In August, 1993 I presented a speech at Harvard Graduate School of Education through BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth) about LGBTQ harassment in public school based on my own personal experiences.
From the speech:
BAGLY asked me to speak about my personal experiences with harassment in and around school. Aside form the general atmosphere in school, where I constantly hear words like “fag” thrown around and seeing Gay-Straight Alliance signs torn down, two incidences of harassment are very vivid in my mind…
The first incident occurred when I was in 7th grade. I was not out to myself, but it was very clear that I did not fit in with most other people my age. I was not athletically inclined like everyone else. I felt inadequate as a male and even though I was not cut out for it, I joined a soccer team. As much as I disliked it, I forced myself to be on it and I stuck out. (However, I wasn’t consciously planning all this out). One day, during practice when the coaches were not there or not looking, everyone on the team surrounded me, called me names, threw things at me (including dog shit), and spit on me until my shirt was wet. This was a very humiliating experience and it made me very upset. I didn’t do anything about it, because I didn’t want to stick out any more. So I didn’t tell anyone, tried to forget about it and put it behind me. I haven’t given it much thought until about a year ago when I came out and made some connections.
The second instance of harassment occurred this year at my school. Another friend of mine from BAGLY and I decided to start a GSA in my high school. so we went to our guidance counselors for help, even though I had a bad feeling about going to them. It was very uncomfortable going to the counselors. However, I thought that it was my own fault for feeling uncomfortable. A few months later, we started having meetings. These meetings were very uncomfortable. Whenever anyone would say something negative, stereotypical or incorrect about gay people, the counselors would not challenge it. However, when someone would say something positive about gay people, they would conditionalize this as a “controversial topic”. On top of this, my guidance counselor began pulling the most vocal people in the group out from classes and into his office, where he would impose his personal views onto them. One day he did this to me, when he came into my art class and asked to see me for a few minutes. When I was in his office, I was under the impression that we would be discussing how the GSA was running. However, it turned out to be a session of his views being shoved down my throat: from gays leading to the destruction of the American family, to same sex parenting being immoral to invalidating my own sexuality as just a choice or phase. He arranged this meeting so I couldn’t refute anything he said, because he had to go to an important meeting.
I felt horrible during and after this meeting. I could not concentrate on school during the day, for fear of running into him again and was distracted from homework. I had panic attacks during school when I saw him and I was afraid he would invade and degrade me again. This incident added to the depression that I was already experiencing. I felt that it was my fault that it happened and I had created the situation. I was afraid to tell anyone about it for a while.
After telling one of my friends from the GSA what happened, she said the same exact thing happened to her. He again set up her meeting so that she had to leave right after he spoke.
Another encounter I had with my guidance counselor a week before the meeting that bothered me was when I had my required swimming class in gym. In order to get to the pool, I had to pass by the showers. When I did, he was taking a shower and trying to make eye contact with me. The week after that, he did the same, while taking off all of his clothes.
I reported everything that happened to a teacher. We reported it to my principal and then he met with my counselor. However, I did not report the shower incident, because I was afraid that it would be twisted to make me look sick. My principal had a meeting with the counselor and told him not to do this again. He could not be more severe, because I could not get my friends to report what happened to them. Of course, my counselor twisted and lied about what happened and made it look like he was concerned about me and tried counseling me. He called my mother and told her the same thing, so she had a hard time believing what I had to say.
I was able to switch guidance counselors and have them discontinue their involvement with the GSA. It makes me very angry that even people in the helping professions would not be immune to homophobia and harassment. Good thing an understanding teacher whom I could talk with was accessible and understanding.
About BAGLY (from their website):
BAGLY: The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, is a youth led, adult supported social support organization, committed to social justice, and creating, sustaining and advocating for programs, policies and services for the LGBTQ youth community.
In July of 1980, long before the days of community, political or financial support, BAGLY was founded by LGBTQ youth who believed that an organization led by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning youth would be central to meeting the core physical, social and developmental needs of Greater Boston’s LGBTQ youth community. Turns out they were right! Three generations of queer youth movement leaders later, BAGLY is recognized nationally for its pioneering role in creating, sustaining and advocating for social support, leadership development and health promotion programs for LGBTQ youth. BAGLY’s approach and historic practice, which has served over 30,000 youth, is replicated by programs and organizations across the country and our earliest programs (Including our Youth Speakers Bureau, youth led HIV/AIDS education and the nation’s first prom for LGBTQ youth) have provided a foundation upon which many youth-led programs and organizations are built.
Throughout its history BAGLY has advocated and provided leadership for an LGBTQ community driven statewide and national systems approach to working with LGBTQ youth. As a founding organization of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, and by establishing the GLBT Youth Group Network of Massachusetts, our vision and innovation has led the way in building a stable local and national infrastructure vital to today’s LGBTQ youth work.
Today, BAGLY provides community-based leadership development, health promotion and social support programs for Massachusetts LGBTQ youth communities, and is a leader in local and national LGBTQ youth advocacy work and workforce development.