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  • Day of Dialogue 2018
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    • B-block
    • BETCo
    • Poetry C-block
    • trans/nonbinary
    • d-block
    • F-block

Annual Day of Dialogue assemblies allow for discussion of LGBTQ+ experiences

March 26, 2018

Wednesday, March 21 was the high school’s annual Day of Dialogue, a day that celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community at the high school, greater Boston area and world at large. Each block, with the exception of E-block, had at least one assembly or lesson, all with different themes. During E-block, students debriefed the events of the day.

A-block: Telling Our Stories

Renata Shen

Junior Luke Geller speaks candidly about his experience as a transgender man and the emotions that come with being transgender.

A-block: Telling Our Stories

“Why did I feel like coming out as gay was so difficult for me when I knew that my parents and all my friends would accept me?” junior Max Harris asked.

He paused, and looked out to the crowd.

“Then I started thinking about who didn’t accept my coming out and realized the answer: it was me.”

On March 21, 2018, the high school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA) held its annual Day of Dialogue, an event dedicated to discussion and education regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) issues. During the A-block presentation in the auditorium, “Telling Our Stories,” an attentive audience listened as students and teachers shared personal stories about sexual and gender identity.

Junior Rebecca Perez and senior Paria Reich hosted the assembly, beginning with a short speech about the speakers. Afterwards, they introduced the first student, Harris. In a touching and light-hearted speech, Harris addressed his struggle with accepting his sexuality.

Senior Emily Streight followed Harris’s presentation, detailing her move to Brookline midway through high school. She also mentioned ongoing difficulties with her mental health that continue to this day.

ExCEL English teacher Sarah Kornell shared her experience going viral, through a photo of her and her ex-wife getting married. Unfortunately, this occurred after they separated, and as a result, the experience was emotionally difficult. Eventually, Kornell found solace in a new partner, but she said the experience had a profound effect on her and that she will never forget that period of her life.

Junior Luke Geller presented next, giving a speech about his transition from female to male.

“Just a couple years ago, nearly every one of my teachers called me, ‘she,’ a few times. I lived in a state of being perpetually uncomfortable, constantly on edge everytime someone referred to me in the third person, just waiting for the inevitable to happen,” Geller said.

Geller spoke with candor about his identity as a transgender male.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m proud of being trans, in fact, I think it’s one of my greatest sources of shame,” Geller said. “I have at times felt like an inconvenience.”

Since writing the speech, Geller noted that he has continued to grow and mature, and that he is now much more confident.

Senior Isa Wetzler spoke about demi-romanticism, a type of grey-romanticism in which one only finds romantic attachment to someone after developing a strong emotional connection. Demiromantic herself, Wetzler spoke about how pop culture oftens promotes romantic relationships.

“Media has surrounded us with the idea that romantic love is necessary and you can’t be normal without it. That’s wrong. I don’t need to settle down, I don’t need to have a spouse, I’m perfectly content to be without one, and that’s perfectly normal,” Wetzler said.

Senior Rebecca Schein spoke next, mainly focusing on difficulties with her family as a result of her sexuality. Although  Schein grew up in an environment that didn’t explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ+, her parents still expressed a homophobic sentiment. During discussions with her mother in their car, she felt suffocated by her family’s conservative beliefs.

“She told me that she had no problem with ‘alternative lifestyles,’ that more than half of her colleagues are in same-sex relationships. However, when she declared that she would be ‘very disappointed’ if her own child were to live an ‘alternative lifestyle,’ she made it clear that I was expected to conform to her standards,” Schien said.

However, Schein said that she has come to accept herself for who she is, regardless of what her parents say.

Senior Anthony Vieti closed the assembly, performing a self-written fictional short story about a congressman who befriends a lesbian woman, but never makes an effort to defend her sexuality to others.

“I was never strong enough to stand up for her,” Vieti read as the main character. “I was never strong enough to stand up for her until the day her mother called me to the hospital. There she was, lying, almost dead.”

In Vieti’s piece, the main character’s reaction about his friend’s suicide turns into a determination to protect and support others like her. Viete’s slow, deliberate delivery of his story served as a powerful ending to the assembly.

