Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

We need more support for LGBTQ+ students at schools

In times like these, people need support from those who understand and care about them
Alvin Buyinza
Collegian (2019)

I am a bisexual and non-binary person who went to a religious school for 13 years before finally leaving the church behind me. One of my main reasons for doing so was that the school I went to was populated mostly by religious conservatives, who would bully any student who came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Students at my old high school did whatever they could to make LGBTQ+ students switch schools since in their view, they were not welcome at the establishment. This wasn’t just limited to the students; teachers, administrators and even the head of the school would yell and berate students for coming out. Most of my time at the school felt like hell.

While scrolling through Instagram recently, I stumbled across a former student’s page. I realized she had just come out as pansexual. As I looked at the comments of her recent post, I expected to see remarks from former students telling her to “pray to God to repent.” Instead, many former students’ comments were about how proud they were. This helped me remember why I stayed at that school: there was a large portion of the student body who readily opposed any homophobia from the staff and other students.

Although I never felt truly safe there, I was still able to get up and go to school every morning because I knew there were students who cared for people like me. I fully believe I would not have been able to continue my education without the kindness of these supportive people. Based on stories I’ve heard from students on campus, I was not alone in my fear of going to school. Often, other LGBTQ+ students felt like going to their middle and high schools put them in danger instead of providing them with a safe space to learn. It was only when people supported them and provided them with a safe space in school that these students felt they could breathe.

LGBTQ+ students in schools across the country need the support that I got, especially due to the increased number of laws prohibiting them from feeling safe and supported at school.

When I came to the University of Massachusetts, the number of students showing support towards the LGBTQ+ community inspired me to stay true to who I am. There may be people at this school who have homophobic opinions and readily express them to people online, but knowing how many people support who I am – even if they don’t know me personally – makes me feel safer than I’ve ever felt. That feeling is something that all students like me should be able to feel every single day: safe, supported and not having to worry about constant harassment. Students like me shouldn’t have to hide who they are to prevent bullying and they shouldn’t have to look over their shoulder every few seconds to make sure no one is following them when they leave school premises.

In recent years, there have been 230 laws put into place at schools around the country that prohibit talking about many aspects of the LGBTQ+ community to each other or to teachers in schools and generally infringe on the rights of LGBTQ+ students. As a result, LGBTQ+ topics and identities are sliding into obscurity within schools adhering to these laws. Teachers should be doing more to create a safer space for LGBTQ+ students, but they are often limited in what they can accomplish due to the possibility that they could face serious consequences, or even be fired, if they speak out for LGBTQ+ students in their classes.

Students are the main body and driving force of every school, and if they speak out with the hope of making schools safer for LGBTQ+ students, it is more likely to happen. Our generation can be unrelenting when dealing with issues like this, and that energy and care needs to be poured into making schools safer and more inclusive. If a shift towards recognizing LGBTQ+ students as equals in primary, secondary and higher education does not happen soon, the mental health and safety of these students will decline further than it already has. Our generation can make a change and create meaningful differences in this battle for equality.

Carlie LaFauci can be reached at [email protected].

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