ToBGLAD Day: Speakers, panelists discuss sexuality, gender

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The Newtonite

A-block
by Nour Chahboun
In an inspiring panel, Newton Public Schools teachers spoke about their personal experiences being gay and how they came out to their friends and family as part of ToBGLAD Day in the auditorium during A-block.
Physical education teacher Lauren Baugher explained that she is proud of who she is and thinks that being a high school teacher as someone who is gay is an “opportunity to be a role model and show kids there can be different families.”
Countryside elementary teacher Emily Restivo spoke about coming out to her family members. She explained that her father did not attend her wedding, but “it’s fine because not everyone is going to accept it.”
“It doesn’t matter who you’re disappointing because you can’t help who you love,” said Restivo.
School counselor Matthew Ford explained that it never occurred to him that he would not be who he was. “You don’t choose who you are authentically, only whether you act on it or not,” said Ford.
“Each person is born into different cultures where they discover what their priorities are,” said Ford
Baugher also offered a method of creating a safe environment for all of North’s students, encouraging not to assume people are straight and to support classmates.
B-Block
by Rose Bostwick
Transgender members of the North community presented in the auditorium yesterday during a panel discussion about their experiences as a part of the transgender community Friday B-block as part of ToBGLAD Day.
Led by sophomore Drew Nolan, an officer of North’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), panelists included Michael Alexander ‘00, North parent Pamela Diamond, freshman Achille Ricca, and Quincy Elliot ‘15.
Panelists began by stating their preferred pronouns and identities, then discussed their “coming out” stories. A diverse group, every member of the panel had a very different gender identity, orientation, and story.
Next, they discussed how the media may change people’s perceptions of what it means to identify as transgender. “In recent years, things have gotten better as trans issues have come to the forefront,” explained Alexander. However, “when there’s a lack of representation of who you are, you start to feel like your identity is a joke,” he said.
Panelists also talked about issues they had faced regarding gendered public bathrooms. Some members of the panel said that they had not faced problems regarding public bathrooms, while others said that they avoided using them. “Gender really is wired into us, a lot more than we think it is or want it to be,” said Diamond.
To wrap up the discussion, panelists shared their thoughts on privilege, being misgendered, Caitlyn Jenner, and advice they would give to young questioning people.
According to Alexander, “seeking out trans people is the best resource” for anyone wondering about how they identify. “It’s perfectly okay and perfectly normal to question your gender identity,” he said.
F-block
by Maya Waldman
A student panel consisting of physical education and health teacher Courtney Albert and juniors Cassandra Taylor and Seneca Niehaus described their experiences and struggles within the LGBTQ community Friday during F-block in the auditorium as a part of ToBGLAD Day.
Panelists were asked questions about their personal experiences within the LGBTQ community, and audience members were also given the opportunity to ask questions throughout the entire presentation. The presentation began with each of the panelists introducing themselves and recounting how they told people about their sexuality.
Albert began by saying that she is bisexual, and that when she came out to her mom, it was very hard for her. She described her exposure to bisexuality in college, and how her mom thought that she had been convinced to be bisexual by her friends. “She thought that I had caught something from them, like a flu,” said Albert.  
“I’ve been out of the closet for about four years, I’m bisexual, and it’s perfectly okay,” said Taylor. Taylor began to doubt her sexuality around 6th grade, and after a few years she told her friends and family. “Sometimes when people meet me, they don’t really understand everything. Then I have to explain that no, I’m not a bicycle.”
Niehaus described their sexuality and gender as “invisible”, meaning that they do not necessarily identify with a specific gender or sexuality. “I’m pretty pansexual, which means that I see the person before the gender,” said Neihaus.
Sexual attraction, according to Neihaus, is who you “bump the uglies with.” There are several kinds of sexual attraction and identities, and sometimes these change throughout life, according to Neihaus. “The hardest person to come out to is yourself,” added Albert.
Taylor also explained asexuality, not feeling sexual attraction, and demisexuality, not feeling sexual attraction until an emotional bond is formed.