B-block: Race and LGBTQ+ Issues

Renata Shen

From left to right, Dallas Pride, Leetsha Thomas and Dieng Cameron discuss LGBTQ+ and race issues during the B-block assembly.

B-block: Race and LGBTQ+ Issues

The B-block assembly in the auditorium, “Race and LGBTQ+ Issues,” had speakers from the Boston area come to discuss how intersectionality affects race and other LGBTQ+ issues in our society.

Sophomore Anjoli Mathew and senior Paria Reich started the assembly off by defining intersectionality as “a theory which considers that the various aspects of humanity, such as class, race, sexual orientation, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other, but are completely interwoven, and are regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Each of the five speakers then shared their ideas about what it meant to them.

A bubbly and excited Leetsha Thomas, director of of safety and security from Hilton Hotels, discussed how religion was important to her since she was young, and how she still has strong beliefs as an adult now.

“Your race and sexuality, none of that should matter,” Thomas said. “You should be based and judged on who you are, and I still think that to this day. I want to be judged on being Lateesha, whether that’s being black, female, gay, lesbian, a romance novel reader. I am who I am, and that is what matters to me.”

Dallas Pride, Thomas’s wife, gave her interpretation of intersectionality. She said there are many different parts of her identity that affected experiences throughout her life. She also noted how the word “intersectionality” perfectly describes the way her life is.  

Narong Sokhom, Boston Programs Coordinator for BAGLY, explained the struggle of having to decide between two parts of his identity: his Southeast Asian identity and his queer identity.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces for Asian-American and queer people,” Sokhom said. “So I had to decide where I wanted to go to. I ended up choosing to go to the Asian-American club because I still wasn’t comfortable yet.”

An anonymous woman who presented is currently doing research at Harvard where she is studying Islam. Two parts of her identity that are extremely important to her is being biracial and queer.

“Unfortunately, when I was younger, queerness was more pushed to the background,” the woman said. “You can’t necessarily read on my face that I am queer because of the way I choose to present myself. When I was young, it seemed inconvenient to be queer.”

After the panelists’ explanation of their interpretations of intersectionality, Matthew and Reich asked the panelists questions that pertained to their specific areas of interest and experience, such as questions about religion.

Later, when responding to an audience question, panelist Dieng Cameron discussed how our society is making an impact. He explained the importance of the recently-premiered movie, “Love, Simon” which has a gay protagonist, to the LGBTQ+ community. He said that people are spending money on the movie, and when something makes a lot of money, more movies and shows will continue to incorporate LGBTQ+ protagonists and it will become more popular.

“Although it is just a movie and people may not think it has that big of impact, it does. Talking about it on social media and spending money on it brings us towards the right direction,” Cameron said.

C-Block: BETCo

Nick Eddinger

Senior Simon Ivčević plays the French man in a BETCo scene depicting a new Olympic sport: gay water drinking.

C-Block: BETCo

Through short performances, BETCo looked into labels placed on people in the LGBTQ+ community and created a platform for students to discuss the issue after being shown the skits.

Drama teacher Mark VanDerzee introduced BETCo and explained that the students would be performing six short scenes all related to the theme of LGBTQ+ issues.

In the first scene, two dogs owners at the park were overly excited about their dogs, however, one of the characters assumed the other dog and owner were both male, when in fact they were both female. This made the lady very uncomfortable and she and her dog took off. The actors’ voices and presence on stage was big and loud, carrying much emotion to the audience.

Another scene showed a group of students excluding the new kid from sitting at their lunch table since she was a different astrology sign, something she could not help. Even though she was not all the traits her astrology sign predicted, the group assigned these qualities to her based on only this information. The actors in this scene used their body language to portray to the new girl and the audience their feelings without having to say them.

A later skit was located in a restaurant. One girl ordered a burrito and another character ordered a burrito bowl, but the final customer told the waiter she didn’t care what she ate. The waitress tried to offer her a variety of meals, but she announced she did not want any of the options, leaving the waitress confused about what she meant when she said she didn’t care. This scene did a good job addressing the confusion that can come around these issues.

