The long road to LGBTQ+ rights

This week, a celebration of LGBTQ+ rights was put on full display in the  lobby.

Olivia Hannigan

This week, a celebration of LGBTQ+ rights was put on full display in the lobby.

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TOWAMENCIN – Most people walked into the main hallway of North Penn early Monday morning to find that a third of it was blocked by large banners. Unless you somehow missed the giant rainbows painted along the side, one would know immediately that it had something to do with the LGBTQ+ community. 

The reasoning behind these banners? To raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and its efforts at North Penn. In these past years, the LGBTQ+ community has grown larger and stronger than before, with new rights and more acceptance with the advancements in social media. Most people have come out, going to pride parades and just being more of themselves than ever. 

“Theres an important story and history in the state and the history of our communities that involved a very hard and very real struggle for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender,“ Dr. David Hall, the advisor of the Rainbow Alliance club, explains. “It’s important that we create a school environment where kids can be at their best regardless of their sexual orientation or identity. These visual posters showing the history and struggles helps make sure that this is a safe space for everyone.”

The issue, however, is old-fashioned ideas mixing with modern lifestyles. Many of the arguments against the community comes from old beliefs somewhere along the lines of “marriage should be between a man and a woman”. Regarding transexual members, they simply don’t like that people can change who they are and where they use the bathroom.

“Some people can lose their shelter- we’ve had kids kicked out of their homes for coming out,” Hall explains. According to a study conducted by the Williams Institute, LGBT youth makes up forty percent of the 1.6 million homeless youths- meaning that approximately 640,000 LGBT kids are homeless. Forty-three percent of those left because they were kicked out, and forty-six percent ran away because of the fear of rejection from their families. 

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than half of people in the LGBTQ+ community has experienced slurs, offensive comments, or have been physically threatened. Most of this has caused a fear and panic of being discriminated against that keeps certain students in the community from showing their sexuality or gender identity. 

And when you think of it, it’s entirely understandable. It doesn’t just apply to outside of a professional area- it’s within the workplace and school setting as well. According to Loyola Marymount University and Loyota Law School, 90 percent of the transgenders who responded to a survey sent out said that they were harassed in the workplace because of their gender identity. Another 47 percent said that they were discriminated against in hiring or job promotion because of their identity. The Williams Institute released a study that showed that 55% of queer students live in states that do not have laws protecting them from discrimination in the educational environment. 

“There’s an important story and history in the state and the history of our communities that involved a very hard and very real struggle for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. These visual posters showing the history and struggles helps make sure that this is a safe space for everyone,” Hall elaborates.  

The Rainbow Alliance has made great strides to make sure that students can celebrate who they are. They also encourage those who still are not comfortable with being who they are at home or at school to be who they are during meetings. “It’s good for people to feel like they belong somewhere. Even though they may not have support at home or in their friend group we’re here to teach them that who they are is perfectly fine,” Says Cara Diberardino, president of the club.

“When you’re ready to come out, we’re excited to see you and ready to accept you and there’s a lot of love and a lot of care that we can provide,” Hall says.

Richard Buttacavoli played a huge part in raising awareness here at North Penn. As the ambassador for North Penn of the Montgomery County LGBT Business Council, he’s worked to make the program here and at the surrounding middle schools the best it can be.

“We are involved in the community a lot- we have the Gay men’s chorus, we have evening meetings often thats called ‘Families are talking’ where our students bring their parents. A lot of LGBT kids don’t come from LGBT families so we try to break down those barriers. For kids who don’t feel safe coming out it’s one of those safe places where they can be who they are. There are some kids today who, where the only place they can be called by their wanted pronouns is in Rainbow Alliance.” Hall even recalled a story where he asked the vice-president if he wanted to invite his parents to the meeting, and the boy just shook his head. Apparently, the boy went home and mustered up enough courage as possible to come out to his parents. Once he finally had, his parents accepted him- despite being conservative. 

“There’s a lot of steps in coming out and I’m glad that, for most people, this is one of the first steps they take” Hall says when talking about the members of Rainbow Alliance.

Not everyone has a support system at home, or even with their friends and while we’re teenagers and figuring things out and growing into our identities and personality traits, it’s important to have a support system,” says Diberardino.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in these past fifty or so years. and , of course, there’s still a lot of things to be done. The discrimination and hate crime rates are still very high up, but making small steps like Rainbow Allience in the middle schools and the high schools are really helping- it really shows people that they don’t have to turn to hate,“ Diberardino adds. “I just want people to know that we see them and we care for them.” 

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