According to the Human Rights Campaign, four in 10 LGBT youth report that the community they live in isn’t accepting of LGBT people and LGBT students are twice as likely to be the victims of bullying in school.
The Southmoreland SAFE club, which is an acronym for “Sexuality Alliance For Everyone”, was founded by junior Genesis Harshell and senior Kortlyn Kohl during the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year with the idea of protecting LGBT students in mind.
“Our goal is to fundraise for different LGBT foundations,” says member CJ Medley. “We’re here to provide a safe space for LGBT youth that don’t feel safe in school or their community.”
The challenging obstacles faced by LGBT youth, especially in the United States, are tremendous. With increasing pressure on males to be masculine in today’s society and females to be a textbook feminine housewife, it’s hard to express yourself these days.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology, most American men feel pressured to be masculine and fear being viewed as “feminine” or “gay.”
These are high statistics for a nation where 4.1 percent of American adults are self identified as LGBT. However, to help to combat these statistics the Student AFE club was founded.
Though there is a large amount of support for the club, many students haven’t been accepting of the club or its message of equality.
“Our posters have been torn down,” Medley said. “We keep going though; we don’t let them stop us. We try to keep ourselves as safe as we possibly can.”
“Many of these kids are just ignorant, they don’t know any better because all they know is intolerance,” said club sponsor Mr. Zack Cavalier “They know nothing outside of what they grew up with. Our objective is to educate them and change that.”
Even through all of the disapproval, the club remains true to its message of peace and tolerance for each other.
“I think a lot of movements’ messages get muddied by people just not listening to each other and taking an angry position,” said Mr. Cavalier “The idea is to stay constructive; they may just not know better. We want to show them that people are people.”
Despite the negativity that can sometimes surround the club, its members remain optimistic that the club can still help students struggling to find themselves.
“Knowing there’s a group of students dedicated to our cause, it could help some kids change their minds on the issue of LGBT rights,” said Medley.
“From a school perspective, we really don’t have any resources for our LGBT kids in any way,” said Mr. Cavalier. “Teenagers are trying to figure everything out. A resource like this will hopefully help them feel a little bit better about themselves.”
The SAFE club meets every month in Mr. Cavalier’s room.