LGBTQ Community needs DHS Support

, Reporter

On the surface, Durango High School presents itself as a relatively accepting place for LGBTQ students. Many classrooms have a “safe space” sticker outside the door, indicating that the classroom within is inclusive and accepting of students who identify on the spectrum. While most LGBTQ students within the school agree that they feel safe in regards to being open about their sexual identity, national statistics and a lack of support and recognition that goes beyond a small rainbow sticker paint a different picture of what it means to attend DHS as an LGBTQ individual.

The most recent study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign indicates that out of thousands of LGBTQ teenagers across the nation, “only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people.”

After discussing with many LGBTQ identifying students at Durango High School, I discovered that while it is likely that more than 26 percent of these students feel safe in our classrooms, you’d be hard pressed to find any LGBTQ youth who hasn’t experienced at least one homophobic conflict. Although incidents of direct homophobia in DHS are isolated and rare, they do occur and can cause lasting damage to mental health, social life, and things like test scores and GPA. When this does happen, having an adult to trust and confide in provides significant help to students in crisis after having experienced a homophobic attack.

Despite the numerous “safe space” indicators throughout the high school, most members of the LGBTQ community in DHS reported that they did not feel there was an adult in the school they would feel comfortable approaching if they were distressed after a homophobic act was committed against them. Out of the few teachers these students were able to identify as a known safe space, none of them work within security, administration, or the counselling office.

Additionally, although LGBTQ students experience harassment and bullying leading to an almost 77% depression rate nationally, no member of the DHS LGBTQ community could say that they had ever been educated or seen their peers being educated on LGBTQ issues, or that any anti-bullying campaign or video seen at the high school included a discussion of LGBTQ topics.

What this really means is that though we have scratched the surface for equal treatment of LGBTQ students in DHS, inclusivity is an ongoing battle, and it requires more than a generic “safe space” label to create lasting change. The most sustainable way to make a difference and encourage students and staff  to celebrate diversity rather than resort to indifference or intolerance is to take the time to educate.

The old cliche rings true; people fear what they do not know. Years of a lack of education on the struggles and the rich history of the LGBTQ community has lead to an ignorance that breeds hate within our schools. This community has existed since ancient times, faced thousands of years of discrimination, and created some of the most powerful political movements in history. Up to 6.8% of adult Americans identify as LGBTQ (about 12% of the US population are African American, about 1% are Native American). Yet, not one course any student has taken has ever included a real discussion about LGBTQ issues, and not one student could report that their sexual education class included LGBTQ specific instruction. This expansive minority group was a part of history long before we established public schools, and will be there until humanity ceases to exist.

If administrators and teachers can take the time to educate themselves or include even basic discussions about LGBTQ history and what it means to identify on the spectrum, they will be able to deconstruct the idea that heterosexuality is the “norm”, more accurately support students in crisis, and truly impact the lives of young LGBTQ students.