Alex Blaze

Genderfluid, pansexual, and in high school

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 30, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Kansas, schools

I got this email yesterday from a queer high school student. Now how many of us went through similar experiences, only to run far away at the end and never go back?

lgbt_hands-rainbow.jpgI live in Kansas and moved from the inner city into a more rural setting this summer. I'm a junior in high school. I'm also genderfluid and pansexual.

I knew before the move was solid that going from a suburban school to a rural school as a junior was going to be a challenge.

Some key differences:

  • Jackson's 1200-ish students vs. Greensboro's 300
  • Jackson's college prep courses vs. Greensboro's painfully slow classes
  • Jackson's largely African American population vs. Greensboro's two black students
  • Jackson's having more kids out of the closet than all the other high schools in the district combined vs. Greensboro's overall homophobic attitude

It's only been a week and a half at this school, and I'm already uncomfortable. Not the first-day uncomfortable; that feeling of shyness and unfamiliarity as you stumble through the alien hallways, avoiding the eye contact of probing strangers. This is a discomfort that I have developed because, in this short time, it has become apparent to me that I can't be open about my sexuality or gender identity.

In my weightlifting class, I was telling my new friend Joy about how a female friend and I dated for a little while. She urged me to whisper so that no one would hear and start a rumor and make everyone hate me.

My U.S. History teacher--while trying to convince us that history has interesting stories--managed to make an example of both James Buchanan (the one confirmed gay president) and Franklin D. Roosevelt's wife, who apparently moved her girlfriend into the White House at the same time that Frank did his. In this case, it wasn't so much the stories as the awkward laughter and snickers among the class that perturbed me.

I mentioned offhand to one of my new friends that I speculated no one at this school had even met a gay person. My comment was met with a breezy "Why does it matter?"

And always, no matter where I go, the incessant remarks like "That's gay." Although, incredibly enough, I have yet to hear "No homo."

Surprisingly, I did stumble upon ONE person who has admitted to being anything besides hetero. He's bisexual, and expressed anxiety about anyone having that knowledge. He whispered to me (even while we were alone) about an older boy, in college now, who was often bullied because of his homosexuality.

I was absolutely staggered. I came out as bisexual when I was in seventh grade, pansexual in ninth grade, and discovered my gender dysphoria in tenth. Never, not once in that whole time, have I ever met someone who was in the closet and afraid of coming out. At least, that I'm aware of.

Since I was old enough to be aware of politics, I've doubted that Kansas was really a red state. Having always lived in the city, I was somewhat protected from the strong conservative, Christian, sheltered background of the people who make up the main population of my state. As previously mentioned, there were a lot of people out of the closet about their sexuality at my previous school, and there were two or three openly gender-variant students (including myself). I would never even attempt to broach the subject of my gender identity with any of these new members of my life.

I can only imagine how many young adults are out there who are in situations similar to or worse than mine. I wish we could stand up and make our little voices heard over the chaotic cacophony of ignorant trans and homophobes. But, the insistant tide of fear washes away our courage with every quip about crossdressers, every gay joke that reminds us of where we are and who we aren't allowed to be.

Now. She's not the first person in that situation and won't be the last. And at least the internet exists now to give students in rural areas like her some exposure to the outside world.

The standard advice for her would be to tough it out until she's 18 and then get out of there, which might be what she has to do anyway. But is that a long-term solution? What about the young LGBTQ people at the school who have never had any exposure to anything else who may not know that there's this whole world out there?

And what about the casually homophobic students who may not ever feel the need to seek out better information about sexuality and gender? Well, they eventually grow up and vote against us or beat us up or discriminate against us or taunt and harass us, because we never intervened at an age when these people were more open to changing their points of view.

Schools are practice for the real world, and toughing out high school until one can move to a queer-friendly environment is setting us for a certain dynamic for the rest of our lives. That's not the kind of world we should still be creating.

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While my heart hurts for her (my heart hurts for most high school kids), I can't help feeling thrilled, as I read her story, by how dramatically things have improved for queer kids in my lifetime. She came out in 7th grade? Wow.

It sucks that she had to move to a less open-minded community, but she's going into that environment with confidence and knowledge and a sense of defiance that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

I'm deeply moved by her story. It's easy these days to get depressed about how fucked up the world is, but this kid's life is concrete evidence that all our rabble-rousing can and does change the world.

I was out as queer and gender-nonconforming in my barely-out-of-the-sticks high school in 1985. It does suck, it is hard, and the only other people who had been out were seniors when I was a freshman. But because I was out, other people gradually started to come out, even if it was just to me at first. And if I had not come out I would have never had the chance to skip math class to have hot-teenager-sex with Trina who was ready to experiment with bisexulity.

It was worth all the "fuck-you dykes!" to have that cherished high school memory. And since the advent of Facebook, I know it's still a great memory in her mind too.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Davina Kotulski

In that bigoted darkness, what a bright little spark of hope she is!

Regardless of where she is at, she’s already made a difference there just being a confidant of one other child who’s attending that school. Because if we all just helped or gave hope to one other person, the whole world would be a far better place!

Big HUGS to her!

[Yes, I know how hard high school and jr. high can be. After 4 years of HS, I had 190+ absences and a GPA of 0.68. I only graduated because my high school counselor was Gay and he kinda knew what I was dealing with, and insisted that I stay for one more year.]

Her writing is remarkably knowledgeable and structured for a high-school student. I wish my college students wrote like that.

These are very hard choices. Like many of the problems presented by life, there is no correct answer, only a list of risks on each side and one must decide which negative consequences are least harmful in your particular situation.

Well I hope it all works naming the high schools is a courageous act, but I am also glad you are coming out now. The youth of today expect the support of their friends and parents. It wasn't that way in the 1950s.