The final scene showed live coverage of a new Olympic game, based on how “gay” the men drank a cup of water. The first man, representing France, scored high, blowing a kiss to the audience, crossing his legs, and drinking with his pinky up. The next man, from China, performed badly after he spilled his water. Finally, the American man won when he referenced a meme in his performance, the most “gay” thing a contestant could have done. This scene weaved humor into the important exploration of the connotation of the word “gay.”

There were a few aspects of the performance that added to the scenes. The members of BETCo wore costumes that helped the audience understand the context of the scene, like an apron in the restaurant or a headset during the live coverage. There was also music while the members changed the set that was related to the scene about to be played, for example, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” before the first scene.

The show was followed by a talk-back where the actors brought up points for discussion and the audience members could ask questions about or relating to the show. Topics discussed included what the individual skits represented and how terms like, “that’s so gay” are used in pop culture and as a microaggression against the LGBTQ+ community. The BETCo cast performed many engaging and well performed skits while bringing up topics that are important and relevant today.

C-block: LGBTQ+ Poetry

Taeyeon Kim

Students work on their creative pieces after reading and responding to the LGBTQ+ poetry.

C-block: LGBTQ+ Poetry

“You do not have to be good.”

“For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.”

“Like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”

“Meanwhile.”

“Meanwhile the world goes on.”

Students and teachers quietly recited the most powerful or memorable lines from the poem “Wild Geese” by lesbian poet Mary Oliver in a participation-heavy session that was reminiscent of an English class.

For most, Day of Dialogue is all about the big assemblies and formal presentations in the auditorium, in the black box or in any of the bigger spaces around the school. But the C-block session on LGBTQ+ poetry was different from the other sessions: there were less than 30 desks filled by the audience, and it required a lot more audience participation than the others.

Latin teacher Skye Shirley began the session by introducing herself as a bisexual poet and telling the audience about how the next 50 minutes would go: the group would be reading poetry from poets that were or are either openly LGBTQ+ or have been accepted to be LGBTQ+ by scholars.

First, she had the group flip through the packet of poems for a pre-reading activity. The group members would participate by calling out the names of some of the poems in the packet — no hand-raising required. 

After that, Shirley moved into the main part of the session by instructing everyone to find the poems they wanted to hear read, either by themselves or by someone else. Afterwards, people would call out their favorite words, lines or phrases in popcorn-style participation. The comments would contain no traditional poetry analysis, just feelings. Again, she warned that there would be silence, and it could be awkward, but it was all part of a process.

“If you’re feeling shy, just remember, yesterday was really a Day of Silence, and understanding what that means for people in the LGBT community. Today is really about action, so I’m going to ask you to put yourself out there,” Shirley said.

She added that while she understood that some people wouldn’t want to talk, it would really mean a lot for people to participate even a little more than they expected.

One of the poems read aloud was “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes, suggested by sophomore Oliver Galea. The poem rhythmically lamented the irony of the amount of inequality and injustice present in the supposed land of the free.

Many students participated by reading their favorite lines. They read lines like, “America never was America to me,” “There’s never been equality for me,” “Never has been yet,” “And yet must be,” among others. The silences that marked the spaces between each quote weren’t awkward rather they were powerful and purposeful, and they were an integral part of the activity.

With a few minutes left, Shirley introduced the final part of the session: do something artistic to reflect on how the poems made different people feel certain things. It could be anything from collecting lines from favorite poems to drawing, journaling or using phrases in the poems as prompts for your own.

The session was a step back from lectures and information that had filled the day; it was meant to move people with beautiful literature, not direct accusations or statements, and more than anything, it was a time to feel and reflect.

From+left+to+right%2C+panelists+freshmen+Bird+Kindall%2C+Alex+Bunis+and+Katherine%2FSteve+O%E2%80%99Connor+and+senior+Yoni+Segal.
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C-block: Trans/Non-Binary Identity

From left to right, panelists freshmen Bird Kindall, Alex Bunis and Katherine/Steve O’Connor and senior Yoni Segal.

From left to right, panelists freshmen Bird Kindall, Alex Bunis and Katherine/Steve O’Connor and senior Yoni Segal.

