Day of Silence 2018

TW: Brief mention of suicide and mental health

GLSEN’s Day of Silence “is a student-led national event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school.” The Day of Silence was created by a group of students at the University of Virginia in 1996.

“Nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum, nearly 9 in 10 experience verbal harassment, and almost a third miss school for feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. The Day of Silence is a national movement to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ students in school, which demands that school leaders take action to be more inclusive.”

I have never had a teacher speak about LGBTQ+ rights, or even acknowledge that someone they were talking about was a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in my entire life. I never learned about the Stonewall Riots in school, or the AIDs epidemic. I never read a history book that acknowledged our presence. Queer history is so important, and yet it is completely silenced in our education system. This is just one of many issues that leads to silencing and erasure in schools.

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“Safe Schools For All”

In my high school we had a GSA, but I never got up the nerve to go. Just a few weeks after I had come out to my family, an “advertisement” was played on the school announcements  for the GSA. Afterward, the boy who sat next to me laughed and said, “It’s so sad that we actually have one of those.” I felt gutted. Other kids laughed and they continued to make homophobic remarks. Was this a direct attack on me? No, they had no idea I was gay. Did it make me feel ashamed, outraged, and embarrassed? Absolutely.

I wish I could say that I stood up for myself and my community, but I did not. I was kind of scared and hurt, especially since it was all so new to me. Their laughter and bigotry made me feel as if I couldn’t speak up. However, I have had it so much easier than many LGBTQIA+ students; I’ve never been bullied or directly discriminated against. Hearing people say awful things, whether they realize it’s about you or not, is still hurtful.

Far too many LGBTQIA+ students suffer from mental health problems as a result of the bullying and general intolerance at their schools. We lose so many amazing kids to suicide, because of the abuse they face. Marriage equality didn’t end homophobia or transphobia, and it certainly didn’t make the United States treat LGBTQIA+ citizens as complete equals. We still have a long way to go, and we need protection of LGBTQIA+ students.

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How did you know you were gay?

Even though I’ve been out for a few years now, I’ve never really had anyone ask me “How did you know you were gay?” until a few weeks ago. One of my lab partners (who’s also gay) asked me this kind of out of the blue while we were working on our lab report after class. Honestly, I didn’t have a great answer prepared.

I told her about an experience I had sophomore year of high school, where I randomly had a huge crush on this girl I didn’t really know in my Chemistry class. I wrote about that crush a long time ago, but I’ve since come to some other realizations. I think she could have been replaced with a thousand different people and it wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s not that I don’t have standards, or that I’m attracted to every girl I come in contact with – that’s far from the truth. It was just a period of time where I was questioning and figuring everything out, and she just so happened to be in the same class as me.

Now, my lab partner wasn’t exactly satisfied with this story. “But how do you know it wasn’t just her?” That question threw me for a loop a little bit. There’s no good answer, I just do. It’s a feeling that, I don’t feel the need to question anymore. For me, sexuality isn’t a complicated part of my life. I know how I feel, and who I like. It’s just that simple. It wasn’t that easy in the beginning, but over time the doubts left and I feel perfectly content with the conclusion. I don’t have some great story about being swept off my feet by the love of my life, and I don’t think having that kind of story is necessary. I wanted the experience to be casual and simple, and it was.

Her questions came from a place of curiosity, but they definitely made me think about a few things. Why are people so obsessed with knowing every thought that goes through queer people’s minds when questioning their sexuality or gender? Also, why do they feel the need to question it’s authenticity? One of my favorite qutoes from Denice Frohman’s poem “Dear Straight People” is:

” Dear Straight People, I’m tired of proving my love is authentic, so I’m calling the reparations on your ass. When did you realize you were straight? Who taught you?Did it happen because your parents are divorced? Did it happen because your parents are not divorced? Did it happen because you sniffed too much glue in fifth grade? Dear Straight People, why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic? Why do I have to prove my love is authentic?”

I get a whole lot of “I would have never known” and “Really???” This has to do with the fact that I don’t look queer enough in straight people’s eyes. I wear makeup, have shoulder length hair, and generally act feminine enough to be shoved (forcefully) into the straight box. I can look in the mirror and think, “wow I look really gay today” (in a proud way) and still no one suspects a damn thing. The authenticity of my gayness is questioned because I don’t look the part or fit perfectly into the tiny box created for the stereotypical lesbian.

