STUDENT VOICES: Inclusive school organization offers place of welcome

Belmont secondary writers present views on their world

Entering the unknown world of high school can be a terrifying experience for any 14 year old, perhaps even more so when you’re like me, a lesbian.

In middle school, I never had proper support, just a few close friends that weren’t particularly concerned.

On my first day, I wandered about aimlessly and wondered if anyone knew I loved a little differently than most. What would their reactions be? What might they do to me?

During the first week, I heard an announcement that has since changed my life; Belmont secondary’s GSA – Gay Straight Alliance – was holding a meeting. Curious, I went and met many other people with similar mindsets. As well, the GSA was a safe and enjoyable place for everyone.

A common misconception is that someone has to be gay to be a part of it, but that’s really not accurate. It’s a place anybody in the school can sit and eat lunch, talk about related issues or events in the community, plan school events, such as the several barbecues that we do every year.

Eight years ago, the GSA was started by a student named Elliot, with the help of a teacher named Ms. Boyte. After Elliot graduated, the GSA took a short hiatus and was re-started by another teacher, Ms. Hucalak, and has run for six years since. Four years ago, they started the planning and design for the school’s rainbow mural that included a written pledge for the GSA stating that Belmont “is accepting of all people and will not stand for harassment in any form.”

Two years ago, in the June of my Grade 10 year, we finished it, moving the mural onto the wall facing the mall, and we held a barbecue/concert to celebrate it. Looking at the events of the day, it was outstanding to see the whole school population outside, waiting for the rainbow to be revealed.

The mural was a collection of the hand-prints from many staff and students. And, the sky background included many members of the GSA. Up until the building on Jacklin road was demolished, passers-by and the neighbourhood could see it on the north end of the school, facing the Westshore mall.

This year, we have talked about a variety of loose goals to achieve, such as the possibility of creating a brand-new mural. We have also become an organization that is learning about our ever-evolving community, and continuing on as a group that offers a safe environment to students.

A personal goal of mine is to spread awareness of the growth we’ve had. One day, I’d like to encourage the idea of a GSA to as many schools as I can. Having a safe, welcoming and accepting environment is an extremely important part of life to any youth.

Last year, we changed the meaning of our acronym to the Gender and Sexuality Association. It was felt that the initial acronym was non-inclusive to the surplus of newly accepted genders and sexualities in the spectrum, and decided that the change to an association, and less specified group of people, would encourage more students to join in.

The term LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) began use in the 1990’s but it doesn’t quite cover everyone in the current community. To be purely inclusive, the term would need to be so lengthy that the acronym would lose its meaning.

The current, most inclusive term is MOGII, pronounced mo-guy (Marginalized-Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex), which was created within the last few years. On Facebook, there are over 50 gender choices in your “about me” page, and although many are variants of each other, it is a step towards an egalitarian community, which the Belmont GSA is seeking.

This is my last year and I am conflicted: I can’t wait to go, but I wish I could stay, too. It’s been a great ride, watching my peers mature, and accepting who everyone is as we presented ourselves to them.

Kendra McCarthy is a student in Lauren Frodsham’s Writing 11 class at Belmont secondary.

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