I remember sitting in my Health Class. I remember the weather: 72 degrees, partly sunny, the kind of days that we love in the Midwest after long winters. We were talking about sex, and I remember just waiting and hoping they would cover me. Being a gay 16-year-old living in the suburbs of St. Louis, it would be an understatement, that I grew up in a socially conservative region. But back to the story. I kept on waiting, longing, hoping that instead of the boy-girl talk, they’re would be boy-boy talk. My school district was relatively progressive and had recently passed a mandate, that was supposed to cover LGBT issues. We would finally get recognition. The way our Health Class was set up, there were units. We were on the Sex-Ed unit. Weeks go by. I waited every day for there to be SOMETHING. There was nothing. I realized that at that moment, I was other. My teacher chose to say nothing. It was a defining moment.
In the American public school system, I have noticed 2 things: it can be, at times, the most progressive and most backward system. Many public school districts have put in LGBT-inclusive reforms that have helped LGBT students be able to be successful and to live in hate-free environments. At the same time, many students are bullied for just being who they are, while school districts sit on their hands, and usually stay silent or do nothing. It’s the reason why 55% of LGBT teenagers in our public schools feel unsafe for being who they are. I have to say myself, it is not an easy ballgame. I have been partially in partially out, and it feels like I am automatically different. I am not in relationships in school because I don’t like the extra attention. Whenever I walk into a classroom I scan the room for more conservative people to check for potential homophobes. I tell a teacher things that I would tell a therapist because to be honest, I don’t have time for a lot of the problems I have.
We like to say that we know how to solve problems that LGBT students face when we won’t even cover LGBT people in Health Class. It’s time to stop treating us like we are in the underground. You can’t just “hope” a problem away. The statistics are clear if we chose to do what we keep doing: LGBT students miss 3 times more school. LGBT students have lower GPAs. LGBT students have exponentially higher rates of depression and anxiety.
You can say all you want that you want to change the problem, but when you don’t want to put in the most basic changes, don’t say “you’re doing everything you can.”