On Monday I attended the regular meeting of the Gay-Straight-Alliance at Chapel Hill High School and it was a wonderful experience, being surrounded by so many self-aware, talented and insightful young people who were willing to share with me what life is like for them as LGBTs and allies in 2008.
I was invited by the advisor for the GSA, chemistry instructor and strong ally Alan Rissberger (known as "the Riz" to the folks). He has created a casual, comfortable and nurturing environment for the young people to share their stories. I think it's a huge testament to Rissberger and out gay social studies teacher and co-sponsor Tom Greene, that the students were able to open up to me during my visit with the group.
Some of the GSA members are fully out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or allies (no transfolk are in the group at this time, which has had as many as 50 members show up), some are out to siblings, but not all family members. Quite a few come from religious families where they know it would cause a great deal of strife to come out at this time.
They hold their regular meeting during lunch period on Mondays from 12:20 - 1:05, so it was an all-too-brief gathering, but we did get to do quite a bit of Q&A with me. We had about 20 young people at this meeting. I shared what it was like to blog about LGBT issues, my coming out process, being black and gay, the political realities of being LGBT in North Carolina -- and the rights we don't have, etc. I also had a chance to ask some of them questions as well, since it's been a looooong time since I was in high school ('77-'81).
After the GSA meeting, senior Kat Gipson didn't have a class right away, so she took time to sit with me and discuss the group, life in school for LGBT young men and women, what her plans are for the future (being out in college, and on the job one day), and what it's like to be LGBT and in her faith community. I'm still editing that long segment, but I wanted to put this other clip out there because it is powerful -- Kat shares her personal story of being gay-bashed in school; it forced her out of the closet to her parents, and spurred her to join the GSA.
Kat's story is extremely relevant here in NC as an anti-bullying bill died in the General Assembly, only a few votes short -- if all of the Democrats who had promised to support the bill had been there to vote, it would have passed. They failed students like Kat Gipson. As I asked then -- how on earth is it controversial to protect all children from harassment and violence?