“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop,” said Confucius over 2570 years ago. He had no idea what our world would be like today, and how much his words would still hold true. For the LGBTQ+ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc), this quote is especially valid today, especially considering that until 2015, gay marriage was not legal throughout the United States. Now in 2019, “coming out” has become a more normal part of the high school experience, with 64% of LGBTQ+ youth coming out to their friends, family, and fellow classmate during high school. Even though it took 4 years to make this change, members of the LGBTQ+ community never stopped. So how do Morro Bay High School students feel about coming out and how has coming out at MBHS changed over time?
While coming out has overall become more mainstream, it is still an issue of feeling socially comfortable with friends and teachers. “For me, it wasn’t coming out, it was more about what people I was coming out to. With S.A.G.A. and my close friends, it was easy, but with teachers, I just don’t tell them or it doesn’t really come up” says senior Colby Ratzat. Also, there is a big difference between gender and sexuality. Most times you might not tell a teacher your sexual orientation unless you are very close to them. However, if you’re transgender or genderqueer you want people to call you by the correct gender pronouns like he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs. “There are some classes that I feel more comfortable with, especially when it comes to my pronouns than others” states Keegan Hunt.
Because teachers can have so many different opinions, how they react is also a huge influence on LGBTQ+ students choosing to come out during high school. “In very select occasions I’m unsure of what their reaction might be, but if I know that they won’t accept it then I just don’t tell them,” says student Jahlia Dickey. A teacher can completely change your perspective and comfort level based off of their reactions. Teacher Chris Spahr explains his approach to making students comfortable in his classroom, “My main concern is to maintain a mindset that we are all here trying our best to be our best selves. Whether or not “success” in my particular class is part of that best life for someone is irrelevant. In other words, I try to teach with the idea that students are great people whether they like me or my class, or whether they do well with me or not, or whether they lead a lifestyle like mine or not.”
How has coming out changed over time? Since it is 2019 only the seniors at our school attended our school when gay marriage was legalized. Spahr says, “I feel that to a large degree that the community has become more visible which is great. It’s a sign that hopefully our communities are becoming more open and accepting of this important part of our population. More and more we are seeing people lobbying for laws and equal rights for individuals whose lives have been stifled in the past.”