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Defeating Discrimination

Jennifer Jabbour, Journalist

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Of the 366 enrolled Houston High School students for the 2017-18 school year, 39% are female and 61% male.  But what happens when a student doesn’t have an option to check the box that best describes them?

 

Raphael Toms, a transgender male senior at HHS , was asked if he ever faces discrimination during the school day: ”Yes, a lot of underclassmen have tried to bully me by calling me transphobic or homophobic slurs.  They mock my voice and glare at me in the hallway. I came out the first day in art class as gay and some kid told me I wasn’t gay, I was a lesbian. I told him I wasn’t a girl, and he’s hated me ever since.”

 

A lot of people are more comfortable with someone when they find out they’re gay rather than when they find out they’re transgender. Many teenagers today can’t seem to understand the gender spectrum, especially with all of the new terms used, but if they took the time to research or understand the differences, then it might make more hate disappear.

 

When asked if Houston High School was a safe place for people who feel different, Oli Lang, an agendered student, said,” There’s a lot of kids who are discriminatory or  think it’s okay to pick on people who are different, but it’s mostly just the underclassmen. I also feel like there is a lot of positivity though, especially from certain teachers and students.”

 

Students seem to see discrimination or bullying more than the teachers. Mr. Jeremy McClurg, a student teacher, high school student parent, and alumni of HHS, was asked if he ever sees bullying in the hallways: “I’ve worked in almost every high school in the Valley, and this is definitely the safest place. We have so many new foreign exchange students this year, and people just flock to them. I think the only people who are discriminated towards here are the

jerks.”

 

It’s difficult for people to deal with their peers treating them differently because of feelings that they can’t choose or change about themselves. Cameron Gold, a junior at HHS that identifies as part of the LGBT+ community, gave some advice about how to deal with discrimination, “My advice for people who have been discriminated towards or are still being discriminated against is: ‘Don’t take words so heavily.’ Instead, I would tell those people to embrace whatever is different about them.”

 

It seems the only discrimination that happens at Houston High School, and possibly other schools, is in private, away from teachers. How can bullying be stopped all together? Some HHS students have made it their mission to try, and most of  their teachers are supportive.

 

“Talk about it, bring it up. If we can’t teach our students this, then there’s a problem. There are so many differences: gender, sexuality, race, religion, political views.  All of these things cross, and you need all of them to have a community,” Norman Bouchard, US History and Government teacher at HHS, replied when asked how kids can be educated about bullying and LGBT+ issues.

 

“The old saying ‘People are frightened of the unknown,’ seems to hold true, but I’m a firm believer that learning about new topics, whether it be about a different culture, a different perspective, or even a different type of music is good for the soul. It encourages lifelong learning; the broader a person’s perspective, the broader their acceptance of others.  In the long run, if people can put themselves in someone else’s shoes, the world would be a better place,” said Ms. Jennifer Jabbour, HHS English teacher.

 

Schools don’t talk about different religions, sexualities, genders, or views, so kids are sheltered from people with lifestyles different than theirs. Students need to be exposed to more of the world while they’re younger, so they can mature and have an open mind on hot topics.

 

“I think that we could get along better as a community. I know there’s all these labels, but we’re all the same. Labels shouldn’t define us,” Jenni Erskine, a bisexual junior at HHS, responded when asked if she believes that HHS students understand the issues that are going on inside their community.

 

Frequently, there is a divide between religion and the LGBT+ community when it comes to acceptance of personal choices. “We take advice from a book that also says we can’t eat shellfish. I don’t know about you, but shellfish is good as heck,” Hailey Lindsley, a junior at HHS that identifies as pansexual, responded when asked about the issue.

A few HHS students are organizing a Gender Sexuality Alliance, GSA, to be a support for students who need help feeling welcomed in their community. They plan to fundraise for homeless LGBT+ youth and organize rallies to get the community more involved.

 

“We are all the same, even though the outside looks different,” Olivia Johnston, HHS sophomore said.

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Defeating Discrimination