For some reason, the Daily Southtown -- a newspaper primarily circulated in Chicago's suburbs -- decided to run a series of articles about being out in high school.
All I have to say is, things were way different, back in my day, back in the mists of prehistory...
Having come out at 15, teen doesn't have to hide
Sunday, June 5, 2005
By Kati Phillips
Staff writerVince Lognion started to notice boys in the seventh grade, about the same time his pals started to notice girls.
A student at a small, Lutheran school, he kept his feelings to himself because his teachers said they were sinful.
But Lognion didn't want to keep the secret from his friends forever. He asked his parents to send him to a public high school.
Now an 18-year-old senior at Lincoln-Way East, Lognion has been "out" to his friends and family for three years [...]
Lognion came out at age 15 by accident.
He came home one day and saw his mom crying in the driveway. When he got up to his room, he found the journal where he recorded feelings about his first boyfriend — a student in Palos Hills whom he met online — laying open on his bed.
Lognion became physically ill and nervous. He stopped eating and had only terse conversations with his parents while holed up in his room.
Eventually his mother confronted him in the car, a place he couldn't escape, and told him she loved him and accepted him no matter what. Later, his dad repeated the car trick and warned him to be careful of sexually transmitted diseases.
They cut off his relationship with his boyfriend, though the teens continued to talk, Lognion said. The rocky start has eased into acceptance of something that can't be changed.
"They (know now) it wasn't a phase, that this is really who I am," Lognion said. "This hasn't changed anything between us or my friends. It's just a different way of loving somebody."
Coming out to friends during his freshman year at Lincoln-Way East High School was a different story.
He arranged for dinners or coffee dates in other towns with the friends he felt would be understanding, and he worked his way down to people he met at the parochial kindergarten.
"I was afraid they'd think I was going against the church, going to hell," he said. "With friends from outside school and church, I feared they'd think it was morally wrong or gross, that they wouldn't want to be around me."
Their reactions were anti-climactic. They said they knew already and were just waiting for him to tell them....
In high school, he found his voice
Sunday, June 5, 2005
By Kati Phillips
Before Liam Reed started classes at Oak Forest High School, he pinned a gay pride button to his backpack.
He wanted people to know he was gay — and that he didn't care if they knew.
The pronouncement singled Reed out for bullying. Peers would call him "faggot" in the halls and locker room.
But Reed, a slim 17-year-old with gleaming braces, shouted right back. "I never had a big voice in grammar school since I moved here in the fourth or fifth grade," he said. "I was ready to talk. This was the perfect opportunity for me to show I could take care of myself."
Reed said he always knew he was gay, from his strange attraction to Power Rangers action heroes to crushes on cute boys in class. He first came out to a girl who shared his appreciation for the cult movie "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
The second person was more of a risk, a fellow eighth-grade boy he pined for all year. The boy politely declined, a sign that his generation was becoming more comfortable with homosexuality even if they were not gay, he said. [...] Some of Reed's gay and lesbian friends are out at school, but not at home. They fear being kicked out or physically abused by their parents, Reed said. To give them a social and support outlet, Reed founded the Gay-Straight Alliance this semester at Bremen High School District 228 with the blessing of his parents. The GSA provides a space for students to talk about their sexuality and deal with problems at home or school. They learn that it's OK to be themselves, to keep an open mind about people's differences and to be kind to and respect each other.
"If freshman year I had a GSA, it would've been easier," Reed said. "I probably would not have felt the need to scream." [...]
Into class and out of the closet
High school students 'coming out,' and schools are trying to keep up
Sunday, June 5, 2005
By Kati Phillips
Staff writerIf you are friends with Nate (not his real name) or you ask him nicely, he will share with you that he is gay.
Most everyone at Bremen High School knows, but this tall, punky 17-year-old hasn't talked about it with his parents for fear of being punched in the face or tossed out on the street.
In the past few weeks, he has attended meetings of the school's new Gay-Straight Alliance, a social outlet and support group for gay, straight and questioning teens.
He plans to "come out" to his parents this summer.
"I've gotten that from the GSA and being around people like me," he said. "Everybody else is out. Why am I waiting?" [...] Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, a conservative family-values organization, questions whether youths are emotionally mature enough to label themselves as gay.
He blames pro-gay groups and popular culture for glamorizing the gay lifestyle and encouraging students to come out, while not informing students about the dangers of gay sex.
"There is a big difference if this is happening in college or later in life," LaBarbera said. "At least then they are adults making adult decisions."
Coming out in high school is not without danger or isolation, according to the American Medical Association and American Counseling Association.
Gay youths are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Almost a third drop out of school or earn lower grade point averages because they are harassed.
Even in schools with anti-bullying policies, 84 percent of gay students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation. More than 90 percent regularly hear derogatory comments like "that's so gay," according to a 2003 survey by Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School senior Alissa Norby said taunts can be direct, like when peers jeered at her, saying it's "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" before class. Or they can be indirect, like the way, she says, fellow tennis players ostracize a gay teammate.
South suburban students also have made national headlines for acts of gay acceptance.
In 2002, 60 students in Crete-Monee School District 201U staged a walk-out to protest anti-gay bias in the administration. Seniors voted two lesbians "cutest couple," but administrators put a hold on the yearbook picture until the girls' parents gave their permission.
"There is movement toward making a safer climate ... but it is too slow to keep up with students," said Aren Drehobl, spokesperson for the Chicago branch of GLSEN. [...] When Drehobl conducts staff training, she encounters teachers whose religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong.
Drehobl never advises people to change, just to create a safe space for all students.
"I often say I don't know a religion in the world that teaches violence and hate," she said.
Posted by iain at June 06, 2005 11:56 AM