Day of Dialogue 2021

GSA co-presidents Erin Kosa and James Kindall

 


Telling Our Stories: Leehy Gertner, News Editor

The Telling Our Stories assembly opened with lively songs by Queen and Troye Sivan projected through a Zoom webinar, setting the atmosphere for Day of Dialogue on Wednesday, May 12.

Speakers were able to share their range of experiences of self-discovery and acceptance through speeches of varying tones—from humorous and optimistic to more solemn.

Co-president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and senior Erin Kosa started the assembly with a preview of the day’s events and an introduction of the day’s first speaker, GSA co-president and senior James Kindall.

Kindall shared his experiences as a transgender man with a humorous, upbeat attitude in the form of a stand-up comedy routine.

“I used to vehemently defend the notion that trans people and cis people were the same. That they were equal, and that they shouldn’t be treated differently because of their sex,” Kindall said. “I still believe that today, but with one key difference. Trans people and cis people are equal and they should be treated the same, but they’re not the same. Because trans people are funnier.”

Kindall ended his speech on a slightly more serious, yet optimistic, note, reassuring people that they will be okay in the end. He said that things really do get better eventually, and that when they do one may look back at the bad times and laugh—because for him, laughter is healing.

The tone of the assembly changed with freshman Noah Schlondorff’s speech, where he described his relationship with his grandmother, or his aji, and how that has impacted his coming out. He said that his grandmother is caring and warm and that their relationship is important to him, but there are some things that separate them.

“Aji’s comments scare me. They make me wonder how our precious, current relationship could change if I came out to her. They make me wonder if she could love me; all of me. And frankly, I’m not so sure she could,” Schlondorff said.

Schlondorff said that he has not, and perhaps will not, come out to his grandmother for the sake of preserving their relationship—and that that is okay.

In her speech, junior Kate Cutler said that there is a process of discovery to every identity. There was a lot of pressure and anxiety with labels throughout her journey, but she came to realize that you don’t need them to survive.

“Labels don’t actually predict your future. They just give you context for your past and present, and you don’t need them,” Cutler said.

For junior Oliver Slayton, who identifies as genderqueer, labels were sometimes placed upon them without their control.

“Being visibly different is hard, no matter what it is that makes you different. I have presented as visibly queer for much of my life, and the world has not always been the most welcoming to me,” Slayton said.

In one instance, Slayton said they were singled out by an administrator who said their outfit was inappropriate—even though Slayton was in a group of their cisgender peers wearing far more revealing clothing.

“Because I’m a strong self-advocate, I sought out some of my trusted adults on the fourth floor and set up a meeting where I could share my opinion and to talk to the administrator in question,” Slayton said. “In my experience, it is always better to have a conversation than to let something that someone said twist you into a knot.”

Librarian Ann Collins shared her own journey of self-discovery. Collins recounted how she was a freshman in college the first time she heard the word “lesbian.” She was kicked out of her sorority for associating with lesbians, and faced anger from her parents once they realized that she identified as a lesbian herself.

“When I moved to Boston, I vowed to never lie about who I am. I would never put myself in another situation like the one I survived in college. And that’s worked out really well for me. I get to walk down these halls every day, surrounded by the awesomeness of you,” Collins said.

Social Studies teacher Laura Honeywood closed the assembly with a reminder that everyone, including herself, has unintentional and implicit biases.

“We do have a choice: do the work to become the change that our beautifully complex and fluidly diverse community demands us. Or bury our heads in the narcissistic sand,” Honeywood said. “I offer this as a small, petty example of the mundane and myriad ways that we, each of us damaged, imperfect things must choose between trying to be perfect and trying to be better.”


Schuyler Bailar Presentation: Anya Rao, Staff Writer

Swimmer Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division 1 Athlete, gave a speech to the high school via Zoom on Wednesday, May 12 as part of the Day of Dialogue assemblies.

Bailar began by displaying photos to illustrate his early life and identity. He spoke about his early interests, such as skateboarding and water sports, his close relationship with his brother and his experience in high school. He said that high school brought about a multitude of changes and confusion for Bailar in regards to his gender identity.

“The number one change was that I felt this new need to fit in, and I conformed to this,” Bailar said.

He said that throughout his childhood, he had presented more masculinely, yet there were issues of pressure and isolation because of this that arose when he started high school.

