By Noy Alon
Managing Editor of News
This past Wednesday, the Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Asexual Awareness Day (T’BGLAAD) event allowed South faculty and students to understand and empathize with current issues plaguing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
Organized by the Newton South Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA) Club, T’BGLAAD in its 24th year focuses on bringing the struggles facing LGBTQ individuals to the forefront as senior and President of the GSA Alana Bojar explains.
“One of the goals of the GSA is to promote awareness of different gender identities and sexualities, and so by just having the meetings the awareness isn’t being spread,” Bojar said. “It is kind of confined to the room, so by having these days of awareness such as T’BGLAAD, we are able to share what we talk about to the whole school.”
By spreading this awareness throughout the whole community, Bojar says that the GSA hopes to promote an atmosphere of acceptance and respect.
In addition, junior and Co-Vice President of the GSA Analise Castillo adds that these awareness days look to highlight the sometimes overlooked daily struggles that LGBTQ people face.
“Bullying still happens and people think that everything, especially because we live in such a progressive community, nothing is wrong, but that’s not true,” Castillo said. “You can spot things everywhere, and so to continue to hold these events brings people’s awareness towards issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.”
Agreeing with Castillo, Bojar stresses the huge negative impact hatred can have on LGBTQ individuals lives because gender and sexuality are such intrinsic values of a person’s identity.
“I think it’s important for people to be aware, even if they are not directly impacted by the discrimination that LGBT+ people face,” Bojar said. “You should know that issues are happening and what they should do to support people that they care about.”
Executive Director of GLAAD, an organization of legal advocates and defenders for the LGBTQ community, Janson Wu spoke at the T’BGLAAD about the adversity LGBTQ people face.
Wu decided to come speak at Newton South to stress how crucial and challenging the next four years will be for preserving minorities’ rights, especially in the LGBTQ community.
“I hope that students left understanding that it’s all of our responsibilities to take care of each other and that whatever way you do that is important and meaningful.”
“We have the tools and the experience to resist having us moving backwards,” Wu said. “We know how to win elections, we know how to bring losses, we know how to stand up for what’s right, and we know how to change hostile minds, and we will need everyone to be engaged in order to protect those most vulnerable.”
As in any social justice movement, Wu explains how the engagement of young people in activism remains critical for the success of the LGBTQ protests.
For history teacher and past advisor of the GSA Michael Kozuch, Wu’s presentation was fascinating and extremely effective in promoting inclusion.
“I thought what the most effective thing he said was ‘how do we speak to people who are opponents of LGBT equality,’ and to me that’s really the message that our school is giving right now– how do we speak to some people who don’t agree to us, but do it in a way that is talking about the shared values that we all care about and also with empathy,” Kozuch said.
Kozuch continues to agree with Wu’s points about reaching beyond one’s bubble and explains that sharing ideas over social media is not the most effective route for change.
In addition to Wu’s presentation, Bojar discusses how the GSA organized panels with teachers opening up about their sexualities, panelists talking about pansexual, asexual, and transgender issues, and members of the GSA talking about their experiences.
From these wide-ranging discussions, Castillo hopes attendees realize the large amount of diversity present at South.
“I hope students can just come away with knowing there is a ton of diversity at the school in many different ways,” Castillo said. “You don’t have to understand the community necessarily, but as long as you have an open mind and are just accepting of everyone, then it’ll be a good time.”
Adding on, Wu hopes that students especially are more aware of their responsibility and ability to initiate positive change.
“I hope that students left understanding that it’s all of our responsibilities to take care of each other and that whatever way you do that is important and meaningful,” Wu said.
Wu stresses that the best way people, including himself, learn and change is to have face-to-face discussions when shared values and empathy are highlighted.
Kozuch adds on, saying that Wu in his presentation did not emphasize all the avenues students at South can take to become politically active and aware.
“I think students can be engaged in many ways, even if they are not voters and [Wu] talked about it, but I think there are other things that he didn’t mention,” Kozuch said, “which are, for example, writing letters, letters to the editor, to being part of our school newspaper.”
Kozuch still remains impressed by Wu’s speech and understands that Wu’s unfamiliarity with the school would not allow him to realize all the ways students can become active.
Similarly, Wu remains impressed of the South’s community prioritization on acceptance and pursuit to raise awareness on LGBTQ issues.
“I was incredibly impressed by the commitment of the students and the school has made towards LGBTQ awareness,” Wu said. “I think that’s really unique and important.”
For GSA members Castillo and Bojar, this T’BGLAAD day marks another successful event and they hope that the students and faculty who attended can sympathize more with the daily struggles LGBTQ individuals face.
“If someone tells you they are a certain identity, you should respect them no matter what,” Bojar said, “and if you are confused on something, don’t be afraid to ask that person or do research. But if someone says that they are something, just support them and respect them no matter what.”
For interested students, the Newton South GSA meets every Monday J-block in Room 2310 and is open to all.