I found it really telling how several of the students spoke about how they could not figure out why they felt different or felt that something was not right. I think it was a poignant example that sexual orientation and gender identity is not a choice. In a couple of cases the students grew up in homes where being gay was not even discussed. The student didn't even know what the words "lesbian" or "homosexual" were. Furthermore, some students were from homes that strongly did not accept homosexuality. Knowing the power of socialization and nurture, I think it really sheds light on the fact that these students did not choose to be that way.
Another message was to be mindful about other people. Using language like "That's so gay," or "You're a fag" is hurtful to those who are gay. And, by using that language it really limits how those of us who are not gay are allowed to act and I don't want to be put into a really narrow box. There is a spectrum for gender and sex and sexuality, but our culture refuses to acknowledge the spectrum or allow anyone to live along the spectrum. Instead we are pushed into a box at one end of the spectrum.
Also, realize that all people are different and this includes those who are glbt. They might be categorized as gay or lesbian or transgender but be careful that you don't turn that category into a stereotype. Each person is an individual with his/her own preferences about how to act, talk etc... Try to see each person as individuals and do not make assumptions about how they are. And in doing so, don't make their status a master status. In other words, if a friend comes out to you, thank them for trusting you but going forward don't make every conversation about being gay. Realize that they have a multitude of other interests in their lives such as school, sports, movies, etc...
Lastly, I also think it was revealing how strong the agents of socialization were in their development and acceptance (or not) of their selves. In some cases, their family had them convinced that they were not gay. But in the end, they did not have a choice about their sexuality, it just comes with who they are. If you are interested in resources or how you can help checkout itgetsbetter.org and stopbullying.gov
Here are some notes from the panel:
Sydney (she/her) –
Identity comes from many things. Some things you can change or can’t change. Sexual identity is similar. Some people make assumptions about you, some don’t.
All the way through 5th grade, I kept a diary. It started very traditional “I like ponies” and gradually changed to “why does everyone want me to have a boyfriend?” As time goes on you question these parts of their identities. I didn’t realize that girls can be gay until 15. But that is not the largest part of my identity. (Master status). My sexuality is
Q: do you feel that society overemphasizes sexuality?
First time I realized I was not straight is 5th grade. Family is very conservative; lead to medication, hospitalization and depression. “Gay people are damned to hell.” With help through therapy realized I was bisexual. I play softball so I hear a lot of dyke jokes. Maybe people aren’t as accepting as I thought they’d be. “Everything is gay!”
Q: was this pejorative joking?
Fr year I told my best friend and she outed me. At the time it was really hard for me because she outed me.
Recently, I became comfortable with who I am. I was with a boy who was taking advantage of me. He was convinced that he could turn me straight. And he made me think I was wrong. It took me a long time to realize that I was sexually assaulted and it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t because of who I am. I have met some great friends now and a really supportive LGBTQ community.
Started telling friends a couple years ago. Built it up. And invited friends out like a big reveal. I originally told them I was bisexual, then gay, then no labels, but overall never really changed.
Q: “just in case you decide to be straight”
Q: why so difficult to come to terms with what you were? You? Society? (Sapir Whorf)
Really, sexuality never changed just the words that I use to describe it have changed. I told my sister, it was fine, but I was worried to tell my parents. I had to tell my dad to avoid the awkwardness. My dad accepted but my mom had trouble with it. Mom asked me awkward questions, but in the end I felt very liberated. I lost a lot of people I care about – I even have a whole side of my family that won’t even talk to me. On me and my twin sister’s bday, I don’t get a call from my grandma but my sis does.
Around middle school, everyone kind of knew before me. I talked to a lot of girls, but I was more feminine. (binary problems) 13-14 is too young to really understand it. I told parents and parents said it’s just a phase. Parents have an outline/plan for their kids. Just came out on social media. Coming out – socially first because SHS is overall supportive. Fr-JR was really hard. Fr. Year was awful, but then I thought bi first bc safety net. Jr. year I was more coming to terms. I didn’t tell my mom, but I still didn’t tell my dad. Coming out doesn’t get easier, it gets better. SHS is a good place.
Q: Safety net?
But senior year was really good. Surrounded by a good community. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Be you, even if you are weird as hell.
Fr year was really hard – depression but I was dealing with sexual identity.
Q: How to react to those who come out to you.
A lot of difficulty was with being Asian (intersectionality).
LGBTQ is not discussed in Asian society.
Overall, process is hard because you have to come out every single day.
Q: explain coming out every single day.
Can’t have a discussion about these things in my family. Very difficult.
Process is easier if you meet others like you.
Q: Queer as a label?
Importance of words as a label – (Sapir Whorf).
I am gay. I came out 2 years ago. I came out to my mom. And she said this is horrible, this is a phase. My sister was like I’m so happy! So weird. Hardest to come out to my team. We change together. But they were really cool about it. I don’t tell everyone in my family. At Rosh hashanah How many matza balls in your soup? None! But grandma doesn’t catch on. Some people are weird about it, but overall surrounded by really good people.