Bailar said that bathrooms became a strong stresser, and to avoid being kicked out of both the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, he would walk all the way across campus in order to use the teachers-only bathrooms. After a certain point, he said he decided to present as more feminine and go forward using the girls’ bathroom, though this had negative effects on his mental state and confidence.

As a successful swimmer throughout middle and high school, Bailar was being recruited from numerous Ivy League colleges, including Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale. He had committed to the Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving team during high school, but ended up fracturing his back in a biking accident which took him out of the pool for several months.

He said that this time away from swimming with nothing to occupy him led him to struggle with depression, self-harm and an eating disorder. Upon reaching out for help, his therapist recommended that he take a gap year after high school, to focus on his mental health. Bailar said he was a bit taken aback by this advice.

“I had never been taught to prioritize my mental health, let alone speak about it and put my life on hold for it,” he said.

Bailar went forward with the gap year during which he spent time in a treatment center, and he said it was there that he discovered he was transgender.

Throughout this period of realization, he said he remained in close contact with the head coach of the Harvard women’s swim team Stephanie Morawski. Bailar said that when he called her one day to tell her he was transgender, he was terrified that this might jeapordize his chances of going to Harvard.

“I told her, ‘I am transgender, and I don’t know what that implies with my sport, but I know I want to swim,’” Bailar said.

According to Bailar, Morawski responded with great support and coordinated with the Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving coach so that they could offer him the choice to compete on whichever team he felt most comfortable. Bailar said that this choice was incredibly difficult because it would so strongly dictate his future.

“I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t relieved. I was terrified,” he said.

Bailar said that this prompted an internal battle; he now had to choose between being on the women’s team where he felt he had more potential and would continue to possess his past accolades in the sport, or the men’s team where he may have less success athletically but could be his authentic self.

Shortly after, Bailar met with the captains of the Harvard men’s team and their support, coupled with words of encouragement from Morawski led Bailar to finally make his decision to join the men’s team.

“ said ‘The reality is that you are on the edge of a cliff and you have a safety net beneath you; you just need to jump.’ Nobody really had any idea what we were doing, but we wanted to try,” Bailar said.

Bailar said that deciding to take this jump was difficult but was incredibly rewarding.

“For the first time in my life, I was competing as just me,” he said.

He closed his presentation by answering audience questions about memories with his teammates, deadnaming, confronting transphobia, self-acceptance and biological sex. Many of his answers can be found on his website and more information regarding transgender literacy on his Instagram.


Pridefest: Anoushka Mallik, News Managing Editor & Phoebe Kallaher, Arts Managing Editor

Bustling with people, laughter, games and candy, the quad was filled with cheer and celebration as students came together for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance’s (GSA) Pridefest, celebrating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+) community.

Following the assemblies and discussions during Day of Dialogue, Pridefest was held in the quad where members of the high school community could play games such as Trans Trivia and Queel of Fortune and win candy, do arts and crafts or simply socialize with friends.

According to GSA co-president, senior Erin Kosa, the event was in the planning stages for some time and the decision for Pridefest came from a desire to do something fun during the ‘Days of’ week.

“We’ve been planning for about a month now, and we had a lot of changes along the way,” Kosa said. “Originally we were planning a traditional Day of Dialogue, with more somber stuff going on, but we found out about the Days Of all happening at once so we decided to go for something about as fun as we could make it.”

Kamini Bhaudaria said that she enjoyed the festival and learned a lot.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to be here, but I’m really glad that I came and that I got to learn so much,” Bhaudaria said.

Freshmen Jaime Hynes and Adelina Ortiz attended Pridefest as well. Ortiz said the festival was a great opportunity to connect with other students not necessarily in their classes.

“It’s nice seeing a whole bunch of friends and stuff like that, and reconnecting with people here,” Ortiz said. “And the games are really fun too.”

Pridefest was the high school’s first pride festival, and Hynes added that she was excited to see how it would go.

“It’s just nice that BHS is having its first pride festival,” Hynes said. “We wanted to come check it out.”

Kosa felt that the festival went quite well and said the focus was on celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.

“ gone really well. I think we’ve all been really happy with the way it’s turned out, Kosa said. “Today is about celebrating queer lives and queer people.”