The letter by former Gilroy High student Emily Faus touched me
The letter by former Gilroy High student Emily Faus touched me deeply. First, I would like to thank Emily for helping to found the Gay-Straight Alliance. I am sure this club has been a source of strength and hope for many students over the years. It’s imperative that our school district makes sure that every student at Gilroy High feels safe and secure. Public schools should be “hate-free” zones. Every student should be able to receive a quality education, and no bullying should be tolerated by students or staff.
That said, I do not think that Gilroy High circa 2005 is the same school Emily left four years ago. I have asked dozens of students about the culture on campus. I have had a number of openly gay or bisexual students tell me that they are not harassed. I have no reason to believe they are lying. I have also had students tell me that they are open about their sexuality among their friends and some teachers, but not their families. As a mother, I would consider myself a total failure if my children could not know that my love for them exists unconditionally precisely because of everything they are as they grow up.
Emily claims that gay/bisexual/transsexual students face adversity and violence because of how they feel and how they love. This is a very simplistic view. If history teaches us anything, it is that people who are oppressed face adversity simply because of who they are. There is no rational explanation for prejudice against gay people as a group; any more than there is a reasonable explanation for racial prejudice or prejudice against fat people or prejudice against Muslims.
Teen suicide rates have been declining over the past two decades, but the rate of suicide among gay teens remains high. The trouble with statistics on suicide is that studies also show that overweight people have higher rates of suicide; and Protestants are more likely to commit suicide than Jews; and single people more often than married people, etc. … prejudice and suicide affect many types of people, and no one group deserves more sympathy than any another.
We live in a rapidly changing world. Perhaps it’s never been harder to be a teenager. On top of that we live in California; a state on the cutting edge for trends which only become epidemics once they reach the heartland.
In Gilroy, our social problems have shifted from the high school to the middle schools. We have junior high students who drink alcohol, take drugs, engage in adult sexual behavior daily, have eating disorders, cut themselves and engage in criminal activity. We provide nothing for them to do outside of school and then pretend that they are just growing up faster than we did. Some are gay; some are blonds; some are obese. Even with a supportive family, it is hard to be a kid today.
I would hope that everyone who was touched by Emily’s letter realizes that opposition to the silence of four teachers is not an endorsement of harassment.
I was one of the most vocal opponents of teachers not speaking at Gilroy High, but I harbor no hatred for these four teachers. I find it hard to believe that the overwhelming majority of teachers who chose to speak that day are guilty of not caring about all of the students. I don’t presume that the other 100 teachers at Gilroy High don’t care about the welfare and protection of students simply because they spoke in their classroom one day last April.
The atmosphere at Gilroy High is evolving, and it is my fervent hope that all students will find it a welcoming place in the future.