As if anticipating the National Queer Youth Walkout, the sun shone a bit brighter as hundreds of students and staff gathered in front of the STEM wing at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 11. The walkout protested anti-LGBTQ+ and transphobic legislation, specifically Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the directive to consider gender-affirming healthcare as child abuse in Texas.
This walkout is part of a nationwide effort, as students around the country walked out at the same time as part of the Queer Youth Assemble’s initiative.
The two speakers at the walkout, senior Oliver Slayton and sophomore Caelum Dulla, spoke about the legislature itself and their own experiences dealing with transphobia.
Slayton said the transphobic legislation adds to a myriad of hardships queer people face.
“Lawmakers are choosing to make it even harder to be you in a world that is already filled with challenges and opposition,” Slayton said.
Dulla delivered an emotional and eloquent speech, describing his personal experience being a transgender man. Dulla said he often finds himself fearing for his safety, even when doing something as simple as using a public restroom.
“Living in Brookline, I have been incredibly fortunate. I have not had my well-being threatened, and I have an incredible queer community to support me,” said Dulla.” Yet despite this, everytime I walk into a men’s bathroom, I have to ask myself, ‘Is today the day I walk out of here with a bloody nose and a black eye?’”
Slayton said there is certainly a level of privilege that comes with living in Brookline, as the recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation does not affect the town directly.
“In Brookline, these problems can feel distant, but the ramifications of these laws will have earth-shattering effects for the people just like you and me who want to see themselves in education, want to play on a sports team with their friends, or who want to go to the doctor’s office and be called by their real name,” Slayton said.
Slayton said they were pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who participated in the walkout.
“It’s more than I expected and exactly what I hoped for. In the beginning it felt like a tricky ask given everything that’s going on in the world; for people to really focus in on a topic that’s really heavy to a lot us, but I’m so grateful for the support of the community that we’ve built here in Brookline and I’m grateful to everyone who showed up today,” Slayton said.
Dulla said he hopes people who participated educate themselves more as they continue to take part in social activism.
“A lot of cisgender people don’t really understand the impact that denial of gender-affirming care can have on transgender kids because they can’t imagine being in that situation. I definitely think when you are fighting for transgender rights, it’s important to have that information and to have a little bit more empathy for the people they are fighting for,” Dulla said.
According to Slayton, the number of community members at the walkout represents something big.
“The amount of people that showed up today shows that we stand with each other, and that when one of us falls we’re here to pick them up and when someone’s coming for one of us they’re coming for all of us,” Slayton said. “I don’t think that this means that we’re perfect, I think we have a lot of room to grow, but I think that everyone who showed up today says they’re ready to grow.”
Slayton said the ultimate message of the walkout is one of love and support.
“I hope that people walk away with the message that we love you, we’ll protect you, we’re here for one another, and being you will never be the wrong thing,” Slayton said.