Gay-Straight Alliance provides atmosphere, open discussion for students

Emily Brown, Opinion Editor

Lauren Biggs

She had heard the horror stories. Of people losing their friends. Of people getting kicked out of their houses. She was scared. Scared that people would treat her differently because of who she is.
Senior Lauren Biggs said she first realized she was a lesbian in seventh grade. She said she just knew it instinctively.
“There was another girl in my class who had said something that day about being a lesbian,” Biggs said. “Something in my head was like ‘Oh, yeah, that’s me.’ I felt like I needed to tell someone.”
In middle school, Biggs told her best friend, current senior, Thamara Subramanian, she was bisexual.
Subramanian said she was surprised and a bit confused when Biggs told her about her sexual orientation.
“She was the one who always had a boyfriend,” she said. “But I was happy she told me because it showed me a lot of what people go through, and the insecurities that they face.”
Biggs said she ended up informing Subramanian she was bisexual because it felt like a safer alternative than saying she was a lesbian. She was also still getting used to the idea of identifying herself as a lesbian.
“I only told her,” she said. “I really only trusted her. I didn’t tell anyone else until freshman year because I was still scared about it.”
Subramanian said Biggs remained hesitant to tell other people because Biggs was afraid they would judge her, however, the revelation did not change their friendship.
During her sophomore and freshmen year of high school, Biggs dated several guys.
“I really liked their personalities,” she said. “They were really good people and everything, but I always felt that in every single one of them, there was something missing.”
Biggs reached out to Rebecca Richardson, the founder of BV’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), as a way to talk to somebody who understood the difficulties of being a lesbian. Richardson invited her to attend a GSA meeting.
After joining the club, Biggs said she immediately felt more comfortable with her sexual orientation. She officially came out her sophomore year of high school.
“I could talk to people who are like me and who understood and who were OK with it,” she said. “I said it out loud for the first time in GSA. I was scared to death. But everyone was really nice about it, and so I felt relieved after I said it.”
GSA gave her a reason to tell her parents she was a lesbian. After Biggs went to several GSA meetings, her father spoke to her about her attendance.
“He told me before I even said anything that ‘It’s okay if you are gay; we still think of you in the same way. We still love you the same,’” she said. “That made me feel a lot more comfortable about it because I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I told them.”
Despite feeling more comfortable in her decision to come out, Biggs still does not immediately tell new acquaintances she is a lesbian.
“I usually delay letting people know about it because I don’t want it to define me as a person in their eyes,” she said. “I want them to see me and not just some big, gay sign. Because being straight doesn’t define them.”

 Clint Webb  

He walked down the school hallway. A group of guys pushed past him, calling out “Get out of our way, faggot.”
He kept on walking.
Senior and president of GSA, Clint Webb loved to play with toy trains and Legos as a child. He loved music, and he listened to Britney Spears.
Because his father was a pilot and would be gone for a week at a time, Webb spent much of his time with his mother. He always got along with the girls his age.
“I really never got along with boys,” he said. “See that’s ironic. I related more to girls.”
In late elementary school, he started to notice he was attracted to males.
“Looking back in my life, I know I’ve always had an attraction to men more than women,” he said. “In fifth grade, I really noticed it.”
With his progression into middle school, people started to comment on his sexuality. His cousin mentioned his feminine gestures, and people made fun of him because he didn’t enjoy sports.
In eighth grade, Webb realized he was gay. While he was content in knowing it was just who he is, he kept the information to himself because he was unsure about people’s reactions.
“You just come to expect from society, in general, that there are going to be people that are rude and nasty about it,” he said.
Webb ended up coming out to his friends the fall of freshman year. They had been clowning around during a football game, and he said the confession just happened.
“Most people were like, ‘Well, we already know, honey,’” he said. “But some people were surprised. You hear horror stories about guys coming out, but mine wasn’t really like that.”
Current senior Morgan Giudicessi, one of the friends Webb told at the football game, was not surprised about Webb’s revelation.
“I’m very open-minded,” she said. “It didn’t faze me at all. It was like he told me his favorite color was purple.”
Webb said he felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders because he no longer felt like he was living a lie.
After Webb broke up with his first boyfriend junior year, his mother noticed his distress and kept asking him what was wrong. Webb eventually admitted he’d broken up with his boyfriend and that he was gay.
“She was supportive,” he said. “She had her suspicions, but she actually thought I was straight.”
This year, Webb said more and more people have become accepting of who he is, especially the guys of the senior class.
“I know some people who were totally homophobic my freshman year, but they have grown to be more accepting,” he said. “It seems like they really don’t care anymore.”
Webb said one gay stereotype that bothers him is the belief that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community would not make good parents. Webb said this is hurtful since he hopes to adopt one day.
“It makes me angry because there are lots of studies out there that say gay parents are just as competent as straight parents,” he said. “People don’t listen to the facts. They just have their prejudices.”
If Webb could go back in time, he would advise his younger self not to be afraid to be an individual.
“Just be confident in who you are,” he said. “Because there is nothing wrong with it — no matter what people say.”

Archana Vasa

At first, junior Archana Vasa thought joining GSA might be weird, especially since she is straight. But over time, her opinion changed. She saw her transgendered cousin harassed by kids at school. She saw him harassed by his very own family. She heard derogatory comments towards LGBT individuals. She heard people using gay as a negative adjective. She witnessed students jokingly asking their peers out on dates because they assumed the person was gay or lesbian.
By junior year, she joined GSA and became vice president of the club.
“I finally realized if I actually support gay rights, if I actually support gay individuals in the community, then I should step up and do something to support them,” she said. “Every human being deserves to be treated the same way — just being gay or straight doesn’t make or break who you are. You should judge a person based on their actual personality — not who they want to grow up to marry.”
GSA sponsor Jill Gouger said she was not surprised Vasa joined the club.
“She just strikes me as a very open-minded person,” Gouger said. “Someone who is passionate about helping everyone and making sure everyone feels welcomed and accepted at our school.”
In the club, Vasa writes letters to Kansas representatives to encourage them to support gay marriage and civil unions. But another main aspect of the club is raising awareness about harassment due to a person’s sexual preference.
“It is just like ‘Come on,’” Vasa said. “It’s just childish for making fun of someone because of their sexuality. When guys or girls make comments like ‘Oh, she is a lesbian. She has a crush on all the girls. I don’t want her to see me.’ I’m not attracted to every single guy I see, just as a gay male would not also be attracted to every guy he sees.”
Vasa said critics of homosexuality need to understand that it is actually much more difficult to be gay than it is to be straight.
“When did [the critics] wake up in the morning and choose to be straight?” she said. “They didn’t wake up in the morning and say ‘Oh, I’m going to be gay.’ I think that people wouldn’t make that choice to live a harder lifestyle.”
Vasa said she encourages those who aren’t necessarily supportive of homosexual rights to come to a GSA meeting to gain a new perspective on what LGBT students are going through in the area.
She also applauds the LGBT students who have come out.
“Especially in this community, it is really brave of them to do that,” she said. “I think that when they come out of the closet, and they are open about their sexuality, it makes people see that they are OK — that they are going to make it. It just offers them some comfort.”