Tag Archives: lgbt

Transgender comes to forefront; Students share stories, advocate for chosen gender identities

Check one box: male or female. Gender is ingrained very early on; however, not everyone feels as if they belong exclusively on one side of the traditional male-female spectrum, nor do they necessarily conform to the gender they were assigned at birth.

2014 alumna Gabi Arvelo is genderqueer – a catch-all term for people who identify as both genders, or none at all, or who generally fall in between on the spectrum of male and female.

“Being genderqueer means that you pretty much don’t identify as one gender,” Arvelo said. “It falls under the huge transgender umbrella, and there’s different types of genderqueer. Some predominantly dress in a masculine or feminine way, but others try to look as androgynous as possible and avoid using any gender-specific pronouns.”
Arvelo believes that society does not accept transgenderism in part because of a staunch opposition to attempting to understand it.

“Being genderqueer is mostly met with confusion because it’s like it isn’t even a thing – it’s just such a small amount of the population who identify as [being genderqueer],” Arvelo said. “Sexuality is more easily accepted and understood, but the matter of gender is completely different. I went to a gender therapist for a while, and I liked it because you figured things out about yourself. It was kind of weird because gender is something you’re born with and should understand, but for people like me, it isn’t as easy. Some people can’t or simply don’t want to understand genderqueers.”

Sophomore Darcy Fitz (whose name has been changed to protect privacy) was born a girl but identifies as male.
“As a female, I noticed very early on that I never gained any respect, but that males did. I was neglected and rejected just because of my gender,” Fitz said. “I realized that I didn’t hate myself, or how I looked, but that I hated my gender. Even the feminine pronouns annoyed me. For a time I even asked people to call me by my given name, because it’s more traditionally masculine.”

Fitz is hesitant to fully come out to his peers because of fear that they’ll reject him. Fitz believes that society harbors many misconceptions about transgenderism.

“I’m reluctant to tell people because they can be very judgmental. There’s the big fear of being rejected for my preferences. If I told people, they’d probably know me as ‘Darcy, the girl who is very confused,’”  Fitz said. “A lot of the time when people think ‘transgender,’ they think of weird guys with breasts, or drag queens, or that they’re just doing it to become pornstars or something. But what they don’t realize is that when people do this, they just aren’t comfortable with who they’re being perceived as. You can’t make judgments on someone based on stereotypes.”

Sophomore Morgan Fayette (whose name has been changed to protect privacy) identifies as being non-binary, which refers to gender identities that don’t fit within the accepted binary of male and female. Fayette prefers gender neutral pronouns such as “them” or “their.” However, other non-binaries and genderqueers prefer alternative pronouns, such as “ze” or “hir.”

“For  a while I was mostly just really confused and uncomfortable about it until I discovered that things outside of male and female actually existed,” Fayette said. “It was around puberty when I first started freaking out about my body, and that was tolerable for a while until I started becoming uncomfortable socially, too. I would get irritable whenever people would call me a girl, or if we were divided up into groups of girls and boys during gym. I always felt uncomfortable.”

Overall, Fayette says that they’ve been warmly received by those they’ve come out to.

“I’ve already told a lot of my close friends and all of them have reacted really well,” Fayette said. “There are certain people I’m avoiding saying anything to because I’m not sure about how they would react, but so far everyone I’ve talked to about it has been really great and supportive, and they’re all making an effort to use my preferred pronouns.”

Transgenders often experience dysphoria, a state of extreme unease or dissatisfaction with the gender assigned at birth.

“[Dysphoria] is when people don’t recognize you as the gender you identify as, or you don’t feel as if your appearance corresponds with your gender,” Fayette said. “It’s a terrible feeling, and really lonely in a way.”

Fitz plans to eventually undergo sex reassignment therapy.

“I want to do it the moment I turn 18,” Fitz said. “Being referred to as a gender you aren’t is a psychological trigger – imagine feeling uncomfortable every moment of every day. As a female, people don’t know who I really am – it’s a sense of wrongness, both internally and externally.”

International attention was brought to the subject of transgenderism following the suicide of transgender girl Leelah Alcorn, who was raised in a conservative Christian household in Ohio with disapproving parents. Alcorn left a suicide note to her Tumblr blog, on December 28, 2014, highlighting societal standards that affect transgender people in the hope that her death would highlight the treatment and perception of transgender people.

“It’s sad that it took the suicide of a beautiful girl for [transgenderism] to gain awareness,” Fitz said. “But it was a spark. There was a whole war based upon slaves getting their freedom, and things have to change for [transgenders], as well. I know how it feels to have your identity put down, and when people have their identity, their gender shunned, it’s an injustice.”

According to the Williams Institute, approximately 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, which dramatically exceeds the U.S. overall average of less than 4 percent. Additionally, 69 percent have been homeless at one point, and approximately 70 percent report experiencing sexual or physical abuse at school.

“I don’t know why it was this suicide that’s been brought to international attention,” Fayette said. “It’s certainly not the first. I’m just sad that somebody had to die.”

Fitz believes part of the opposition to transgenderism stems from religion.

“Some religious practices are against transgenderism because they state that God gave us our bodies, and that it would be blasphemous to change it,” Fitz said. “But God also gave us freewill, and the ability to do with our bodies what we’d like.”

