Let’s Really Be A Safe Space

Being An LGBTQ+ Ally and Helping Parker Do Better


Monday, October 11 was Coming Out Day this year. We had an MX on it a few years ago. Remember that? It’s been a while, but as a member of Parker’s LGBTQ community, it was a moment where, even among 500+ other students and teachers, I felt seen. 

National Coming Out Day first started in 1988, a year after the 1987 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. The day helps raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights and decrease homophobia. Though anyone who identifies can come out any day of the year, the day can serve as a good opportunity to come out. 

Coming out is the process of sharing your gender identity or sexual orientation, and it’s a different experience for everyone. Some people are faced with hatred or rejection, which is why LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk for homelessness. Others receive love and support, and that’s what I’m hoping we as a Parker community will choose to do when someone comes out. 

On a personal level, it’s necessary to lend a listening ear. Coming out may come easier for some people, but for many, it’s a lot of decision making on timing. Reassure them that their identity as non-cis or non-heterosexual doesn’t change them for you — and make sure to follow through on that statement with your actions. And always, make sure you don’t “out” them, which is telling other people. Though a person coming out to you may not seem like a big deal, their comfort with being outed to others may be. 

The windows next to classroom doors may have “safe space” stickers, but Parker has a long way to go. First, it can’t just be the teachers making the classroom a safe space, it must be the students making a safe space as well. Second, we have hallways. Being out in the Parker community is hard in social spaces, not necessarily in classrooms. In the Parker Climate Survey conducted a few years ago, results showed that students heard the phrase “that’s so gay” or heard people use the word gay to describe bad things. 

There’s a reason that people don’t come out at Parker. Since middle school, I’ve heard people gossip about other people’s identities and make jokes about it. As a confused middle schooler, hearing “ew, I think she’s gay” was not the encouraging and identity-affirming thing I needed to hear. 

I know you’ve probably heard this phrase before, but actions speak louder than words. While you may not be the one to say homophobic things out loud, the way you treat friends after they come out matters too. One student I’ve talked to said that coming out changed their friendships for the worse and that they don’t feel comfortable talking to their friends about their LGBTQ+ identity. 

Parker did two things right in middle school that really helped me. The first thing is that “Identity Unit” that I still hear people hate on. The second was GSA, now renamed Pride. I really appreciated the Identity Unit — I had lived in North Carolina for most of my life at that point surrounded by straight white people, and learning about the range of identities in categories such as ability, race, gender, and sexuality introduced me and helped me further understand other  identities and figure out my own. In GSA, I found a group of students and teachers who actively supported the LGBTQ+ community and took the time out of their day to show it. 

In the high school, we have Pride committee as well as pride meetings. These meetings are crucial to Parker’s ability to be a safe space. I absolutely love the LGBTQ+ only meetings — they’re just a different space than the rest of Parker — but right now I want to encourage everyone to come to ally meetings. When the meetings say “ally” or “all inclusive” that means they are! I frequently hear the excuse, “well I’m not LGBTQ+,” but it doesn’t matter. You just have to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community (that’s why it’s called an ally meeting!) 

These meetings provide a safe space to ask questions and learn more. Last year, a student attended a meeting and introduced themselves by saying they were an ally and were there to support a friend who had recently come out to them. Let me tell you — I had no idea who that friend was, but the act of showing up to learn how to support them meant so much to me. 

I’ve noticed that we as Parker students are generally accepting of LGBTQ+ people but see them as something not in our student community. Yes, there are LGTBQ+ faculty members and celebrities, but we need to support other students as much as we support them. There are a few faculty members that I’ve seen students tokenize. These faculty members are much more than their LGBTQ+ identity, and liking them doesn’t equate being an ally. Being able to see your identity represented in a faculty member is necessary, but it’s not the only thing about them.   

I say these things because I love Parker. We’re a progressive school, but there’s so much progress left to make that I know we can accomplish. Just like coming out is a process, allyship is one too — it might be uncomfortable and it takes a lot of learning, but it matters so much to students like me. 

To the LGBTQ+ students reading this, whether you’re closeted, questioning, or out, I am here for you. You don’t have to come out on October 11. There are 364 other days of the year and whatever you choose to do, I’m proud of you.