ToBGLAD panels discuss discrimination, sexuality, gender

Students+watch+a+member+of+the+LGBTQ%2B+community+discuss+his+experiences+with+racism+during+G-block.

Students watch a member of the LGBTQ+ community discuss his experiences with racism during G-block.

The Newtonite

A-block
by Lucy Lu
Students spoke on a panel on behalf of the LGBTQ community last Friday during A-block in honor of ToBGLAD (Trans, bi, gay, lesbian, awareness day). Hosted by junior Julia Dwyer, the panel included seniors Spencer Bronk, Molly Dalzell, Quinn Shattuc, and junior Camilla Plaster.
Bronk, who uses male pronouns, described his journey of striving to feel comfortable not only with others, but also, with himself. “When I was trying to figure out my sexuality, I was sort of uncomfortable with myself,” he said. “I thought that because I might be asexual, I would never be able to be in relationships, which I soon found to be untrue. All these things felt so restrictive as I tried to discover things about myself.”
Many restrictions created by society were discussed, such as the idea of gender.
“Gender is a man-made construct,” said Plaster, who uses female pronouns but identifies as non-binary, a term used for someone who is not exclusively male or female. “We are forced by society to conform, but we need to free ourselves.”
Students also discussed LGBTQ acceptance within North as well as at home.
Plaster acknowledged North’s overall supportive environment, “I know that if I went to school somewhere else,” she said. “I wouldn’t be as accepted as I am here.”
Shattuc, a transgender student who uses male pronouns, agreed and added that he is “especially grateful for the supportive people.” However, he faced greater challenges back at home. “When I first came out to my mom, she told me that I was ruining our family,” Shattuc said. “She told me she went all the way to Cambodia to adopt a girl, and now I was telling her I was a boy? It was unacceptable to her, but I guess she eventually realized there was nothing she could possibly do to change it.”
Dalzell, who uses female pronouns, also “appreciates the support”, but believes her sexuality does not define her. “People who identify in the LGBTQ community almost always don’t find it a big part of their identity,” she said. “We are much more than our sexuality.”
B-block
by Maya Abou-Rizk
Senior Leah Budson introduced and interviewed a three person faculty panel about their experiences as members of the LGBTQ community during B-Block of Transgender Bisexual Gay Lesbian Awareness Day (ToBGLAD), organized by this school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), in the auditorium.
The three faculty members interviewed were principal Jennifer Price, English teacher Brad Jensen, and physical education teacher Courtney Albert.
When asked what the hardest part of coming out was, Price, who identifies as gay, said that coming out to her parents specifically was difficult.  “Being raised in a religious home, being gay was not an option,” said Price. “My mother and father didn’t want to have anything to do with me and my partner.”
After Budson asked when the faculty members realized they were LGBTQ, Albert said that she had had the same boyfriend all during high school. Once she reached sophomore year of college and got her first girlfriend, she described herself as “caught in between gay and straight.” Albert said that she identifies as bisexual and that she “falls for people that [she] had a connection with.” However, her senior year of college, she came out to her mom as gay because her mom had always told her that “bisexual people were people that were just confused.”
Jensen said that he only realized he “was gay when other people started telling him [he] was.” He came out officially in 10th grade because for him, the idea of being gay had such a negative connotation. “The label made me embarrassed and anxious, and caused so much pain. Incorporating something that was thrown at me as an insult, figuring out what it meant, and using it in a positive way was hard,” he said.
The panelists were then asked to give advice to students struggling with identity. Price said, “one of the things that’s really nice about being gay is that we all have a connection about going through the struggle of figuring out who we were. We all share a connection no matter what race, ethnicity, or other difference.”
G-block
by Astrid Kugener
In honor of ToBGLAD a group of four panelists spoke and answered questions about race and sexuality during G-block in the auditorium last Friday.
The panelists, which consisted of violinist Jason Amos, gay rights attorney Allison Wright, Northeastern student Fari, and North alumini Duanasia Yancey, founder of Day Middle School’s GSA, were asked a number of questions by sophomore Njioma Grevious.
“Sexuality is like a fingerprint, no two are exactly the same,” said Amos when asked about his opinions on the topic.
The panelists were also asked about their background, religion, and how that affected coming out to their family.
“My parents were okay with it, since they saw that I was the same person and could still be successful,” said Yancey.
While coming out to their parents was no big deal for some, it was more complicated for other panelists.
“I grew up with very strict, Asian, Muslim parents. Once I told my mom I was transgender she kicked me out of the house for a week. I had to sleep on a park bench that night,” said Fari.
“A lot of people are having to go through difficult situation for being who they are, and loving who they want,” added Amos.
The panelists also shared their opinions on racism throughout the LGBT community, and what they feel should be done.
“Being an attorney, I’ve realized that it is a very long and difficult process to engage with LGBT people of color, and to not speak for them them,” said Wright.
F-block
by Rose Bostwick
Three transgender members of  Newton and surrounding communities held a panel discussion to educate students on the experience of being transgender during F-block Friday in the auditorium as part of ToBGLAD.
The panel included Michael Alexander ’00, Damien LaCount, and senior Quinn Shattuc. All identified as male and used he/him pronouns. LaCount defined the word “genderqueer” as a “blanket term for those who don’t follow traditional gender stereotypes.”
Alexander explained that there are misconceptions about being transgender and who transgender people are attracted to. He explained that one does not affect the other, then clarified the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, saying, “Sexual orientation is how you feel about other people, while gender identity is how you feel about yourself.”
Lacount shared his own experience with people’s misunderstandings about his identity. “Society told me I was a lesbian, but in my head I kept saying, ‘I’m a boy, I’m a boy.’”
The panelists all agreed that the key to equality is to break gender stereotypes and respect others’ identities, no matter how they present themselves.
“I’m wearing six-inch heels, and I’m as much of a man as any other man,” said Shattuc. “If people can’t accept me for who I am, then I can’t accept them.”