Annual Day of Dialogue provides platform for LGBTQ voices

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B block: Telling Our Stories

B block was the first of two “Telling Our Stories” assemblies today. Moderated by sophomore Sara Hogenboom and senior Arielle Knight, the assembly featured senior Izzy Trask, junior Jory Cherry, senior Steven Bushey, senior Thea Hobson, junior Lea Churchill, junior Benno Rodemann, business teacher Brittany Stevens, and junior Johanna Kepler.

Trask described a visit to her cousin’s college, where she discovered that being surrounded by her cousin and all of her friends, all of whom were queer, felt like a good place to be.

Cherry said that coming out to their parents suddenly became much easier after both came out to each other at the same time. Cherry described the process of figuring out how to define their gender.

Bushey outlined a comedic “how to be straight” list of instructions, both illustrating how difficult it can be to hide one’s sexual orientation and also exposing some of the unknowingly harmful phrases and behaviors some of his peers may display.

Hobson described her challenges in acknowledging her sexual orientation and in coming out to her family. She said receiving the news that her older brother was gay as well eased this process for her.

Churchill talked about finding homophobia in anti-racist communities and racism in LGBTQ communities, and emphasized the importance of a focus on intersectionality.

Rodemann described the journey to acceptance as a genderfluid pansexual.

Stevens recounted her challenges in coming out to her family, and received a round of applause when she revealed that she is engaged.

Kepler described her transition from shame of having two mothers years ago to pride in it today.

 

A block: Gender Identity Explained

This panel was moderated by senior Gio Castro and junior Ethan Kahn, who introduced the assembly by explaining the various facets of gender and sex. They showed images that explained the concept of gender spectrums and different ways people might identify.

Then, five genderqueer student panelists spoke about their experiences and identities. The panelists were sophomore Alice Jennings, sophomore Regina Schroedinger, junior Rory Redgrave, sophomore Eli Levin and junior Jory Cherry. The panelists explained gender neutral pronouns and the spectrums of gender identity and then answered questions. They emphasized the importance of respecting other’s pronouns and using the correct ones.

 

X block: Q & gAy

A Q&A session took place in the MLK room, with panelists sophomore Ione Harding-Manson, Jennings, freshman Nick Sturman, Schroedinger, Castro, Levin, freshman Hunter Amory and Hogenboom. The panelists talked about their experiences, their relationships with their families, support in the high school, gender-neutral bathrooms and more. The session was moderated by senior Henry Varona and sophomore Cleo Falvey.

 

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E block: Race & LGBTQ Identity

The focus of the E block assembly was on race in the LGBTQ community. There were four panelists: Founding member of the Teacher Activist Group-Boston and current Director of Organizing at the Boston Teachers Union Jessica Tang, Executive Director of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition Corey Yarbrough, chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and of the Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance Maxwell Ng and Associate Editor of Queer Women of Color Media Wire Yarimee Gutierrez.

Tang, who identifies as queer and Asian American, began by reading a piece of writing she wrote 10 years ago called “Lost Identity,” and she spoke about privilege and oppression.

Yarbrough, who identifies as a gay black man, shared his story of receiving messages that he couldn’t be both black and gay from the media and his church as he grew up, which caused him to keep his identity a secret. After years of denying and hiding who he was, he reached a turning point after meeting another gay black man who made him realize he wasn’t alone.

Ng, who identifies as a queer trans man, spoke about his story of coming out to his mom as queer and then coming out a second time as a trans man. He was able to find a group, QAPA, that gave him the connection he needed.

Finally, Gutierrez, who identifies as Latina and queer, spoke about how she never thought she fit the lesbian stereotype as a Latina woman until she met queer Latina women in college. She also shared a piece of poetry she had written. After each panelist had spoken, the remaining time was open to questions.

 

G block: Respect the “T”

This panel included Logan, Courtney, Michael and Mitzie, local members of the trans community, who spoke about their experiences transitioning and fielded questions from the audience. The discussion touched on topics such as gender reassignment surgery, the experience of coming out and panelists’ experiences with bullying and reception to their transitions. Michael, a graduate from Newton North, said he has worked to help revamp the freshman health curriculum at North to make it more trans-inclusive. He extended the same offer to the high school’s health teachers.

 

F block: Telling Our Stories

The final assembly of the day, like the first one, featured members of the high school community telling their stories. Senior Ellie Richardson led off. She described her journey to realizing that being a lesbian simply means she is attracted to women and doesn’t mean she has to conform to common lesbian stereotypes.

Junior Rory Redgrave explained zer experience being agender, or outside of the gender spectrum. “My body is not wrong. The way people talk about my body is wrong,” ze said.

Senior Conor Amrien said many people fail to see bisexuality as permanent and he hopes that will change.

Senior Gillian Orlando-Milbauer has two moms who never married and are now separated. She described how when she went to fill out her college application there was no box for her to accurately describe her family. “I look forward to the day when I don’t have to worry about the boxes,” she said.

Math teacher Adam Fried, cognizant of the fact that his freshmen in Tutorial were worried about their research papers, organized his speech into a spoken essay. His thesis was that better phrase for “coming out” would be “letting in.”

Senior Dillon McGuire said he wished others stopping assuming the reason he liked to do certain things was because he was gay. “My sexuality does not dictate how I see things,” he said.

Sophomore Cleo Falvey said deciding to come out as bisexual was harder than actually coming out. “Let’s continue to lead the fight for equality!” she said.

 

Day of Silence

A related Day of Silence will be held on Friday, April 17. Members of the high school community can pick up “silent supporter” and “vocal supporter” stickers in the atrium before school. The silence is meant to represent solidarity with LGBTQ individuals who feel unable to speak about who they are due to their sexuality.

 

Edmund Geschickter, Kendall McGowan, Sofia Tong, Rosa Stern Pait, Sarah Gladstone, Juliana Kaplan and Jeremy Margolis can be contacted at bhs.sagamore@gmail.com.

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