Sexuality celebrated by some, kept secret by others

The Southerner

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By Mary Claire Morris and Margo Stockdale

The Grady Gay-Straight Alliance conducted a Day of Silence on Friday, April 25 to raise awareness for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. The Day of Silence is dedicated to creating a safer school environment, regardless of sexuality.

In many cases, adolescents who identify as members of the LGBT community face severe bullying and harassment. Some remain silent due to fear of admitting their sexuality to their friends, families or even themselves. Junior Tatyana Sampson, a lesbian and a member of the GSA, said that her sexual orientation has never created problems for her.

“I’ve never had problems with being out,” Sampson said. “And I choose to surround myself with people who are accepting.”

Sampson, a former resident of Seattle (where same-sex marriage is legal), came out as a lesbian in the seventh grade. She said that her family never judged her for her sexuality and her friends, both in Atlanta and Seattle, never cared either.

Junior Nate Pate, also active member of the GSA, has also felt accepted by the Grady community but believes that support for the LGBT community at Grady is not universal.

“Grady is about 50/50 with support,” Pate said. “You have about 50 percent of students who are supportive all the way and me, personally, that’s all I ever see in Grady. And here’s where we get to the issue: a lot of times it’s due to educational gaps. I am in honors classes, I’m in AP classes; all I ever see is support.”

Part of the education process includes understanding that sexual orientation is more complicated than just being straight or gay.

One example of non-binary sexual orientation is Pate’s iden- tification as demisexual.

“What I used to tell people, and most of the time I’d tell people, is simply that I’m gay,” Pate said. “It’s the simplest understanding of my orientation. My sexual orientation is called demisexuality. What it is is an orientation where you only become physically attracted to people who you have an emotional attraction to. And then my romantic identification is I’m a bi-romantic heavily leaning masculine. And so it is a lot easier to [say] I’m gay.”

According to Pate, without education and awareness it is hard to understand the LGBT community.

“Bigotry and hatred are very easy to understand,” Pate said. “And it’s a easy safe fall back, so lesser education allows that to breed and fester.”

In order to promote understanding, the Grady GSA tries to educate students and open up lines of communication.

“What it is is showing people that just because you identify with a certain gender that might not necessarily agree with your sex, or you identify with a certain sexual orientation, doesn’t make you different or worse than anyone else,” Pate said.

Pate believes the Grady LGBT population may be about 200 people, or 15 percent of the student body. He admitted that much of the student body may think that to be a high estimate, but he said this was accurate because many LGBT students do not fit the stereotypes and some have not come out yet.

“There’s a lot larger of a population than people think,” Pate said. “People tend to assume that the people who are at Grady who are in the LGBT spectrum are the people who they look at and they go automatically ‘Oh those people fit the stereotype; those must be the only kids.’”

A 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that only 27 percent of Georgians support same-sex marriage.

Lizzie, a junior at a private Christian school in Buckhead, is a case in point. Lizzie, who requested that The Southerner withhold her real name, is bisexual and has not come out. She does not think that her family or her friends could accept her.

“I would never feel comfortable about coming out at my school,” Lizzie said. “My parents would be unaccepting, as well as a majority of the student body. I feel as though I would lose friends and there would be a lot of gossip. I think this might be because I go to a private school that is highly religious and therefore there is a higher percentage of people who believe being gay is a sin.”

Lizzie says that there are no openly gay students attending her school right now.

“I know of a girl last year who was openly gay,” Lizzie said. “She actually left the school and transferred to a public school because of harassment … from the student body.”

Pate recalls one incident at Grady where he felt targeted because of his sexuality.

“I was driving home from Grady, and I hadn’t gotten all the way down Monroe yet and … another guy stopped next to me and out of nowhere when he drove away he yelled ‘fag’ and drove away,” Pate said.

Pate said he didn’t make a big deal of the incident and that he usually feels safe at Grady. Sampson agreed and said that the teachers at Grady are all very accepting.

The near uniform tolerance of the faculty that Sampson has experienced is a sharp contrast to the 50-50 tolerance observed by Pate, but to Lizzie tolerance is a relative quality.

“I’m so impressed that you have such an accepting student body,” she said. “That gives me a little hope.”

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