By Alexandra Milman
LGBTQ people have, undoubtedly, faced the greatest change out of any minority group. The pride movement has started only in the 1960s in the US, yet 67% of the US now supports gay marriage. To put that into perspective, the women’s rights movement can be traced back to the 1860s, and 6% of the US population still does not support the Equal Rights Amendment. From Harvey Milk, the first openly gay congressman, to Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay presidential candidate, the gay community has come far in the quest for acceptance. This change in opinion is reflected in how the majority of gay students, former students, and teachers at Great Neck South feel; however, there is always room for improvement.
From GSA bracelets to Day of Silence, the students at South feel relatively comfortable with being gay. According to members of the GSA, they are not afraid of their teachers being unaccepting, they attend club meetings regularly, and they have never been bullied for their sexuality in school. With the exception of the dating scene, gay students do not feel any struggle with their sexuality in school.
Current students of South are incredibly fortunate because just over a decade ago, the rainbow did not shine as bright. According to Dr. Carol Hersch, a science teacher at Great Neck South for over twenty years, the biggest difference is that early in her career there was very little discussion about the LGBTQ community, and students were less likely to be open about it. She admits that she is now more sensitive to the issue than before, despite always supporting the community. Dr. Hersch attributes the change to greater representation in the media and increased attention among the community such as the greater prominence of the GSA and Safe Spaces. “The change was gradual with no simple cause,” says Dr. Hersch, “I just hope students feel comfortable.”
Even former students, such as Spanish teacher Mr. Jacob Friedman, says there is a definite change in attitude towards gay students from when he went to school at South High to now, as a teacher. Mr. Friedman graduated from South in 2006, a short 13 years ago, and he says that people were not as open about their sexuality. He said, “It is certainly more mainstream now to advocate on behalf of the community.” It was not as if there was an adverse opinion to the gay community, it was simply the period before Safe Space.
Despite these strides, members of the GSA still report negative feelings about their sexuality. Self deprecation, familial problems, and bullying outside of school are still very much alive. Families now seem to be the ones insensitive to their children rather than their peers or teachers. One club member reported an incident when a family friend tried to avoid chastisement for wrongdoing by threatening to expose her as a lesbian.
There is no such thing as a perfect world, but each year we are getting closer and closer to achieving equality for our gay peers. So round of applause, Great Neck South.