When looking at a newspaper article from a high school that is titled “Students Should Not Face Discrimination Because of Their Sexual Orientation,” it poses the questions; how do high school students get onto this particular topic and why would high students write about such a serious issue? Also, what makes this article so important to the LGBTQ+ community?
High school students face a lot of discrimination throughout their high school careers because of those years being such a crucial time for them to figure out their individual identities. The amount and type of discrimination high school students get often upset those students, understandably, because they’re in such a vulnerable time in their life. Therefore, if they’re experiencing discrimination as a result of their figuring out who they are as a human being, they need to find a way to stand up for themselves and let everyone become aware of what is going on around them and in their community as an attempt to change what is going on. Richmond High School did this by writing and publishing this article to let the students and faculty know just what kind of discrimination is going on in their halls. They execute their goal by appealing to people’s emotions and gathering stories from LGBTQ+ people who have experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or because of the gender they identify as.
Students from RHS shared their emotional stories of getting harassed in the hallways and stories that weren’t of harassment necessarily, but of people simply not understanding them as a person and the lifestyle they were living. Their stories seem to occur at ages as young as 13 and 14; being discriminated against and harassed at such a young and vulnerable age damages kids views on who they really are and makes them believe they’re wrong for being themselves. One student said, “My sexuality makes me feel valid. In order for me to be happy I have to accept myself, with how I am now.” If students are not being accepted by others for who they are, it makes it twice as hard for them to accept themselves. This can be detrimental to kid’s thoughts and emotions to the point where they hurt others or themselves. Another student was being harassed by their classmates and says, “In seventh grade, fifth period everyone would call me things like ‘Fag,’ ‘Dyke,’ or comment and say, “You’re going to burn in Hell,” and would say things like, “I was a disgrace to the cross.” For students being so young and having so much hatred in their hearts is such a harmful thing to the youth of not only Richmond and Indiana, but to America and other countries around the world. People, especially kids, should feel accepted of who they are and not rejected. They should feel safe in their hometowns and communities, not terrified that they’ll get harassed every day for being their true selves. Therefore, there needs to be changes in our society and people need to become aware of the pain and suffering kids and teenagers are experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Without some sort of change, more and more people will experience severe depression and anxiety.
For this reason, this article is such an important piece of LGBTQ+ history, because young teenagers share their stories of being misunderstood and harassed, making them feel as if they shouldn’t be who they are and like they are not accepted as their true selves. There needs to be recognition of such issues and changes need to be made in the school system. No matter who you are, you should feel comfortable with your own identity and you should feel safe enough to figure out what your identity is. Some people have already started changing things and creating ways for students to feel accepted and safe to be who they are.
One person who has continued the legacy of doing this is Jennifer Hartman, who is the leader of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Richmond High School. Hartman took over the club from McFarland and Fulvi who founded the club many years prior than her. Hartman says, “the club’s atmosphere is an accepting place where the students can feel safe no matter who they are as a person.” This club allows for students to have a place of warmed and care for who they are and not just for the labels that are stamped onto them by society. GSA discusses many different topics each week they meet such as; when the best time is to come out, politics that surround and effect the LGBTQ+ community and their feelings and thoughts towards them, and issues at RHS itself.
The club is not only a safe place where students can feel accepted, but they also put forth their best effort to make the school board and Richmond community become aware of certain issues at RHS and ways that RHS needs to change. One thing they did was they went to RCS Administrators and shared with them the discrimination LGBTQ+ students get daily. They also proposed they the GSA wants gender neutral bathrooms for the students who need a safe place to go to the restroom or for transgender students to have a safe place to change their binds because of the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms having such detrimental health issues on students who need that type of bathroom. They also brought to their attention the disrespect of teachers not referring to the students by their preferred pronouns despite the students telling them about the pronouns they use. They stated that “every student has the right to feel accepted, safe, and respected.” The GSA also brought up other issues such as wanting LGBTQ+ sex education and gender assemblies creating issues for students who are in transition or who are gender neutral.
This is the type of effort for change that needs to be made in all of Richmond and all of Indiana and the world as a whole. People have the right to feel safe, respected, and accepted for who they are and what they identify as no matter personal beliefs or opinions of other people. Therefore, clubs such as the GSA and their actions and goals, and newspaper articles from high schools need to be archived because events and ideas like these need to be known about and respected. Changes need to continue to be made, and archives need to be created for changes to be recorded and ideas to be kept.