Guest Blogger

Florida Students Protest to Protect a Community

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 20, 2009 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Amendment 2, Cypress Bay High School, GSA, protest, same-sex marriage

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.

n763135580_6289938_1398107.jpgI 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.


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Ryan, I am so proud of you and your colleagues for standing up for what you think is right and not backing down! We need more young, dedicated activists like you!

Ryan, stand up for what you know is right. Don't let others' fears keep you quiet. And don't let anyone discount your passion or integrity because of your youth.

Your letter-writer is free to keep those opinions; however, it is unjust to require you to adhere to his beliefs. My faith is very important to me, but to demand that anyone else follow its tenets is the height of hubris. The minute we allow Christianity to define our legislation, we open the door to every religion and doctrine to do the same. This is about everyone being given the same rights under the law.

More than finding out who wrote that letter, I'd want to know who approved its publication.

Oh, wonderful article. SENIOR in HS! Just love it. (PFLAG,GLSEN be sure we are supporting this area.)

HERE... is what happens when we start demanding our rights!

This is from Towelroad today, about all the fuss the hit on the
DNC Fundraiser has caused!

tinyurl.com/mdzjxz

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' tone showed a marked difference to previous press briefings when the news regarding the census and other LGBT issues came up today.
Watch it, with transcript, AFTER THE JUMP...
Also, the Justice Department HAS . (previously refused!) . scheduled a private meeting for next week with LGBT groups:

"At the meeting — which hasn’t been announced and is expected to include leading gay rights groups like GLAD and Lambda Legal — both sides are expected to hash out how to proceed with pending DOMA cases. (The one in MASS is GOOD!)
It remains to be seen, however, whether the meeting will achieve in a long term sense what gay rights lawyers told me they were and are looking for — an ongoing, less-confrontational interaction with the administration in the context of specific cases."

And two top White House officials, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Political Director Patrick Gaspard, are reportedly holding an emergency conference call with the LGBT caucus of the DNC:

"The call will include important updates on the Administration's LGBT agenda and how we move forward."

so keep it up!

ALSO need to keep pressuring to have CENSUS count married couples!!!

Ryan,

Great job, I enjoyed reading your article. I agree with almost everything you stated in your article. You seem to really have a knack for writing articles. Now I never claim to be the smartest person in the world so I really hate giving advice but since you stated to always make your voice heard, I figured I'd give it a go.

My thoughts on the whole matter is that protesting any form of expression such as a letter or statement goes against everything our country stands for. Even though it might have made you angry to read a letter of such intolerance and discrimination, unfortunately it's a letter that expresses opinions of millions of Americans, especially older ones. Even though it might be hard for you, you have to find a way to have tolerance for intolerance, it is something that you will ultimately need to find in order to have peace within yourself. I understand in this day of age we are so prone to things moving so fast and changes happening all around us all the time, but as you sit there just take a few minutes to try and picture a time when things rarely ever changed and things moved very slow. That time is what many older Americans are accustomed to. It is not always the fault of the individual for their ignorance. If the ignorant knew they were ignorant then they wouldn't be ignorant.

If it were me that had read that letter from my substitute teacher, I would have published that letter to highlight how gays and lesbians are discriminated against by not just fellow students but by some teachers as well. Yes, sometimes protests work such as in San Francisco in 1978, but again, that was such a different time and for a whole different set of circumstances. You can never compare two separate things.

Just keep one thing in mind, is that we live in such a very complex world with a whole array of thoughts and ideas. They always won't be want you want them to be and protesting anytime that happens is as about as effective as putting a bumper sticker on your car. I am not trying to say that what you did wasn't just or maybe a little effective, I'm just saying that I feel that your passion can be used in different places that might be more effective. Again this is just my opinion and I am definitely not the smartest.

I have to disagree, Mike. We should never "tolerate intolerance".

People may have the right to hold bigoted views, but we have the right and RESPONSIBILITY to do exactly what Ryan did and protest those statements. By not challenging them, we are complicit in allowing those views to flourish.

Well I agree on some level, but first off. Writing a letter explaining why you are against gay marriage is hardly intolerance. It simply a different view point. All I am trying to say is you can call anything intolerance, where does it end? You have to be somewhat tolerant of other people's views even if they are ignorant. We live in a society where ignorance flourishes. You need to learn to accept it on some level or become a very angry stuck up person which no one will listen to anyways.

Example- I went to see the new movie "The Hangover" , in that movie two of the main characters called their friend Dr. Fagot. So to me that is being intolerant to the gay community. Should we boycott that movie, protest at the movie theaters? Just because something offends you, doesn't always justify a protest. Especially when you are protesting on an issue that represents a wide range of different people.

I think sometimes our community suffers from a societal brow-beating that makes us feel we should except bigotry as a valid view point. If this teacher had written an article about how "interracial couples marrying is immoral", we wouldn't be having this discussion and the teacher would be fired. People have their right to an opinion, but they have to face the consequences of those words.

By continuing to allow the right-wing talking points about our community to be seen as "civil discourse", while other forms of bigotry have are deemed unacceptable, we only weaken our cause and slow our march to equality.

beachcomberT | June 21, 2009 7:18 AM

Ryan, Mike et al...If the letter was reasonably civil, identified as an op-ed piece, and was selected by student editors (not a principal or a School Board chairman) then I'm glad it appeared in the student newspaper. If we're going to champion diversity and democracy, we have to remember others have different views and should have a way of expressing them, even if we disagree. A newspaper that becomes "politically correct" becomes a joke. Hopefully, the readers (at least the brighter ones) will read the letter and see the folly of one person using their personal religion or idea of morality to denigrate LGBT people.

Dear Mike,

Recently, I was approached by the writers/producers of an online video series that features a gay dog and a drag queen as two of the central characters. They wanted a good review. I told them I didn't like the way the gay characters were written but I agreed to feature one of the videos on Bilerico because the gay world is full of many types of "gay", and a writer should be free to depict any type of character he or she wishes. On TV, the test of a strong character is the selling of a sponsor's product. Online, the test is the number of viewers and links. If a character called Dr. Fagot is offensive to you and me but appealing to millions of viewers, we need to understand the premises of that attraction and perhaps strengthen our own voices and our own writing without necessarily censoring others. Personally, I don't like gay writings that feature weak or effeminate men who do not love themselves, but those people exist and we ought not sweep those characterizations under the rug. So, to your point, I don't think we should protest a movie that features a gay character that makes us upset, but that is very very different from protesting discrimination and oppression in government and in school. We have rights as citizens that we need to protect through loud protest whenever our territory of equality is threatened, and I believe that is what Ryan did and will continue to do. He should be encouraged and supported. His efforts will be awkward and sometimes misdirected because of his youth, but that should be allowed because the energy he brings is worth more than the diplomacy he will learn.

Rock on brother.
And to those above, we need it ALL.
Protest, political clout, Education and money.
Trust me, I've had to look long and hard at how to win. There's no silver bullet solution. And at this moment in time, we could use some hell raising. Fear of political fallout can not trump doing the right thing. Personnaly, I'm trying hard to communicate with our allys and let them know why the GLBT community is feeling the way we are right now. Hopefully they will get it. And our relationship with them will be stronger for it. If not, they'll just have to catch up.
Civil rights for GLBT Americans is not a back burner issue.
Ryan and clan, Thank You.