“Everyone is welcome here.”
These words hang in the hallways of Islip High School, visible to every student walking through the school each day. The words painted in rainbow letters by members of the Gay-Straight Alliance across a large mural of the Progress Pride Flag are a reminder to all children in Islip that they are accepted for who they are.
The sign was created last year by members of Islip’s Gay-Straight Alliance. The design was approved by the principal and we were allowed to hang the mural in the hallway of the high school after consultation with the building authority, the superintendent and the school board.
We were grateful for this support, because although the Progress Pride flag flies over the New York State Capitol Building in Albany each June, not every school in the state offers their students the same opportunities.
“Pride” is not political; Pride is an expression of who a person is. Pride is not a sign of who to vote for, nor does it express a position on one side of a Kulturkampf. Pride is the act of being who you are without being ashamed.
Most LGBT children are told to hide who they are. Their identities are invalidated when they are told they are confused or that they are going through a phase. They are told that what they are is a sin, that it is unnatural, that they are an embarrassment. They are taught to be ashamed of themselves and to live in fear and hatred of their true selves.
It is important that all children are protected and welcome. Statistics show that transgender and non-binary youth whose identities are respected and LGBT youth who have access to identity-forming spaces have healthier mental attitudes and are far less likely to attempt suicide.
Gay Straight Alliances are places where LGBT children can be who they are without fear of judgement, harassment or violence against them. They provide students with the resources and support they need when they do not have it at home. Some students may not be able to be part of the GSA for a variety of reasons such as: B. Fear of coming out or being outed, other commitments, or ignorance of their existence – some GSAs are not allowed to advertise their presence. A Pride flag in a school sends the message to LGBT students that they are safe here, they will not be judged or harassed and that if an incident occurs, teachers and administration will do what they have to do to protect them protect and protect take care of them.
Pride is a way of expressing yourself, to show that you are not afraid to be who you are. Pride is the ability to treat all people equally. When a gay student can walk down the halls holding hands with someone of the same sex and not feel embarrassed, that’s pride. When a transgender student can dress comfortably and use their own name and pronouns without fear of disrespect, that is pride.
The message that everyone is accepted for who they are is essential to ensuring that children feel safe, loved, supported and comfortable in their own skin, not as if they have to hide or kill themselves. That’s why Islip High School is proud to say that everyone is welcome here.
This guest post reflects the views of Islip High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance members.
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