the first time. Unfortunately, I can’t accurately place the time of year to any less than a span of months because I have had to come out so many times since.

Coming out is a lifelong process. This wasn’t something I knew until I started doing it. And it’s something not many of my straight friends at the high school realize. It is just one of the things that non-queer people at the high school don’t realize about life as one of their queer peers.

Sophomore Ellie Levin is genderfluid and pansexual. Levin uses the gender neutral pronouns; they, them and their. Levin said that queer students see a lot of support from the high school community, but they still have ignorant exchanges.

“People have told me ‘I don’t want to read this book because it’s about a gay character. I can’t sympathize’.  However, when I want to read a book it’s always about a straight, cis-gendered character, and I have to relate to that,” Levin said.

This illustrates just one example of the disconnect between queer students and their straight peers. Having to empathize with non-queer characters is just another fact of life as a queer high school student.

The education system rarely reflects the queer community in its curriculum, so finding good representation is no easy task. This is a reality of which straight students are rarely aware.

Another student who wished to remain anonymous is in agreement that while he feels supported by the high school community, feeling fully comfortable is still a while off.

“I feel like if we are to have full equality and full comfort for everyone in school we really need to teach these things and approach it. We don’t really talk about it enough to make changes in people’s views and to educate people,” the anonymous student said. 

Sexuality is difficult to deal with. It’s complicated, it’s messy and there are a lot of different types. However, it is imperative that people are educated about it and how to talk about it. A non-queer person might not realize the benefits of a queer person having a queer teacher, or of teachers making efforts to not assume heteronormativity. When I have a queer teacher my safe spaces expand to fit their classroom. Knowing I have that resource makes the class more relaxed and engaging. The efforts made by these queer teachers never go unnoticed. They help create an environment in which I can feel more comfortable and the general taboo of sexuality is lessened.

Yet, sexuality is something that I don’t have to mention if I don’t want to. But for Levin, gender is something that is always out there.

“Sexuality, if you’re not talking about people you like, it’s not going to come up. But gender is always there, you always have to inform people about pronouns,” Levin said.

Out genderqueer people at the high school sometimes change their gender pronouns to more accurately represent their true gender identities According to Levin, teachers have been pretty good about checking in about the correct pronouns. To make it easier for people Levin uses the gender pronouns they, them and their. However, Levin prefers hu, hum, hus.

“It’s all based on the fact that, before anything else, all people are human and I don’t, as much as it will happen, want people to judge me solely based on my gender identity or for that to be the first thing they think of when they think of me,” Levin said. “So human, the base human, just says less about my gender and more that I’m just human.”

Both Levin and the anonymous student were in agreement that most mistakes made by non-queer people at the high school were made out of ignorance and not malice.

“I think that most people at the high school are pretty good about it and people who may seem queerphobic are actually pretty good about it once they learn,” the anonymous student said.

The last thing I want is to be so defined by my sexuality that I cease to exist beyond it. I am a lot more than my sexuality, and I always have to carefully gauge people’s reactions when I tell them to try to notice if all they see is my label or not. My sexuality is an important part of who I am, but it will never eclipse me as a whole. It is time we started to bridge the communication gap and begin to see that sexuality is just one facet of a many colored gem.

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