Chicago Public Schools student asks, "How tolerant is my school toward gay teens?"

Chicago Public Schools student asks, "How tolerant is my school toward gay teens?"

Many people here at Hancock High School think the Hancock community is mostly accepting of the small LGBT community that it has, because you don’t hear students or teachers talking about negatively about it. The gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual/transgender (LGBT)  students feel that Hancock is a sort of a haven for them, where they can be themselves without worrying about being judged or discriminated against, but is it all just on the surface?

I personally had some negative experiences just because I’m in a same sex relationship and openly gay. Being in a same sex relationship is exactly the same as a heterosexual relationship, but there is a small difference, and that’s there are no female or male roles.  Both partners work as a team, to be happy, and to grow stronger together. But even though we live in a time of increasing acceptance, there’s still a minority of people that are intolerant of it.

I remember one time last year, it was in between periods, and I was at my locker.  My boyfriend came up to me, and we were talking.  When the bell rang, I gave him a goodbye kiss, and someone from a group of people that was behind us said, “Faggot” in a low voice, but loud enough for me to hear it.  I looked around to who said it, but never found out who it was. Earlier that same year, I was called a gay slur by a student, and I brought it to the attention of the Dean of Students because I was not about to start putting up with that kind of stuff. The student apologized to me later the same day.  It really makes me reconsider how “tolerant” I think the student body is.

Maria (a.k.a Cookie) Guzman, a sophomore at Hancock, shared her thoughts about the level of acceptance this school has.   “I don’t think they [the student body] support it [homosexuality] because when my brother was here last year, I saw people making fun of him because he’s gay. I don’t think that’s fair because they didn’t get the time to know him, yet the only thing they knew about him is that he’s gay, and they didn’t accept that about him.”

Maria has also shared what she has seen and heard from other people.  “Whenever my brother was with you [the author of this article], and you would be kissing him, some people would say, “Ewww that’s disgusting!” Or “Are they gay?!””

Maria has stood up against one of her classmates who said some obscene things about her brother: “Hey isn’t your brother gay?” asked the student.

“Yeah,” said Maria.

“Eww that’s disgusting,” spewed the student.

Maria got angry and responded, “What the hell? Why would you say that?! No he’s not! Why would you say that?! That has nothing with being gay or not.”

Jesus Guzman, a Hancock graduate shared, “Hancock has this feeling of welcoming, overall teachers and staff are the nicest people I have ever meet. They make sure everyone including guests all feel welcome.  No one feels disrespected in anyway. In general I believe LGBT people are treated equally to all others at Hancock and that's just cool. Students all have mixed views; you have those who don't care, those who are O.K., and those who are rude about it. Everyone expresses it differently, so go figure.”

Jesus has told me that he has experienced, and seen some bullying at Hancock.  “I have witnesses and experienced harassment at Hancock, all differently. I've seen people make fun of gay guys, and I've been called a faggot at school by your typical homophobes.”

Jesus also said, “If you’re totally against it, that’s O.K.  That's your opinion and I respect that; however, you shouldn't spread your hate.”

Some people have said that our relationship is an inspiration for other people, maybe to encourage them to be more open or to come out.  “I remember my friend telling me in class that we're an inspiration, and that we have courage [to be open].”

Homophobic behaviors and bullying are not only seen here at Hancock.  According to the 2011 National School Climate Survey, “Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT students, the overwhelming majority of whom hear homophobic remarks and experience harassment or assault at school because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.”  The survey also provides these statistics:

84.9% of students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g. “That’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 91.4% reported they felt distressed because of this language.

71.3% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g. “dyke” or faggot”) frequently or often.

61.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.

56.9% of students have reported hearing homophobic and negative remarks about gender expression from their teachers or other school staff.

Sarah Baranoff, former sponsor of Hancock's Gay-Straight Alliance, also shared with me her opinion of the effect the Hancock community has on the LGBT community.  “It’s kind of weird," she says, "because it has three perspectives.  You have your people that are very accepting, whether they’re in the [LGBT] community or they’re straight allies.  They’re just like, 'Eh, it’s cool.'  Then there are those who don’t care one way or the other. They don’t feel the need to participate in a sort of social or political activism for acceptance, but they also think there’s nothing wrong with it.  They’re just like, 'That’s your life.  This is my life.'  Then there is a small community of people who are bothered by it, and I’ve noticed that tends to be more of the case with parents, actually, then it does with students. A lot of parents have difficulty accepting it from their kids.  They might not care if someone else said, 'I’m in the Gay-Straight Alliance!'  They’re like, 'Oh, that’s nice.'  Then suddenly, it’s their kid, and they’re like, 'Oh my god!  What’s wrong with you?!' "

Even if other students kept their opinions to themselves, they still resort to talking behind the LGBT students’ backs.

“I’ve heard people talk about others just because they like the same sex.  I would say to those people, ‘Don’t judge others because they’re different.  Let them be themselves, and let them be happy,’” said Marlene Basaldua, a senior at Hancock.

How tolerant is your school toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth?

By Albert Silva, Hancock Senior

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