Editor's Note: Ryan Terrell is a Senior at Cypress Bay High School where he serves as the President of the Cypress Bay Gay/Straight Alliance. He is also the incoming President of the Broward County GSA Advisory Council.
I have been a student at Cypress Bay High School for 3 years. And during those years, I've witnessed and participated in some of the most profound changes in regards to human rights that our relatively new school has seen.
I was there when one of our newspaper contributors came out in an article in the newspaper itself and pressured administration to finally create a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in our school. I was also there when many of our students were so excited and proud when we elected Barrack Obama to the presidency but were also sad and confused when Proposition 8 passed in California and Amendment 2 passed here in Florida. In fact, many of the 80 members of my GSA had volunteered and protested against Amendment 2 during the final months of the campaign, resulting in us winning in Weston and the surrounding areas by a slim 51-49%.
We had come far in these last three years and during that time we had built a vast network of support and contacts, not only within our school but also within the community. So you could imagine my shock and disgust when I opened the last issue of my school's newspaper to find a letter to the editor by a substitute teacher stating that "Same Sex marriage is morally wrong".
The article, written by a suspiciously named John D. Johnson, made biased and shocking claims that I thought would never make the cut in a nationally recognized student newspaper. The article talked of how procreation is the one true function of marriage and that because gay and lesbian people could not procreate, they therefore could not share marital love.
My other Co-President, Lisandro Crouzeilles, and I decided that we would take swift and decisive action to set an example that our public school system will NOT be used as a place to spread ideas of intolerance and discrimination. We immediately contacted our allies on the school board and worked with them on creating a solution that would prevent this from happening again.
Then, to build support in our surrounding communities and demonstrate our anger, we organized a large protest on the corner of Dykes and Griffin Road. Our actions did meet with discontent however. Some of our allies in the community criticized our actions by stating that we overreacted and could risk losing the support of our straight allies.
Let me remind them of 1978 in San Francisco. The gay community had just lost humiliating defeats in Miami-Dade, Eugene, St. Paul, and Wichita and they focused their anger and frustration into large and rowdy protests after each defeat. And before each protest our straight allies claimed that we would hurt our cause by speaking out for what is right.
But they were wrong!!!
Those protests only helped us to fight back the Briggs Initiative and elected Harvey Milk to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. And our protest against this disgusting article was justified. We used the coverage from the protest to bring attention to a serious and often neglected problem in our public schools, bullying and harassment.
I plan on working with the new GSA advisory Board and the Office of Prevention to help make lasting improvements to the way GLBT students are treated in high school. So remember, continue to fight and speak out and never lose your voice. We have lost much over the years, but we will continue to make gains so long as believe in ourselves and have hope.