I don’t mind answering these questions, or most questions for that matter. However, I am tired of both people in my day to day life as well as society as a whole questioning who I am because I don’t fit the mold. So, how did I know I was gay? I trusted myself, and through lots of introspection discovered the answer to this aspect of my life. Maybe it’s not the best answer, or the answer people want to hear, but it’s the most honest one.

Getting My GED

I finally bit the bullet and took all four of my GED tests!

I had studied off and on since January, but I knew I was stalling and needed to go ahead and get it done. Honestly I was just really afraid of failing.  When I was studying it wasn’t that hard, but I thought it would be really embarrassing to fail a test that’s supposed to be easy.

I took the social studies portion on May 2nd and passed with flying colors. Then I took the math test and the science test on May 9th, which were the ones I was most nervous about. Luckily I also did really well and overall it wasn’t very hard. Finally I took the English test yesterday. I’ve always done well in English and aced all of my state mandated English tests, so I wasn’t worried about this one at all. I could have done them all in one day, but with my chronic illnesses I didn’t think that would be a good idea. They allow you so much time to test, and I wasn’t sure how much I would actually take so splitting them up seemed like the best choice. I passed them all as college ready which was really exciting, and I was one point away from getting college credit on the science portion. 

I’m so so happy to be done with the high school portion of my life! I honestly can’t express enough how much this is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m done with high school… early. Yes a GED isn’t as good as an actual high school diploma, but back in the fall I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to even get this done before the Summer began. Now all I need is my license and I can start taking college classes at my local community college in the fall! The situation may not be ideal, but I’m choosing to celebrate the win and look forward to getting my life back on track.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Why are you here?: Chronically Misunderstood

This one is going to be a bit of a back story, but I’ll make it quick. At the time I in high school and it was my freshman year. The school I went to really didn’t like that I was absent a lot and made me jump through a lot of hoops in order to “make up my time.” This had happened for the past two years I was in middle school as well, but their obsession with me being in school makes this story funny to me. Also at this time doctors thought I had abdominal migraines also known as cyclical vomiting syndrome.

I walked into school late and went to check in  before heading to class. Normally I would go to my house office, but the secretary at the front desk stopped me and asked me my name. When I told her who I was she looked me up in the computer system which I thought was odd. I had come into school late a lot and no one ever questioned me. Normally I just went to the office, got a note, and was on my way.

The lady started to look really confused and said, “you aren’t supposed to be here.” I didn’t know what to say to that. Here I am at school, specifically at a school that get’s very angry when I’m absent yet this lady is telling me I’m not supposed to be here? “You’ve been counted absent for the whole day,” she told me. I responded with, “I don’t know why, I didn’t tell anyone I was going to be gone all day.”

She furiously tapped away on the computer and I just stood there throughly confused. She walked away into the main office and came back looking relieved. She exclaims, rather loudly I might add, ” OH YOU’RE STOMACH MIGRAINE GIRL!” I guess I had developed a reputation. “Yeah…” I replied trying not to laugh. For some reason being stomach migraine girl made everything okay and she let me go on my way. I’m still honestly not sure what that situation was all about, but it was funny nonetheless.

Tell me a funny or weird story about your high school experience!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Being on Your Own Timeline

In the U.S. and especially in the suburbs there’s a pattern to life that your assumed to follow.

Graduate high school, go straight away to a University, graduate college in four years, get your first job, get married, have kids, etc.

I was raised to believe this is the only way to be successful in life, but after having my life interrupted by chronic illness and having to pave a different path for myself I’ve learned just how wrong that is. Everyone does things at their own pace; some people aren’t mature enough to go to college straight out of high school or can’t financially make ends meet so they have to work before going to school. For other people college just isn’t the right choice for them, or they choose to go back to school later in life.

While I am definitely pro-education and believe, given the opportunity, you should obtain as much education as possible, I can see that there are situations that can make that difficult or near impossible. You don’t have to have life figured out at 22, or even your own life figured out.

