By Alaya Scarlett and Ines Villarreal Senzatimore
Many schools struggle with homophobia on campus. Summit Denali High School is no exception. Despite the progressive views that Denali has, many students agree that the subtlety of homophobic comments still makes an impact on the school environment. Sabrina Lee, a sophomore at Summit Denali, spoke on her perspective regarding the issues that the LGBT community continues to face at school.
Lee believes that, while it is hidden well, homophobia is still an issue at Denali. Making gay jokes, or using “gay” as an insult, for example, has an impact on the school’s environment. Although these factors are subtle, they continue to demean the LGBT students at Summit Denali.
One of the resources that LGBT students have at Denali is the student-led QSA club. The QSA club, referred to as both the Queer Student Alliance and the Queer Straight Alliance, is a safe space in which students can discuss topics and discover their identities. Lee, who is a co-founder of the club, explained that “Everybody is there on equal ground. Everyone is there to learn,” which allows the club to be successful.
QSA is a “great start,” but Lee also advocates for more LGBT representation within schools. While she acknowledges that “history teachers at Summit have done a pretty good job talking about how identity plays a part in the way that history is represented and how people are treated”, she also suggested further improvements. This would involve the integration of queer history in class. This would encourage and inspire the many LGBT students. “People can achieve so much more when their eyes are open to the accomplishments of people before them,” Lee said.
In addition to the inspiration that LGBT students can gain from this, it is also important to educate straight people on LGBT history because it shows how “queer people have never not had a place in our society,” Lee explained.
From her personal experience at Denali, Lee recalled a situation in which she felt like there was a lack of respect for her identity. Lee wrote a poem on the importance of safe spaces for queer people. When asked for feedback on her literary skills, she received several comments from a former teacher critiquing the message instead of her writing.
Lee explained that “the lack of representation drives people to make their own spaces which should be respected. Her opinion was straight cis people should belong anywhere they want to be, including spaces for queer people.”
As a response, Lee challenged this statement by describing the importance of a safe space, using the extensive history of violence and discrimination against queer people as the evidence for her point. The teacher, despite having no prior experience or knowledge on the topic, outwardly opposed this, claiming that our society has reached a point in which these safe spaces are not necessary. This remark was offensive to Lee, and it showed a clear lack of education on queer history. This situation illustrates the complete lack of understanding and subtle homophobia at Denali.
When asked about representation and its importance, Lee expressed that “it’s really easy for people to say ‘Why do we need more representation and diversity?’ but the kinds of people who say that are the kinds of people who already have representation.”
While Lee is appreciative of QSA’s effect on Denali, she mentioned that resources like this are just the start of a greater movement, and hopes that people can “come to a place where they can realize that it’s important to talk about these things outside of these kinds of safe places too.” QSA is a “great launchpad,” but there is still a long way to go.
FEATURED IMAGE (at top of post): Lee is a founder of the Denali QSA. PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Kobetsky