As part of the second installment of the our Identity special series, the Smoke Signal covered gender and sexuality at MSJ. This online extension includes a voluntary personal story from a member of the LGBTQ+ community as well as several student voices regarding the atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community at MSJ.
Personal story: The following is a voluntary submission from a member from the MSJ LGBTQ+ community. It was sent in following our presence at the Gay Straight Alliance meeting on March 14. We indicated that if members wished to make additional comments, they were welcome to reach out to us through email.
“Even though trans people were allowed to use the locker room that matches with their identity, judgment will still discourage them from using the bathroom they want, especially if they are not out. Maybe the person you accidentally made eye contact with in the bathroom won’t interact with you at all, but it’s easy to imagine them going to their friends and laughing about you. It hasn’t happened in our school as far as I know, but I’ve heard of people being confronted or even bullied or assaulted in bathrooms. And in general, you don’t want to attract more negative attention than you need.
Timothy talked about the intersection of Asian culture and the LGBT community at the GSA meeting, and I partially agree. The values of Asian culture are not to attract negative attention, which isn’t just people not accepting you for being gay. Sometimes people say they accept you and still unconsciously treat you differently. Other times they don’t treat you badly, but you’re still a curiosity to them. They gawk, and you still attract attention that isn’t positive. In Asian culture that isn’t a good thing. So some parents don’t want kids to be out. On the other hand, in LGBT communities, there’s a lot of western individualism that conflicts with these Asian values. There’s the idea that you should always come out as soon as possible, you should always be brash and unashamed and not care about what anyone else feels. But as an Asian, sometimes you actually do want to make your family and community proud. You don’t have to, but when you factor making others happy into your decision making for transitioning or dating someone of your own gender, the western-centric LGBT community thinks of it as you not being genuine to yourself. It’s basically equivalent to the LGBT community saying, your Asian culture and identity is what’s oppressing you. So I’m never 100% comfortable in most LGBT communities either, because they make me feel like I have to choose between being LGBT and following my Asian cultural values. The Asian majority at Mission means that people understand this feeling, which is nice.
But I wouldn’t focus too much on LGBT troubles and tragedies if I were you though. I think it’s sensationalist and fetishizing other people’s suffering. Not all publicity by a third party has that malicious intent, but I still think it contributes unnecessarily to the tragic LGBT discourse. The media already portrays LGBT people as always the receptacle of hate, always crying and dying. I think this focus on LGBT suffering makes people less empathetic to us because it makes us seem less human. Any Smoke Signal coverage of LGBT issues should highlight people’s humanity and full range of human experiences, and not just their suffering. If you quote me on anything, it’s that I am not a victim, and I refuse to be one. I don’t like most LGBT books because the protagonist is most often tragic and powerless against their fate. Being LGBT is not a death sentence. Save your pity, I’m in this life to win! Talk about the bad situation and issues, but show how we’re resilient and fighting back. We’re humans who can laugh and dance despite all the bad news recently.
Being LGBT isn’t all bad. There are plenty of benefits to same-sex relationships: You don’t have to date someone, only to find out they’re a homophobe. There are less gender roles in relationships – you’re not confined with he has to do this, she has to do that. You don’t have to do it in a straight relationship either, but people pressure you to anyways. You also have a lot of role models like Frederick the Great, Oscar Wilde, or Alan Turing. On the bright side of being trans: you get to know sexism in and out and from multiple angles so you understand and empathize more with people. You can watch yourself evolve like Pokemon and live with a name and body that you actively like and worked for. Sure, an organization or office might not have had their first LGBT member yet, but that just means you get to make history. You’re making the future better for future LGBT kids just by existing. That’s the benefit of being LGBT.” — Mich Song, 11
Voices: Staff writers collected responses to the following questions from students.
1. Do you believe that the MSJ community offers a respectful and supportive atmosphere towards members of the LGBTQ+ community? Why or why not?
“I feel MSJ does definitely have strong rules against bullying and does have an active Gay Straight Alliance club on campus, but often times I have heard the word ‘faggot’ being used in a derogatory tone. I myself had started saying that word without realizing what it was until I was told about its true meaning. So frankly I feel the LGBTQ community is not completely accepted by MSJ, but [there are] resources to make them feel like they are a part of the general community.” — Avneesh Sawney, 12
“I think overall the students at MSJ are very accepting of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. There are many people who are open about their sexuality and they have been met with nothing but positivity from their peers. Some of my friends who are open about their sexuality actually talk to their teachers, and I have heard from them that the teachers are really positive and kind.” — Aditi Nukala, 11
“I think the MSJ community does offer a pretty welcoming community, but I think there is definitely more that we can do to make the members of the community feel more welcome. While we don’t usually bully them or say anything negative about them, we don’t really acknowledge the issue and stigma surrounding the community, so it would be good if we can address that or have more information about it.” — Flora Chang, 10
“I feel like on the surface level, they’re pretty respectful. You don’t get overt homophobia, like if you compare a school here in CA to one in Texas, there won’t be overt homophobia, but there’s still a lot of implication. People will just assume heterosexuality and there’s still heteronormativity that exists, and teachers do things like divide activities into boy-girl activities and stuff like that. Maybe not as much at MSJ, but the greater district at large. On the surface level, it’s supportive but it could be a lot more supportive.” — Yvette Lin, 11
2. What can students and staff do to improve the atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community on campus?
“I feel like MSJ could do more for the community. I know definitely that the people here are pretty respectful and accepting, but maybe the staff and the school could do more to enforce certain things. You do hear things in the hallways like, ‘oh that’s gay’ and stuff like that. It’s the smallest things but they still count as well. I think part of it is having it written down and enforcing it. The teachers can call out people they hear who are saying harmful things and not just that, but creating the culture and atmosphere where it’s not okay for those [harmful things] to be said.” — Shubha Jagannatha, 12
“Maybe the school could provide some LGBTQ+ events. For example, I know at other schools, they have held events to show support for LGBTQ+ rights by taping their mouths one day, and all the students participated. Something like that could show support [for the LGBTQ+ community].” — Winnie Xu, 10
Graphic by Graphics Editor Zen Thumparkkul