Renata Shen

From left to right, panelists freshmen Bird Kindall, Alex Bunis and Katherine/Steve O’Connor and senior Yoni Segal.

Renata Shen

Renata Shen

From left to right, panelists freshmen Bird Kindall, Alex Bunis and Katherine/Steve O’Connor and senior Yoni Segal.

C-block: Trans/Non-Binary Identity

Freshmen Bird Kindall, Alex Bunis, Katherine/Steve O’Connor and senior Yoni Segal shared their experiences about being transgender or non-binary individuals in an interactive panel filled with advice and personal anecdotes for LGBTQ+ students and allies. They discussed their experiences regarding gender-neutral bathrooms, teachers, pronouns and microaggressions at the high school as non-cisgender students and how those experiences have affected them.

 

D-block: Telling Our Stories

D-block’s Day of Dialogue assembly was, like A-block, a Telling Our Stories assembly where students and staff spoke about personal experiences in relation to the LGBTQ+ community. This block was full of emotional and powerful speeches with the right amount of humor mixed in.

First to speak was senior Eva Earnest who described her experience as pansexual and growing up knowing her dad did not conform to gender binary. Earnest’s dad told her when she was 10 that he did drag, and that she was supposed to keep this a secret. Her dad’s secretiveness made Earnest keep her own pansexual identity secret for a long time. However, a few months ago when her dad came out as genderqueer, she saw a better example of how she wanted to live her life, and became more open about her sexuality.

Senior Hunter Amory started his speech by saying, “I’m not gay, but I think my boyfriend might be.” Amory described his long struggle with his identity, including freshman and sophomore year where he dated boys, but also junior year where he dated a girl. He tried many different labels, but none felt right. However, with help from people who cared about him, Amory was able to come to the conclusion that he is attracted to femininity, but recognizes that this may not be how he identifies for the rest of his life.

Next, senior Nicole Collins spoke about the differences between living in a more conservative suburb of Chicago and living in Brookline since she moved here two years ago. In a powerful speech sprinkled with humor, she addressed transgender issues and her experiences in Brookline.

Juniors Sydney Chase and Kaya Andrews went up to the podium together, alternating speaking about their bisexual and gay identities. Chase spoke in prose, while Andrews gave her speech in the form of slam poetry. Both methods were extremely heartfelt and moved the audience.

Freshman Tristin Constantin explained her journey to realizing she was transgender. She said that as a child in France, she wanted to do ballet like her sister, play with her sister’s toys and other stereotypical “girly” things. Constantin said that at the time, she did not realize what this meant, but later in life, she would look at women’s bodies and wanted to look like them. Thus, she wanted to lose weight to make her hip look more feminine, and developed unsafe eating and metal practices that threatened her health. When confronted with these issues, she realized her transgender identity and said that almost instantly, the issues that had lead her to unhappiness left. She ended her speech by saying that now she is happy with who she is.

Latin teacher Skye Shirley used her Latin expertise to examine the word, “bisexual.” She said that people wonder if because she identifies as bisexual, not pansexual, she only believes there are two genders. She provided a rebuttal to this statement in which she said that if one were to determine sexuality based on roots of words, all gay people would have to be happy and all lesbians would have to be from the island of Lesbos in Greece. She went on to share her story as a bisexual woman.

Senior Paria Reich described how her sexual orientation ties into the intricacy of her family dynamics. She also mentioned how, given that she is a senior, she wanted to speak because this was her last chance, and had wanted to in the past but previously felt she had nothing important to share.

English teacher Kevin Wang ended the assembly with a lesson for the audience: think about what you are saying, because someone might be listening, and the words that come out of your mouth might really affect them. This moral came from a story in which Wang described how he said a lot of homophobic things as a kid. Then, when his brother came out to Wang years later, the brother was not sure if Wang would accept him because of his past actions.  Wang told the audience to learn from his mistakes, because it was an experience that will always be with him.

During+the+F-block+assembly%2C+LGBTQ%2B+advocates+from+the+Boston+area+spoke+about+the+history+of+LGBTQ%2B+rights+and+acceptances.
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F-block: LGBTQ+ History and Politics

During the F-block assembly, LGBTQ+ advocates from the Boston area spoke about the history of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptances.