While there’s always going to be a lot of external pressure to follow a certain timeline, only you can know what’s best for yourself. Right now it’s best for me to be out of high school while I pursue my GED and get my health on track, to other people the decisions I’ve made may not be what they think is right, but I don’t believe you can speak to experiences you haven’t had.

Every time I meet someone new there’s always a million questions about school and extra curricular’s. I don’t feel the need to tell my sob story to everyone I meet so I often tell them the town I live in and let them make their own assumptions. Occasionally I’ll tell people the things I used to do when I was in school without mentioning I don’t go there anymore, but that’s normally when I’m uncomfortable with all the questions and feel like I’m being judged.

It’s crazy how narrow minded people can be. I try to put myself in other peoples shoes and examine situations from all aspects the best that I can. There isn’t one correct way to live life and I think this plan we’ve created as a society and seem to believe everyone should follow to a T can be really detrimental. You’re not a failure if your life doesn’t look like the majority of your peers, friends, or family members. You also don’t have to have the same dreams and goals as everyone around you.

Be yourself and do things on your own timeline!

Alyssa

Continuing Education

I’m setting a date to take my GED.

If you aren’t aware, I dis-enrolled from high school back in November and have been navigating what I’m going to do ever since then. After trying online high school, it not going well, and having a the biggest fight I’ve ever had with my parents, I’m finally going to take my GED test like we had planned all along. Since I’m only seventeen I had to get approved from the state, and I was approved yesterday morning so things are starting to get in place!

I’ve been studying a little bit here and there over the last few weeks and I don’t think passing it will be a problem. I’ve always done really well in school, and the GED test is supposed to be pretty easy. I’m still going to continue to study up until my test day because unexpectedly failing would be quite embarrassing.

I feel like this is a step in the right direction, even though it makes me really sad. I never wanted to leave high school, but this is the only way for me to move on and continue my education. I want to start some college courses over the summer, so I need to get my GED and then my license and I’ll be set. I guess hard decisions are part of “becoming an adult,” and I should get used to them. It’s definitely not the end of the world, it’s just a major disappointment. The burden and stigma of being a “high school drop-out” and a GED holder could set me back in my career which makes me nervous.

This is the right decision for me and I feel good about that. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, researching it, and talking about it with my family. Now I just want it to be over with so I can move on.

How was your high school experience?

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

School & Sunglasses: Chronically Misunderstood

This one is inspired by Chronically Dannie. She wrote about her high school violating her privacy, and it brought back this memory I had stored away.

The way high school is set up in my town is we have a freshman center and then a high school for 10-12 grade. Our school is huge and everyone couldn’t fit in the main high school, so freshman had their own building. The administration at the freshman center were super uptight, and were know-it-alls, hence this situation.

If you aren’t familiar with what a 504 plan is read this. I had a meeting about my 504 plan and accommodations, it went fine, they couldn’t come up with very many solutions or things to help me, but that wasn’t a new situation at this point. The next week my mom emailed them to follow up on some plans, and the 504 coordinator responded by telling her she had a new idea. She said I was going to be required to wear sunglasses while at school. WTF? I never wear sunglasses inside and when we told her I wasn’t gonna do that she said, “well my kids who have concussions do it and it helps them, so you should do it.”  She was taken back by the idea that I wouldn’t do that.

Wow I had no idea she had such an extensive background in medicine. Thanks Dr. Web-MD! I’ve never had a concussion and sunglasses aren’t gonna help my migraines, plus do I really need to stick out more? I was already “that girl who’s gone all the time,” I didn’t need to add “sunglasses girl” to the mix. I appreciate her trying to do something, but this wasn’t helpful, and the way she came across also didn’t make the situation better. Also, in what world can you make someone wear sunglasses inside? Definitely not the one I live in!

This just in, sunglasses cure migraines. I guess being in pain was completely avoidable all this time. This also wasn’t the last time that someone told me wearing sunglasses would “cure” my migraines. It’s funny now, but I still think it’s really odd. Have you had any weird experiences or “cures” offered to you due to chronic illness?

Lots of Love,

(and absolutely no sunglasses)

Alyssa