How we handle discrimination against LGBT

Scott Novak, hesitantly stands up in front of all of his classmates. The same classmates he passes every day in the hall, sits next to in class, and eats with at lunch. Teachers sit too, some who know him personally and others who don’t. Silence fills every corner of the room, but an initial wave of confidence surges over him as he begins to advocate for a belief others may not share.

Novak class of ‘12, gave a speech at his Senior Retreat to his fellow classmates calling for respect for the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] community. Novak also shared his personal story about a friend who took his life due to bullying because of his sexuality.

“I was nervous. It was pretty emotional for me. I remember practicing it 20 times at home just so I could make it through without crying,” Novak said.
This fear of acceptance is common in many LGBT teens who think about sharing their true identity with others. “I actually came out at the end of my junior year through Instagram. It was very nerve-wracking because I didn’t know how people would react to it,” Brendon Huffman, class of ‘15 said.

According to Novak, although he did not directly come out through his speech, it was obvious to everyone in the room that he was gay. Novak’s close friends were extremely supportive of him and he did not face a lot of harassment from any of his other classmates.
Huffman shared a similar experience like Novak. “I didn’t encounter any negative interaction from anyone at JC. All of my classmates respected me for being who I am. I actually had a better junior and senior year because I could finally be myself,” Huffman said.

Oladokun Ekundayo, class of ‘15, was another student that faced the challenge of coming out to her classmates. Although Ekundayo originally thought her sexual preference was obvious to others, she was placed in the same situation that many LGBT students find themselves in.

I actually had a better junior and senior year because I could finally be myself.

— Brendon Huffman ‘15

Like her classmate Huffman, feedback was supportive for Ekundayo. “I was encouraged to be true to myself,” Ekundayo said. Currently, Ekundayo attends school at Virginia Military Institute. At VMI, Ekundayo also feels lucky to be accepted by others.

According to Ekundayo, associations and rules are set in place to prevent students from being discriminated against and handle the cases where discrimination does occur. However, Novak had “negative encounters with adults in the community. “While some of the harsh ridicule was made indirectly, other comments about Novak were straight forward.

Novak received long emails explaining why being gay was wrong. According to Novak, one adult even recommended conversion therapy. “Facing that [ridicule] at a time when I was very unsure of myself was pretty damaging,” Novak said. Reflecting on these eLGBT ONLINE TIME TO CROP STUDENTS ANSWERSvents, Novak said, “I would just emphasize to all teachers that you definitely will teach LGBT students, they will be in your classes, they’re all over the world, so you have to keep that in mind and you have to provide a welcoming environment where all your students feel safe.”

Teachers are open to this concept of acceptance and equal treatment. “The LGBT people are people, I do think we have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. I would never want a student in my classroom to feel attacked no matter what their background is,” religion teacher David Huber said.

Novak continued speaking his voice and eventually started an Anti-Bullying Club in the spring of his senior year. The group held discussions on how LGBT students were being treated in school and raised money for The Trevor Project, a 24-hour toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth. They also held a moment of silence in April for LGBT lives lost.

The club, however, did not last long after Novak graduated. Since then, efforts have been made to start a new LGBT club. An anonymous student spoke with guidance counselor Carol Heflin-Shupe on starting the club last year. Unfortunately, the club failed to start due to the lack of support. “None of the teachers wanted to start it because it partially has to do with the administration. Because no matter what a club does, they have to be in line with Catholic teaching,” the student said.

However, the student’s opinion on starting a LGBT club is not shared by school administrators. “Absolutely [I would be open to the school starting a LGBT club], and I believe it’s needed. I don’t think the teachers have an issue with that [starting a LGBT club] at all,” Principal Madelyn Ball said.

With support from the administration, there is a possibility a LGBT club could arise in the future. The push for acceptance of LGBT continues to grow in the community and world. “You are going to find people who aren’t going to like a guy holding another guy’s hand. But, you have to just be who you are. You need to brush off the negativity,” Huffman said.

Erin McCloskey is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and