During the F-block assembly, LGBTQ+ advocates from the Boston area spoke about the history of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptances.

Sofia Reynoso

During the F-block assembly, LGBTQ+ advocates from the Boston area spoke about the history of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptances.

Sofia Reynoso

Sofia Reynoso

During the F-block assembly, LGBTQ+ advocates from the Boston area spoke about the history of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptances.

F-block: LGBTQ+ History and Politics

Four guest speakers at the high school hoped to bring the LGBTQ history and politics so often omitted from the history books into the spotlight. Their stories about HIV/AIDs history, marriage equality, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and transgender rights informed students about the lives and struggles of many LGBTQ people.

The first speaker was Marvin Kabakoff, who discussed the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Kabakoff works on the board of Boston’s LGBTQ archives known as the History Project, and he is also the service leader at Am Tikva, Boston’s LGBTQ synagogue. With the History Project, he hopes to ensure that the history of the LGBTQ movement is passed down through the generations.

Kabakoff explained that from the initial bewilderment and panic among the gay community to the government’s refusal to respond to the crisis, the story of the AIDS crisis was full of heartbreak as well as triumph as treatments were discovered, and the gay community was humanized in the eyes of many straight people.

“It’s really important to know where you come from,” Kabakoff explained. “To know what we had to struggle through to get where we are today, and that the same struggles continue.”

Reverend Irene Monroe spoke next, explaining some of the history of the LGBTQ community’s struggle for marriage equality. Monroe’s public work in newspapers and radio shows have helped explain the role of religion in the LGBTQ community, and she was the first African-American lesbian to be named Grand Marshall in the Boston Pride Celebration.

The struggle for gay marriage to be legalized nationwide was won after a long battle, and Monroe stated how happily surprised she was that it was won in her lifetime. She also discussed the legalization of interracial marriages, and how the case for that was built on how all people had the right to marry who they love, which applies to the LGBTQ community as well.

Finally, Monroe mentioned the connection between religion and the LGBTQ community and the people who discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. She explained that God and Jesus were not against homosexuals, ending the statement by confidently declaring, “and you can take that to the bank!”

“Being a Christian minister on a good day, I would fool myself not to address issues like Islamophobia and the notion of anti-Semitism,” Monroe stated. “As a matter of fact, I think I’m a better Christian by having done that and to recognize not only other forms of religion like Buddhism and Hinduism, but also atheism. What I’m trying to do is help people be their best person.”

The next speaker was Lieutenant Colonel Shannon McLaughlin, who has served in the military for nearly 20 years and currently works as the lead attorney at the Massachusetts National Guard. She challenged the military’s lack of recognition granted to same-sex spouses in regards to the valuable military and veteran benefits as the lead plaintiff in McLaughlin v. Panetta.

McLaughlin described the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in regards to gay members of the military that was adopted in the early 1990s as part of the Clinton administration. Gay members of the military could serve, but they risked being kicked out of the job if they were outed and evidence was found during an investigation into their life. This is exactly what happened to McLaughlin and her wife in 2009.

“We had dreams of starting a family together, and someone found out I bought a house with my wife,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin fought throughout the investigation with the support of her family and friends, and ultimately her work in the case helped to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The were a lot of struggles to reach that point, and she even had to tell her commander in the military that she was suing the United States government and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“Everyone {in the building} knew that I was the lesbian that was being investigated, and it was extremely, extremely stressful,” McLaughlin explained.

The final speaker was Mason Dunn, who advocated for the human rights of transgender people. Dunn is the executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, with the stated mission of “ending oppression and discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

Dunn explained the victory for transgender rights in 2011, when Massachusetts ruled that it was illegal to discriminate based on gender identity within education, housing, employment and many other areas. However, this ruling did not include anti-discrimination policies in public accommodations and facilities, like public bathrooms.

That victory would finally come in 2016, but it is again at risk and will be brought to a vote on the November ballot. Dunn stressed the importance of voting in favor of transgender rights and helping more transgender people to freely express their identity.

“One in ten americans say that they have seen a ghost,” Dunn stated. “Fewer than that say that they have seen a transgender person.”

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