For this year’s Day of Dialogue, the high school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) created a website to provide students with the same resources that would have been part of this important day. While originally intended to be April 2, April 27 served as a day dedicated to learning about issues pertinent to the LGBTQ+ community, and these resources will continue to be available online for students to explore freely.
Telling our Stories
In past years the telling our stories assembly has taken place in the auditorium or classrooms, with students standing in front of their peers on the stage. This year, due to COVID-19, the GSA had to adapt the presentations to an online platform.
Students were able to share their experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community through videos or written work.
Junior Eve Jones talked about having two experiences with her identity – her Brookline experience, and her Pittsburgh experience. Jones joked that when she visits her Catholic grandmother in Pittsburgh, she becomes “straight”.
“So to my grandma, I’m straight. I pick out straight outfits to wear whenever I go visit her. I pick out my skinniest mom jeans and a nice sweater that I don’t tuck in to my jeans, which takes so much effort. The queer coded french tuck is second nature to me at this point,” Jones said.
Jones also acknowledged that the high school community can be welcoming, to the point where she had a moment where she forgets straight people exist, but the community has also reminded her that not everyone is accepting.
Another student who shared their story was junior Esme DiStefano-Forti. DiStefano-Forti who talked about what it means to have two moms, and some of the discrimination their family has faced. While DiStefano-Forti’s parents were adopting her sister, they realized only one of her moms names could be on the legal documents since they were both mothers and there was only one slot for “mother”.
“It was like she was a nanny, someone who helped take care of kids but would never be seen as a parent,” DiStefano-Forti said.
DiStefano-Forti added that just because she has two mothers doesn’t mean she’s any different.
“I’m on my phone for the same outrageous amount of time as my friends are everyday. I’m no different. I’m raised by two moms and that’s different, but I’m not being raised any differently,” DiStefano-Forti said.
Through freshman Mila Stojanov’s video, the audience was able to get a glimpse at what it’s like having people who aren’t accepting of your identity. Stojanov talked about the impact of her step-dad and dad thinking they were supportive of her, but also using homophobic slurs such as dyke.
“He told me not to let those words hurt me, and sometimes I don’t know what would hurt more: if he says those things to hurt me, or if he doesn’t care that they do,” Stojanov said.
Using a different platform to share his story, senior Teo Ruffini Maiques used written words to compare his story of discovering his sexuality to Tupac’s poem, “The Rose That Grew from Concrete.” At the end of his story, he explains how he diverges from the poem.
“I grew enough to see these other roses persevering in their own planes of concrete,” Ruffini Maiques said. “Roses that were unique and beautiful, and served as inspiration for this rose to continue growing while surrounded by concrete.”
Similar to Ruffini Maiques, senior Max Siegel also talked about the struggles of coming out in a society full of gender constructs, especially when people have already assumed your sexuality.
“It felt like coming out meant admitting defeat. All those middle schoolers were right, I was gay, and the worst part was that they knew before I did. I was mad.” Siegal said.
Siegel also talked about toxic masculinity, the stigma around not fitting traditional male gender roles, and how it creates labels about being male and female.
“We think that femininity makes people less male,” Siegal said. “So when you assume that feminine men must be gay, what you are really saying is gay men are somehow less male. ”
To share her experience, junior Amber Mickelson, talked about her first kisses and the varying ways people experience love. She shared that people should not be afraid to feel love in these different ways.
“Don’t blame yourself when love turns out too confusing, feels too rushed or too slow, or you are too in the experience to understand it for yourself,” Mickelson said. “Love and your definition of it is constantly changing, don’t be afraid if you change too.”
This section of the presentation highlighted the importance of feelings represented in the media.
Many articles included extensive lists of LGBTQ+ movies, books, and musicians. The recommendations included everything from well known movies such as “Call Me By Your Name,” to more minor artists like Mila Jam.
A few articles and videos explained the term queerbaiting: when it is suggested that two characters of the same sex have sexual relations, but it is never confirmed. These articles and videos discussed the dilemma of not fully being recognized and portrayed in the media.
