Mission High School, 9th, 10th and 11th math teacher
Q. What are you doing to create a safer school community for LGBTQ students?
We did a marriage booth last month in response to prop 8 and marriage equality. So we set up a little booth and any student of any gender or sexual orientation could marry any other student and it was a big hit. The whole lunch period we were constantly marrying people. We gave marriage certificates and sold Ring Pops. It was really cute and a much better turn out than any of us had anticipated. It was the first time we did that. Our biggest event is in April for Day of Silence, where students take a vow of silence and put tape over their mouths. They walk around like that all day and then the last period of the day during advisory we have a drag show. This year we plan to invite famous drag queens and kings from the city to perform and then have students give their testimonials about being and coming out to their parents. We also have a student written play and a fashion show. This will be the third year we’ve done that.
Q. How has the school climate changed since the beginning of your LGBTQ work?
This is my 4th year at Mission and I know that during my time there we’ve had some of the only transgender students come out. Unfortunately, the two that have come out have since transferred to other schools, but I think the mere fact that they were comfortable coming out as transgender at Mission was a break through. They received harassment and going to the bathroom was an issue because there are no gender-neutral bathrooms, so they had to use the faculty’s. I know a few students were discriminatory toward them and would call them names in passing and during lunch. We had to address that, but our GSA speaks to the faculty every year and talks about these issues and what teachers need to do both inside and outside of class to promote safety and tolerance. I would say the school is relatively tolerant. The faculty is on board. We all wear “Gay fine by me” T-shirts every Friday to raise awareness and promote that. The principal is on board, the administration is on board and I just think a school that has people coming out, even if it is only a few, has to be safe to certain extent. It’s not completely safe I still hear the words fag and gay thrown around but those few students—this year there were about seven or eight—who are out and who are comfortable is a testament to the fact that it is getting better, but we still have a lot of work to do. Among the students there is no physical violence, some verbal violence, but I talk to my classes and they are receptive. I have an advisory period where we discuss health, gender education and sexual orientation education and we’ve talked about the new phrase no homo. We really deconstructed, and my students are like “Oh Mr. Hsu it’s just a joke,” but if you really unpack that, talk about what it means and the message it sends it uses homo in a bad way. As in, we don’t want any homosexuals around here. If that’s repeated enough, like other historically significant words that have been repeated, it’s not an okay thing because it dehumanizes homosexuals. So we talk about that, we deconstruct that, and I think it makes more sense when they realize the power of the phrase over time. So they use it, they think it’s no big deal but then after our discussion they realize that it kind of is.
Q. What would you like to do better this year?
Recruit better. My 1st year advising the GSA we had a large and consistent membership, then over the years it gradually dwindled. So I’d like to recruit more people; sustain the membership and just have more events so the GSA is seen and students know it’s an entity on campus.