Friday, October 22, 2010

Ally Week

I'm going to take the opportunity to brag about my daughter, because, afterall, this is my blog and, dammit, that's my perogative.

So, my daughter, who is straight (not that it matters, but it will become relevant shortly)is the Vice President of her school's Gay Straight Alliance. She got involved her first year in high school and has become increasingly more active since.

I had some gay friends in high school. Only, they didn't say they were gay, and we didn't talk about it, and we sure as hell didn't have a Gay Straight Alliance. It was just understood that that's what it was and they either flew under the radar or were everyone's funny super gay friend.

A lot has happened for gay rights in the 25 years since I was in highschool. I won't bore you with a timeline, you've clearly been living through it as well.

I was surprised though when I learned about this organization at the high school level and impressed that we have progressed, seemingly, as a society to this point.

Last week was Ally week, ( which is an informational campaign designed to promote awarness and tolerance. It isn't about advocating for gay rights or promoting the G/L/B/T lifestyle. It is strictly about inclusion, and drawing awareness to exclusion.

Her group had set up an info table in their school each day last week, handed out pledges that people could sign regarding tolerance, they've given out reams of rainbow ribbon and purple bracelets and lots of CHOCOLATE. (I love chocolate. It is the universal harmonizer.)

Anyhoo. On the third day, just as they'd set up for the morning, a student came over to the table, paused for a moment and then swept everything they'd set up off the table and flipped the table over completely in front of them. They attempted to confront him but he ran off.

Lots of drama ensued surrounding hurt feelings, shock, damage to property and involving administrators, parents, disciplinary action and lots and lots of buzz.

While it was sad (though maybe not surprising) that this happened, it was a great opportunity for her group to bond, process, reflect and most importantly practice what they were preaching.

What to do about this boy, who, clearly, has, like many others, an issue with homosexuality? Obviously, the members of her group who are gay took the assault on their display very personally. They all met with their faculty advisor at lunch to discuss, and my daughter, bless her wise heart, pointed out to the group that it was paramount that they retaliate with kindness and tolerance and that they not engage this boy, but rather strengthen their resolve to practice what they preached and move forward in the face of this adversity. And, knowing her, she probably used most of those SAT words because that's how she rolls.

She told me that she'd been overwhelemed, emotionally, to see just how many of her peers supported their effort that week by signing pledges, taking ribbons, verbalizing their support, etc.

She feels very strongly about this group and what they are doing. "Mom," she told me "we provide more support for some of these kids, in a 30 minute lunch, than they ever get at home."

I think it is that element, the lack of parental understanding and support, which is the most challenging and motivating for her. Because she is raised in an environment of tolerance and understanding, she finds the opposite incomprehensible. She has a significant number of gay friends who are in various states and stages of being "out" who are getting various levels of feeback/pushback/support from their families. It is an ongoing theme of discourse and emotion in all of their lives.

I was listening to NPR last week, and a professor from some Ivy League school was talking about how his surveys indicate that gay kids are just as well adjusted as straight kids and really no more likely to kill themselves as a result of their "gayness" than the average teen is likely to kill themselves over other social pressure. (This was in response to a big mainstream media story about the opposite being true)

Perhaps he is right, but when you add the stress/pressure of being gay to the stress/pressure of just being a teenager in this country, I find it very hard to believe that they are ALL as equally well adjusted. Maybe it has gotten a little easier, on some levels, given the framework of support that exists in some areas, such as high school GSAs, but as evidenced by the assault, I'm afraid that some things really haven't changed that much at all.

I'm proud of my daughter and her friends for trying, one chocolate bar and ribbon at a time, to make our world a more tolerant place to live.

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