Fitz hopes for eventual transgender acceptance.

“I think [transgenderism] will become normal, in time,” Fitz said. “I feel like gayness is more easily accepted because with transgenderism, you’re actually altering the body; it can be hard for other people to accept.”
And statistics look promising. Sixty-seven percent of Americans aged 18-29 support making it illegal for a workplace to discriminate against a person due to their sexuality, including transgender people, as opposed to only 42 percent among seniors.

“We’re all still just people,” Fitz said.

~lana heltzel, online/associate editor

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Parent wishes to ban book

press release photo
press release photo

by lana helzel, news director

After a group of students noticed the cover of David Levithan’s 2013 novel, Two Boys Kissing, parent Jessica Wilson launched a book challenge to remove it from FHS’s library. The complaint was officially filed on the grounds that the picture on the book’s cover, which features two boys kissing, violated the school’s policy of no public displays of affection. Furthermore, Wilson was concerned that the book had overt sexual content.
“My first thought was that I was shocked,” Wilson said. “My second thought was, ‘who purchased this book for the library and why?’ My issue is with the teenage celebration of sexuality throughout the book. At my home, we can talk about what [my children] are going to watch or read, but this book just kind of felt snuck in the library. It also made me wonder, budgetary-wise, if the school is spending money for the proper resources. I cannot imagine that there wasn’t another, more appropriate book that could have been purchased that would’ve appealed to a wider audience.”
In February, a committee comprised of librarian Becca Isaac, Principal Tripp Burton, English teacher Marie Miller, and senior Sierra Aceto assembled to discuss the book and determine whether or not it should be banned. The majority agreed that the book was age-appropriate and that it held literary merit because it was well-written, had a compelling plot and characters, and would stand up over time. Additionally, the book isn’t mandatory reading and appeals to a niche as an optional reading selection.
“While it isn’t a book I would’ve chosen for myself, I really enjoyed it,” Aceto said. “It’s very relevant to our society today.”
Isaac initially decided the book was suitable for the library based upon positive book reviews that were published in reputable trade journals. She referred to a review from Kirkus that stated that the book was, “well-intentioned and inspiring, but it doesn’t push any boundaries.”
“I think we all agreed that the book was within the library materials policy, and it met all the criteria,” Isaac said. “If you decide to take a book off library shelves just because one person complains, it sets a precedent. We’re trying to prevent censorship. The Bill of Rights talks about our rights of self-expression—that’s why we have these policies.”
Two Boys Kissing is based upon true events and pivots around 17-year-olds Harry and Craig who are attempting to set the Guinness World Record for longest kiss. The boys are motivated to set the record after one of their gay friends is brutally beaten because of his sexual orientation. Narrated by a Greek chorus of men who died of AIDS, the book explores the lives, relationships, and struggles of several other gay teenagers.
“I thought the book depicted the lives of gay teens realistically,” Miller said. “Some of the characters dealt with verbal and physical harassment from their classmates and community. Others were rejected by their parents. I thought that was the most heartbreaking part. Others found acceptance and support from family and friends. The book reaffirmed to me that all individuals deserve to find happiness, safety, and love and to be respected for their character, not defined by their gender orientation.”
Although the cover of the book does show two boys kissing, Aceto thought the image formed a weak basis to censor the book, and that the parent’s issue was more with the book’s subject matter than the cover itself.
“I think if you’re banning a book based on our PDA policy, then you’re going to be banning a lot of books,” Aceto said. “It’s literature, and ‘affection’ is a large part of it. I don’t see how two boys kissing is any different than if it were a boy and girl.”
Although the committee decided the book was acceptable, Wilson chose to appeal, rather than abide by the committee’s decision. Accordingly, associate superintendent Sandra Mitchell will appoint a committee that will include one teacher from FHS, two teachers from another school that teach the same grade level, one administrator, a parent, and one member from the business or professional community. Everyone on the committee will read and then discuss the book. During the process, the book will remain on library shelves. The meetings will begin on April 23 and the committee must come to a verdict regarding the book within six weeks. Following this stage, the complainant can appeal to the School Board. If the book is deemed inappropriate, it will be removed from the library.
While Wilson isn’t sure if she will choose to appeal again if the book is declared acceptable, she’s glad the book is getting public attention.
“The good thing about appealing is that it opens the matter up to public debate,” Wilson said. “It’s not like this isn’t a book that I wouldn’t let my kids read, but it’s the fact that it’s in a school. Books like The Scarlet Letter and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest don’t embrace sexuality. They have consequences, and it’s integral to the story. When you’re a teenager, it’s normal to question your sexuality, your faith, but the school isn’t your nanny; it isn’t up to the school to provide this guidance.”
Aceto believes the book’s significance supports retaining it in the library.
“The book’s subject matter is too important to today’s society to ban it from the library,” Aceto said. “The book’s cover represents so much more than just what it showed. There’s a lot of different stories in the book, and that one kiss represents all of their struggles.”
Sophomore Jacqueline Smith believes the book’s proposed banning is unjust.
“The banning of books invades not only our rights as Americans, but our rights as people in general,” Smith said. “I can understand removing books from school libraries because of pornographic content, but banning a book because it contains an idea or imagery you don’t agree with is just encroaching on somebody’s intellectual property. It’s sort of 1984-ish.”