One of the videos drew upon the lack of LGBTQ+ representations in Disney films and the reasons behind it. Disney wants praise and credit but have yet to include an openly gay character. The narrator emphasized the need for more representation in Disney due to the fact that they are responsible for the majority of the media consumed by children.
The last link was to a song called “Origin of Love” from the musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch. This song beautifully and metaphorically portrayed the ways society has created heteronormative relationships.
The website also presented links for those wanting to be allies, aiming to teach about confronting bias, microaggressions, and proper terminology.
Harvard’s Implicit Bias Tests presented a set of words, with one test relating to sexuality and another to gender identity. The test prompted the sorting of these words and positive and negative adjectives. Through this process, the test gauges unconscious bias. This bias is categorized as either slight, moderate, strong, or no preference.
Another set of links on the website showed resources from the University of South California (USC). One document asked the reader a series of questions about homophobic behavior, or how they responded to bigoted behavior, to make the reader confront their own internalized homophobia.
Another document from the University of South California guides the reader through a certain world to make them feel what it might be like to not be straight.
Two videos, “Things Not To Say To A Trans Person” and “Things Not To Say To A Non-Binary Person”, outlined certain insensitive questions and comments transgender and non-binary people face. While oftentimes these questions are not meant to be hurtful, they end up harming many.
Along with things to avoid saying, the Day of Dialogue website provided links for proper terminology for terms relating to sexual orientation and gender, along with a frequently asked questions section for these topics.
The final link presented a video of a poem titled “Straight People.” The poem discussed themes of acceptance and discrimination while still using elements of humor.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Students
The Day of Dialogue website also has a tab of resources for LGBTQ+ students, including ones that can be used during self-isolation.
The Brookline Alliance of Gay Lesbian Transgender Youth (BAGLY) offers online meetings. Trevor Space is another online community for LGBTQ+ youth to communicate with each other and discuss issues facing them. Boston Gay Lesbian and Straight Supporters, or GLASS, another organization that aims to support LGBTQ youth of color, was also featured.
The LGBTQ+ Youth Commission also offers resources, such as virtual calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Day of Dialogue website recommends different media with LGBTQ+ themes and representation to read. The website also presented the most tolerant colleges and universities for LGBTQ+
USC’s LGBT Resource Center website gives several activities like icebreakers, discussions, and games to do with friends and family. An article on coming out to parents by Teen Vogue is also on the website.
This section of the website provides a series of links offering students the opportunity to gain insight into the history of LGBTQ+ rights in America, and around the world.
The first website linked, a History.com article about the Stonewall Riots, explains the beginning of the gay rights movement, and the riots that popularized it. The article gives insight into a movement and community not frequently covered in school and was full of fresh information regarding the New York City bar scene. It also explains the major role bars played in gay culture prior to the riots, and how instrumental they were in the advancement of the movement.
The story continues with the next article, this one from The Atlantic, detailing “How Gay Marriage Became a Constitutional Right.” It goes into depth on the struggle that has existed since the Stonewall riots over achieving marriage equality for all couples.
The next two articles, a Vanity Fair video about the Reagan administration’s failure to respond to the AIDS crisis, and a piece from the United States Holocaust Museum describing the treatment of gay men during the holocaust, further delve into the extent of homophobia in recent world history.
Finally, the last link provided was a slideshow displayed LGBTQ+ figures through Ancient mythology.
A last portion of the website created by the high school’s GSA serves to highlight particular LGBTQ+ figures throughout history. The website links to multiple short video biographies of particular icons within the community, such as Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, and Matthew Shepherd. The videos highlight their achievements, and the homophobia and/or transphobia they experienced during their lifetimes.
The other links under this tab connected to written blurbs about famous figures in the community, including one Advocate article providing brief biographies of “20 LGBTQ People Who Changed the World,” and a series of short biographies produced by members of the Driscoll school GSA.
Overall, the high school GSA has done a fantastic job managing to make this important day feel as significant as ever to the high school community, and we recommend checking out their website to explore this broad variety of resources yourself.