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GUEST COLUMN School: Still not so safe
by Kelsi Williams

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In the year of 2017 LGBT culture has become more accepted, but tensions are still high in places such as public schools.

Teachers and students alike mistreat students of the community without even realizing it, and once they do the discrimination still continues. Personally, I no longer find it as difficult to be myself as it would have been years ago, but years of discrimination still come to life every now and then.

The T and B in the LGBT acronym stand for transgender and bisexual. Students that identify as transgender still are not allowed to use their preferred bathrooms or express themselves the proper way. They have faced suspension, and sometimes expulsion, for even attempting to stand their ground and be proud of who they are. While that is happening, people who identify as bisexual are being discriminated against by their peers, and sometimes teachers if they find out, and are considered confused, but that is nowhere near true.

As a Chicago Public Schools ( CPS ) student, as well as a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at my school, I have seen, heard, and experienced how straight students treat their peers that are different from them. On a day-to-day basis straight students are pretty "tolerant," but every now and then ignorance peeks out. I can recall being asked by female friends how do I manage to not get a crush on all of the girls I hang out with. In theory, it sounds like an innocent question, but being a bisexual girl and liking girls is the same as being a straight girl and liking boys. It's all based on personality, not gender.

Some peers don't just say rude things, but they also make it physically clear that they do not accept the difference. This year at one of my school dances two boys were dancing together and having a good time until one of the football players pulled them from each other and said that he "couldn't handle all that gay stuff." They felt safe within their school environment and thought they could be open with their sexuality, but as soon as things started to progress we were taken several years back with that act of pure hatred of two people doing nothing wrong but being themselves.

There are safe places for students of the community, such as a school's GSA or the annual Gay Prom in Chicago, but these safe places do not stop the students from hearing rude comments every day about the way they "choose" to live their life. As a society it is easier to ignore what we do not see, and it has been that way for many years, but the build up of this ignorance has led to several instances of hate crimes, such as the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, that make people feel like it is not safe to be themselves.

Not only are other students in the way of the freedom of LGBT students, but teachers also cause problems for the students. Some teachers actually help and guide students through their coming out experiences, but there are teachers that make their views on LGBTs very clear or they don't do anything to help the students that are being harassed. Bystanders of bullying are frowned upon, but teachers that stay out of harassment of the students are justified by several people, especially by those who do not agree with gay marriage or LGBTs in general.

Teachers hardly speak up when regular bullying is involved, but there is a whole different level of neglect when hate-crime bullying is involved. Students are advised to go to an adult when situations that make them feel unsafe or bullying occurs, but what if the student in need is gay? Bisexual? Transgender? What then? There are states that prohibit teachers from even addressing LGBT-related issues. This is harmful to the students because it limits people they can confide in as well as it stops them from being able to learn about their own history.

The suppression and abuse of LGBT culture in school settings needs to be stopped. Illinois specifically may be considered safe for students, but it only takes one or two peers or teachers to show the students that the world may not have changed as much as we have thought.

Kelsi Williams is a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, where she writes for their newspaper, The Talon.

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