Reflection of LGBTQ incisiveness at Wilson

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Talya Lehrich

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In 2011, DCPS outlined a plan to “create an inclusive school community.” Although the policy was supposedly implemented, LGBTQ individuals at Wilson have found that such plans have not been effectively put into action, despite the Wilson community preaching diversity and inclusiveness.

This plan included LGBTQ school liaisons who would be responsible for attending regular professional development that would include discussions of policy, increased health awareness, disseminating educational information, informing staff and parents about upcoming activities, and coordinating LGBTQ school-based events.

“I’m bisexual,” said senior Kate Lenegan. “There was one instance freshman year when one girl said something really stupid and she said ‘oh you’re gay, gross,’ and she was making hacking sounds at me.” Though this is not a common occurrence at Wilson, such instances can lead to questioning of Wilson’s values when put to practice.

For instance, health classes at Wilson teach sex ed, but cater only to heterosexual students. “Wilson is really focused [on] their inclusiveness and we accept all people of different colors, races, ethnicities, and sexualities, yet their education doesn’t match up to that diversity,” said Lenegan. “I mean I guess they don’t want the straight kids to have to learn how gay sex works, but what about the gay kids learning about [how] straight sex works?”

“When we talk about sex we talk more about condoms, how to use a condom, how to practice safe sex, but we don’t go into detail,” said health teacher Tia Clemmons. “It’s mainly just about relationships that fall under the umbrella of health.” While the health department strives to be inclusive of all sexual orientations, “we just don’t have enough time,” said Clemmons. “Sex education is a whole different course in its own.”

Gender normative terms can be a blurry line. When teachers address a class with the words “ladies and gentlemen,” they discourage the many students who identify in between. “I always try to use inclusive language,” said Michael Garbus, a social studies teacher and sponsor of the GSA (gender and sexuality alliance). “Just like I never say parents, I would say parents or guardians to make things more inclusive. When I am teaching content, I don’t assume kids are gay or straight or anything. It would certainly help to have some professional development around that.”

The 2011 policy was supposed to do just that: initiate professional development surrounding LGBTQ education. While parts of this program have been implemented, such as unisex bathrooms, the gay-straight alliance, and the Safe Space Campaign (an effort to foster positive relationships between students and teachers to reduce sexuality-related bullying), the school-based professional development is lacking.

In order to create a supportive learning environment, teachers, students, and administration must regard one another with respect, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. “If your whole judgment is clouded by my sexuality then you’re missing out on me,” said Lenegan.