LGBTQ+ Youth are in our Schools and We Need to Support Them

By Ryan Hartley, Photography Editor

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students have been walking among us in the hallways since the start of the public education system.

However, for the greater part of history, they have been hidden, held captive by the stereotyping, bullying and hate that can stem from early childhood.

It is vital that a safe-space be available for students to freely express themselves in their truest form and to create a healthy habit of acceptance of one’s self and others every day.

Photo by Sam Timlin
Alliance members work on banding their shirts together before adding dye.

Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, or safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, have been increasingly popular in recent years.

Susquehannock’s Alliance Club was created three years ago and is much like other Alliances across the United States.

It supports LGBTQ+ students through the sense of community it brings to those who walk into the meetings.

Although the Alliance Club is home to a good portion of the school’s LGBTQ+ students, it is also a welcoming, open space for allies.

An “ally,” as defined by GLSEN- an organization designed to assist LGBTQ+ youth-is  “an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against.”

In this case, allies to the LGBTQ+ movement are in support of equal rights in the terms of non-discrimination based on sexual preference, same-sex marriage equality and research aid given to at risk LGBTQ+ youth.

Susquehannock’s Alliance Club fosters these allies with as much care as its own LGBTQ+ teens, as their mission is to integrate the two into a functional relationship that stimulates a positive, accepting environment for all students attending high school.

Photo by Madison Gillespie
Alliance officers and members try to recruit students.

Too often are LGBTQ+ students at a higher risk of having lower grades, not attending class, depression, homelessness and disease than others due to the lack of acceptance of peers at school, teachers/administration and their own families.

According to the CDC, “For youth to thrive in schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported.“A positive school climate has been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGB students.”

According to the data from the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), specifically geared to LGB students, approximately 34 percent of students experienced reported bullying on school campuses, and 10 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

These numbers are alarming in the fact that they are at a higher risk, as the YRBS reports in 2017 the average percentage of all students to be threatened or injured with a weapon was six percent nationwide.

The 2017 survey on high school students also reports that 5.4 percent of heterosexual students had an encounter with a weapon on school property, while openly lesbian/gay students reported to be 9.4 percent and 11.1 percent of questioning students were threatened.

It is obvious that the conversation about acceptance and tolerance is needed in United States schools, and student-led organizations like Alliance Club are needed to be at the forefront of this conversation.

Photo By SHS_Alliance on Twitter
Alliance poses for a picture at one of their meetings held throughout the year.

Senior Alex Fabie, a member of the Alliance Club, knows the pressure put on these students.

“The amount of toil that can be placed on students who don’t have anyone around them to support them is truly awful,” said Fabie. “LGBTQ+ students are just like any other student. It’s alarming how hated they are in some parts of the country, and how, even if they are somewhat accepted, there is still internalized homophobia among other students and teachers.”

Alliance is a place for LGBTQ+ students and allies to speak of their own specific problems within the school climate and beyond the boundaries of the school.  

During a typical meeting at Alliance, students discuss and interact with each other about topics concerning them, create crafts and other fun projects and display necessary and important information in the hallways regarding at-risk youth.

“Alliance, for me, is a place of comfort and security,” said Fabie. “It’s so nice to have at least one school sponsored club that I can feel completely myself in. It’s a shame that it isn’t like this for all students in other schools.”

The important discussion about topics that most students may not be familiar with or want to learn about is a way that an accepting school atmosphere can be achieved.

According to GLSEN, letting your actions speak for you is a great way to remain accepting towards LGBTQ+ youth, but this does not just include the reassurance or simple response of “it’s okay.”

The zero-tolerance policy to anti-LGBT actions and transphobia adopted by many schools has allowed for LGBTQ+ students to grow into their comfort levels with their own schools.

Through the continued support of organizations like Alliance Club, Susquehannock, among its family of schools within the Southern York County School District, can “through a cooperative effort with the family and community…provide a quality learning environment that promotes character, fosters responsibility, and challenges students to achieve their potential,” according to the mission statement included on the SYCSD website.

The Alliance club is an essential part of our school system through its efforts in sustaining a quality learning environment for all students.

Alliance’s outreach to other organizations, the general public of the school and the administration while staying consistent with their own purpose and goals has been the reason it flourished into what it is today and why it will continue to serve the LGBTQ+ youth and allies for years to come.