I was driving through my neighborhood over the weekend and I saw that the nearby Denny’s that closed down recently is going to be turned into a Chick-fil-A. I wasn’t surprised to see that the Denny’s closed given how popular the nearby â€œGay Denny’sâ€ is.
My initial response was â€œEeeewwww.â€
I’m not a big fan of fast food so I’m not happy that we’re getting another fast food place in the area, but I was really unhappy about the prospect getting a company with a homophobic reputation in my neighborhood. I wished there was some type of protest we could do to keep them from coming, but given the extent of the construction so far, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
My next thought was I think I have an obligation to kiss a girl on the new Chick-fil-A’s property when they open. I posted it on my Facebook page, and a friend suggested I play â€œI Kissed A Girlâ€ on a boom box while I’m doing it. I thought that was pretty awesome, and probably more appropriate for an all-ages audience than the equally awesome â€œIt Gets Betterâ€ by Rebecca Drysdale.
I was starting to think having a kiss-in to protest the new Chick-fil-A at 16th Street and Camelback in Phoenix is a really good idea. One of my reporter friends even said she wanted to cover it. I was starting to get kind of excited about this idea when my friend sent me a link to an article that said Chick-fil-A has stopped supporting anti-gay organizations. Wow – they did a really bad job of letting people know that they changed their affiliations.
So maybe we don’t need to have a kiss-in at the new Chick-fil-A. I still don’t support them opening a store in my neighborhood because they either are homophobic and don’t want to broadcast it or they didn’t do their research when they decided where to donate their money.
I’m sure we can find another cause to protest if we need another reason to have a kiss-in.
I took a walk on the beach in California today.Â When I was about a half mile from our camp, I started to wonder if I should be nervous because I was walking alone and wearing my â€œLegalize Gayâ€ t-shirt.Â I usually walk in the afternoon with my Dad, and I think it’s universally accepted that you never mess with a girl when she’s with her Dad.Â I am a feisty person but I’m also small, and there are a lot of people who could take me in a fight.Â And unfortunately, discrimination and hate crimes against members of the LGBT community continue to occur.
I started to wonder things like, â€œShould I be afraid?, â€â€œWhat if someone calls me a name?,â€ and â€œWhat if it’s a child?.â€Â I started to imagine scenarios of what could happen how I should respond, if at all.Â I began to admire the strength and courage of the people who advocated for LGBT rights in the 1970’s and â€˜80’s.Â I’m sure the majority of the people on the beach weren’t concerned about other people’s reactions to their t-shirts.
Then I had a thought: What if there’s a 13 year-old gay kid on the beach who is on vacation from a conservative state or a conservative family, and all they hear is that homosexuals are perverts, sinners, and pedophiles?Â What if they know that they’re gay and they have no gay role models or positive messages about homosexuality?Â I wonder how good it would be for them to see someone wearing a gay-positive shirt in public without seeming to care about what anyone else said or thought.Â Maybe I gave that child hope that they will someday live in a community where they will be accepted just as they are.
Today I was reminded that I have a responsibility to project a positive message to queer youth.Â Just as I needed education, guidance, and support in my baby queer years, so do they.Â The least I can do is not be afraid or ashamed of who I am.
I was listening to Dan Savage’s Savage Love Podcast last week and I heard about a sad but inspiring situation in West Bend, Wisconsin.Â East and West High Schools has had an unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance for over a decade and is currently being denied the recognition of being an official school group.
Prior to this year, student group recognition was fairly informal, and it appeared that every group that requested recognition received it.Â This year a new process was imposed that required a group to show that they have curricular tie, national or state affiliation, student appeal and a volunteer adviser to receive recognition by the school.Â The GSA complied with every requirement of the application process and their application was approved by the school district administrators.Â Â All they needed was the approval from the West Bend Board of Education.
The students of the West and East High School GSA did a very ballsy thing â€“ they hired an attorney who assisted them throughout this process.Â When the group went before the school board, their attorney warned the board members that legal action for discrimination could result if they denied the group’s request for official recognition.Â They walked into that meeting and basically said, â€œWe’ve complied with your requirements.Â We know we have rights, and if you deny us our rights, we’re going to sue you.â€Â I love it!
The school board unfortunately voted against granting the GSA recognition.Â Randy Marquardt, president of the board of education, voted against recognition and does not understand the need for the school to recognize the GSA.Â He allegedly said the board should not vote in the group’s favor to avoid a threat of legal action.
The GSA complied with the school’s requirements for recognition, and therefore they have earned the right to be an official school group.Â The co-presidents of the GSA have filed a federal lawsuit against the West Bend Board of Education for violations of their First Amendment rights and the federal Equal Access Act that grants all non-curriculum student groups equal access if a school recognized at least one non-curriculum student group.Â The students claim that they are being denied the privileges afforded to recognized student groups such as using the school’s PA system, posting flyers and posters in the school, using the school’s resources and equipment, raising funds for group activities, and being included in the school yearbook.
These students should be applauded for their determination and for refusing to sit in the back of the proverbial bus.Â Their group’s mission is â€œto combat bullying and harassment through education and advocacy and to provide an emotionally and physically healing learning environment for people of all gender and sexual orientations.â€Â The GSA has only asked for a declaration that the board of education violated rights, a court order requiring the school to recognize the GSA as student group, less than $20 of damages and attorneys’ fees.Â They are not asking for anything spectacular, only for what is fair.
To the students in West Bend, keep fighting the good fight. I was pleased to hear that the community for the most part seems to support you.Â Please let us know what we can do to continue to support you and your cause.
If you want to send Randy Marquardt a message urging him to allow the GSA to be an officially recognized student group, you can email him at email@example.com or call him at 262-306-2601.
UPDATE: On Monday, June 13, 2011, in a re-vote the West Bend School Board approved the request for an official GSA at West Bend High School.Â It appears that the school board caved because they were advised that if they fought the lawsuit filed against them, that they would lose.Â Randy Marquardt had the audacity to say that the board was bullied by the GSA and that he still does not approve of giving the group recognition as a student club.Â Regardless of why the board approved the GSA, it was the right thing to do.Â Congratulations kids!