LGBTQ Discrimination in Bay Area Schools
"Freedom over fear"
71% of LGBTQ youth in America have faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. A further 39% have seriously considered or attempted suicide; in the transgender and non-binary community, that number catapults to more than 50%.
It is clear from these statistics alone that America has done a poor job in creating safe environments for its youth to discover themselves. In an already delicate period of their lives that all people move through and is crucial to psychological development, many LGBTQ youth find the sources of support and reassurance they are supposed to be able to rely on to be sources of fear and stress instead.
In the Bay Area, which is largely regarded as progressive especially concerning the LGBTQ movement, this reality still persists. The status of being a progressive and socially aware area makes for a convenient cover for any discrimination happening within our institutions. It is easy for evidence of a widespread problem in the community to go unaddressed. Bay Area Uncovered focuses on revealing the hidden discrimination rampant in the Bay Area and has amassed over 100 detailed firsthand testimonies of students’ experiences with discrimination in their schools. These testimonies reveal a troubling truth of our home.
In one such testimony, a public school student reports the existence of an anti-LGBTQ club on her campus. “Firstly, there’s a homophobic club, namely FCA, that prevents LGBTQ+ students from leadership roles,” she said. “To be a student officer of the club, one has to sign a purity statement declaring one’s disavowal from the ‘homosexual lifestyle.’”
Though the school took the club’s charter away last year, their activities continue undisrupted. And when students rose up in peaceful protest against the club during one of their events, campus police were there to prevent them from doing so. Their excuse was that the members of the organization would feel targeted. When the student who had given the testimony and her friends were putting up flyers for their protest, the principal told them they were not allowed to because the school couldn’t be affiliated with the protests or the club. Days later, school faculty helped the club prepare for an event and even attended.
In another case, a student of a private school faced a suspension on her permanent record because of her refusal to take down a tweet talking about a homophobic encounter she had with another student of her school. Because of this incident, she was forced to come out to her parents. On the campus of Saratoga High, another student described the bullying they faced after coming out as bisexual, and then later, the social alienation they experienced after coming out as transgender.
“Some people threatened me and then said I would probably like it ‘cause all bi people are freaks apparently,” they said. “Came out as trans to a group of friends in my sophomore year, they all cut ties, and the bullying got worse.”
After asking their school administration to help them, they were met with half-hearted support that ultimately led nowhere. Faculty treated the LGBTQ students who shared these testimonies with nowhere near the respect they deserved. In fact, a common thread in most of these cases is the unwillingness of the administration to address the problems in their school, and a startling lack of understanding for the students they are supposed to protect and nurture. Instead of putting their effort into creating a welcoming and safe campus environment, these schools ignored the sincerity of its students. In some cases, they acted to subdue their voices in fear of scandal.
"School administration has proven time and again that they will not listen if unpressured."
Schools, which are institutions trusted with raising the next generation and preparing them for later life, have a responsibility to make sure their students are able to study and interact with their peers comfortably. The fact that so many LGBTQ youth see these institutions as cesspools of intolerance, ignorance, and oppression speaks to the amount of work that still needs to be done in the Bay Area. School administration has proven time and again that they will not listen if unpressured. It is up to the students, teachers, and parents who want safer school environments for all Bay Area students to make sure that pressure is applied. Any student or faculty member who recognizes this issue and wants to offer support may consider reaching out to their community at school or outside organizations, such as this one, which offers support or even just sharing our articles and website on social media.
To make sure your voice is heard, share your experiences with discrimination in school with us at tinyurl.com/bayareauncovered.
For any students facing discrimination or that are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, The Trevor Project is a national hotline that provides a safe space for LGBTQ youth to discuss their issues with counselors and is open for service at all times of the day.
Written by Lillian Fu, Bay Area Uncovered Staff Writer