A Day in the Life of the Cast Aside

Sofia Puerto writes a commentary piece on the discrimination against LGBTQ+ students in the Clayton School District.


Michael Melinger

Members of the community hold up a ten foot flag during the protest.

Why do we do this to ourselves? We live in a generation where all of the world’s knowledge is at the click of a button for us, and we continuously make mistakes in etiquette when calling someone the right name or their prefered pronouns. Are we too afraid to ask? Do we not want to get caught looking up the polite way to address these kinds of situations? Because if you don’t know, all you have to do is ask. “What’s your name?” “What would you like to be called?” It’s that simple. Yet we still do it incorrectly.

Students ages 13 through 19 in the LGBTQ+ community are 24 percent higher scoring on the scale of depressive symptomatology and self harming because of bullying, according to a Boston Massachusetts study. However, the level of bullying and mistreatment at Clayton High School, and Wydown Middle School as well, has seemingly been kept fairly low. Jane Miller*, a junior at CHS, says, “Being at CHS is being at a really progressive school.” Though CHS is one of the more progressive schools of the time, some students have encountered cases of bullying.

“Last year, (…) I walked home like I normally would, and I came (home) to people standing on my front lawn, people who, the week before, had called me a slur,” Freshman John Taylor* said.“My mom was watching from the third story window, and I just told the people to get off the lawn. These were people in my grade, that I knew and were in my class, and they just would not leave.”

“They said some things, and my mom called the administration after that. It was four boys, who had harassed me the week before, and I knew I didn’t like them because I had heard them use inappropriate slurs before towards the LGBTQ+ community”. For Taylor and others, this event was a  painful wakeup call to how cruel the world can be when you are different.

For the most part, differences at CHS are embraced. There are always going to be those few people that don’t understand, that don’t agree with you, or simply someone looking to pick a fight.

So, we are looking into how to change that.

It is a plausible course of action to teach about the different genders, sexualities, and sexual orientations during the human sexuality unit at the end of 8th grade. Considering that the School District has students doing Physical Education every day at the middle school except for one quarter, we can afford to spend two or three days teaching and informing about the different genders, sexualities and sexual orientations.

Taylor also experienced discrimination in the classroom after his transition from female to male.

“[Taylor’s teacher] said when I came out, ‘You’ll always be (insert birth name here) to me’, which I just kind of thought is how I should be treated until I talked it out and thought about it and realized that that is not how a person should be treated at all. For the rest of that year, I don’t think he made (an) effort to use my proper pronouns, or say my name, and he called me ‘you’ a lot. I don’t remember him distinctly calling me by my real name ever”.

If we took the time to learn about people, to get to know them and what they are like, then we wouldn’t ridicule them so much. We wouldn’t be afraid of that which we don’t know.

Freshman Lukas Calsyn is transgender and has been the victim of discrimination both during his time in middle school and now at CHS. “(I have heard bigotry) more blatantly at CHS (than at Wydown Middle School) but still at Wydown I was called names several times, and one of my friends was walking home and told me that she heard someone say ‘Oh yeah, Lukas, she’s a fag.’”

“In English, we were talking about a word that meant ‘to pretend to be something you’re not’, these kids in front of me were talking about (another student in reference to this word) a non-binary kid,” Lukas said.

Though he feels like CHS is an accomplished school in terms of acceptance, there are these few who continue to make fun of and tease others for being different.

One 8th grader, Nina Fox-Dunsker, believes these kinds of slurs tear down the self-esteem of people who are different. “(The f slur) is kind of like the n word in a sense, (…) I can’t pretend that they are the same thing, it’s not like the LGBTQ+ community was enslaved or anything, I can say that it was used to bring people down.”

If you don’t know, for example, what gender a person is attracted to, why does it matter? Why should it matter? A person is a person, no matter what, and it doesn’t have to be any of your business how they live their lives, whether you agree with them or not, whether you support them or not. At the end of the day, their lives don’t have to have anything to do with yours, if you don’t want them to, but you may miss out on getting to know and love a really great person.

So I end with this. If you were being treated differently because of a part of you that couldn’t be controlled, what would you do?