By: Kymberly Brooks
Mason Cisneros, an 11th grade transgender student at Park View, walked into his history classroom and stopped in his tracks at the sight of a substitute sitting uncomfortably at his teacher’s desk. He filled with dread as he took a seat and waited for the sub to begin taking roll. The woman read each name out loud one by one. Mason’s stomach knotted as she called out his deadname, or his birth name from before his transition. The room filled with a heavy silence followed by a few of Mason’s classmates explaining that it was “her” name, blatantly misgendering him. Mason remained silent as the sub announced that she “didn’t care about hes, shes, or its” and spent the rest of the class being rude and cold to him.
This experience is not an uncommon one for LGBTQ+ students in secondary schools all over the country. Although the world has become far more understanding and accepting over time, it is far from perfect. Homophobia on top of the already harsh and judgmental environment of high school can be torture for queer teens.
“People should be allowed to express themselves fully within the context of their environment. Some things aren’t appropriate, but I don’t think being gay or being trans is something that’s innapropriate,” commented Laura Gray, a reading teacher at Park View.
14.1% of the students and staff interviewed at PVHS said they didn’t feel safe to be themselves some or all of the time in school.
“It hurts whenever somebody attacks a piece of your personal identity,” stated Gray.
Slurs of any kind have the potential to hurt. They are words backed by malice and judgment that have been used for years to tear people down for their differences. For a teenager, having to be a minority is hard enough without the added difficulties of bullying and hatred.
“When used in an insensitive tone they can be dehumanizing,” said Matthew Chesnutt, senior and SCA president.
22.8% of the students and teachers at PVHS who were surveyed said that they heard LGBTQ+ slurs used in school often, and 40.4% said they heard them sometimes, however 68.4% of them said that they themselves never use them.
“We try to be as accepting as possible but acceptance is something that is on a continuum,” Park View principal, Kirk Dolson stated, “Having a straight, white, heterosexual, man talk about discrimination and equality can make people uncomfortable, but I feel like that’s my job in leading a diverse school.”
Loudoun County Public School is taking initiative in finding a change for the treatment of LGBTQ+ teens through the education and communication of administrators.
“There has to be discomfort for there to be change,” added Mason Cisneros.