Saturday, May 30, 2009

GSA and High School Memories

Reading Sarah's post about the GSA at her school got me thinking about how homosexuality was viewed when I went to high school in little ol' Provo, Utah.

During my senior prom I overheard the administration arguing with two girls, one girl wearing a dress and the other wearing a tux. The girls were lesbians who wanted to promenade with the rest of the students and the administration was not going to let them. I heard students around me asking, "How did they even get tickets to come to the Prom? I thought that wasn't allowed!"

I don't remember whether the girls were eventually allowed to promenade or not, but I don't think they were. They later joined with the ACLU to make the issue more public and it was in newspapers all over the state. Of course I didn't see a problem with them promenading, even though I was in extreme denial back then, but it's interesting to think about how the administration and a majority of the students were outraged that a gay couple would want to join in the promenade at Junior Prom.

I was in the student government at my high school for a couple of years, and each year the faculty advisor would go over the school constitution (i.e. how clubs are formed, the rankings of student government offices, etc.). He used examples of clubs that could be formed and clubs that could not. He mentioned that a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) would not be allowed at the school. I wish I remembered the reasoning behind it, but I don't. It might have been that we weren't allowed to have political clubs or something like that. All the same, everyone in the student government acted like GSA was a ludicrous idea that should be avoided like the plague.

When I got home from my mission I heard that a GSA had been formed at my high school, and it was a major source of controversy in local newspapers.

I'm not sure what my point in remembering all of this is, but it is interesting to see how normal intolerance of homosexuality seemed to me back then. It did not seem odd to me that GSA should be viewed as a terrorist organization. It didn't seem odd to me that a gay couple at promenade would be a problem. If I were to go back to high school today knowing what I know now, I think I would be outraged at the intolerance I would find there. It surprises me to realize that I was even drawn in by that intolerance back then.

It wasn't until the last few months of my mission that I decided it was okay to support gay marriage. Until that point, I always felt that as a Mormon I was not allowed to support certain political movements, even if I was very liberal. I had decided long ago that I was pro-choice, but for some reason I wasn't sure what feelings I was allowed to have on gay marriage.

Then on one P-Day, we were sitting around on the grass behind a church and one of the sister missionaries said to me, "So I hear you're a liberal." My liberalism was legendary among the missionaries, even though the ONLY thing I had ever said regarding my political affiliation was that I would vote for John Kerry. Somehow all the missionaries had gotten it into their heads that I was Michael Moore in their midst. Anyway, this particular sister missionary was rumored to be liberal as well.

"Yeah, I'm liberal," I said.

"I doubt that," She said. "You're another Peter Priesthood like all the rest of them. Prove to me that you're liberal."


"Okay, tell me this... when I was back in Michigan we had to vote on whether to allow gay marriages or not. Which way would you vote?" She asked.

I thought about it for a second. I wanted to prove to her that I was liberal. For some reason it bothered me to have her think that I could be a conservative Mormony bastard like some of the other missionaries. I'd never said that I supported gay marriage, but all my feelings were that it was good. So I told her that I would vote for gay marriage.

"Good," she said. "That's how I voted."

From that day forth I wasn't as afraid to own up to my beliefs. I didn't feel like I had to conform.

Anyway, I'm rambling now, so I'll end here by posting a video of a song I really like. It's called "No Hole In My Head" by Malvina Reynolds.


Ezra said...

There was a GSA group at my school in VA, and it wasn't well liked either, but I never really gave it much thought.

Also, I think I've fallen in love with this Malvina woman. What a delight!

Sarah said...

I'm way behind on my blog reading, sorry. :(

Thanks for the post. It is interesting how my attitude has changed over the last year. It is like I am wearing entirely new glasses that shine a different light on the way I see everything.

I'm pretty sure I would never have agreed with having a GSA when I was in high school, but of course that was 17 years ago. I have come a long way since then, and so has the world with a general understanding of homosexuality, I believe.

We will see what the next year will bring with getting the club going at my school. First we need school senate approval. I am hoping that I have enough student allies in that group to get it through. All I can do is pray for tolerance!