LGBT in High School

We were all there at one point- whether you graduated in 1979 or 2009, high school has always been an environment fraught with risks for LGBT teens.  Peer pressure and teenage hormones have been blamed for everything from drug addiction to drunk driving, but they additionally confound our sense of identity as we mature into sexual adults.  What a combination to deal with at 16, eh?

You know the motif: homophobic remarks roam high school hallways uninhibited.  Pressures to know the right people and say the right things are paramount.  And a misplaced piece of gossip, fictitious or not, can make you the object of adoration or shame in an instant.

Now this is not an admonition against coming out in high school- that would be awful, hypocritical advice on my part.  But it is an acknowledgement of certain principles immutable by the drift of time.  Teenagers talk.  They don’t check facts, but spread information like wildfire.  So perhaps this is a recommendation for caution and discretion.

When you come out in high school, news can spread fast, so it is of utmost important that you have made peace within yourself concerning your sexuality.  Because even if you only plan on telling one person, you must be prepared to deal with the possibility that others, those less understanding than your good friends, will find out and bring the issue up.  And even in the most accepting of circles, you will meet with implicit societal animosity (this goes for the outside world as well!).  Do not allow yourself to be guilted.  Love yourself.

It’s totally possible to reconcile all of these things.  The average age for coming out in 2009 was 16, and over 80% of LGBT people in generation Y (born between 1980 and the turn of the century) have or will come out by the end of high school.  Peers and faculty are becoming more understanding and more resources are available every day.

If you are considering coming out in high school, I highly suggest, regardless of how accepting your social group, that you join a Gay-Straight Alliance if one exists at your school.  At their most defunct, GSA’s area group of likeminded, tolerant, allied students meeting to socialize.  At their best, GSA’s are a safe space for LGBT people and allies to seek support, expand their knowledge, and enact social change in their school environment.  The GSA at my old high school carried out an incredible campaign to abolish a discriminatory policy which required students bringing same-sex partners to dances to get a parental consent form signed.  This social activism, in addition to their participation in GLSEN’s Day of Silence (http://www.dayofsilence.org/index.cfm) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (http://www.transgenderdor.org/?page_id=4) made them a powerful voice in the school environment.

But more than that, GSA’s are a place for discussion (which you all know I’m so fond of…) and support.  I will tell you this-without a doubt, there will be times when your friends do not understand the things you think, feel, or experience in relation to your sexuality.  GSA is a wonderful environment for deconstructing and coming to peace with your own situation.

As John Donne said in his Meditation 17, “No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent.”  In high school, this is especially true.  My best advice is to have confidence in yourself and to seek out people and organizations which validate and reinforce this confidence.

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