Queerphobia is rampant at Pinole Valley High School, and something must be done!

The+progress+Pride+flag%2C+which+combines+elements+of+the+original+Pride+flag+with+the+transgender+Pride+flag+and+the+brown+and+black+stripes+representing+Queer+people+of+color+and+is+intended+to+bring+awareness+to+these+often+erased+communities.

Daniel Quasar

The progress Pride flag, which combines elements of the original Pride flag with the transgender Pride flag and the brown and black stripes representing Queer people of color and is intended to bring awareness to these often erased communities.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Today is National Coming Out Day — a day for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate the brave act of telling the world who you are and to recognize the struggle of those who are unable to do so in their current situation or who may have experienced negative repercussions as a result of coming out. 

To some, Pinole Valley High School may appear as an open and accepting environment where people shouldn’t be afraid to be out, but that’s unfortunately not the case. I’ve heard more queerphobic language around campus over the past two months than I have in my entire high school career, and I’m deeply disturbed by it. 

Yes, I’m fully aware that there have always been queerphobic people at this school. I’ve had to encounter several throughout my three years at PV, however, this year, it seems like way more people are comfortable being openly queerphobic than before, and it needs to stop.

As a Queer person, I feel that it’s my duty to take action against queerphobia when I see or hear it and not sit idly by while my community suffers, so several weeks ago, I released an anonymous survey to the student body, asking them a series of questions regarding this topic, and over 300 students out of 1,300 responded despite the link getting e-mailed out to every teacher. 

This is what I found:

The majority of those who responded were heterosexual, cisgender boys and girls — The term “cisgender” refers to a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex that they were assigned at birth. These students reported that they almost never hear queerphobic remarks made around campus, however, the Queer students who responded reported that they do, both directly toward them as well as other students, and 30% of all students polled reported that they hear these comments made multiple times a day.

Queer students are more aware of what statements are or can be considered queerphobic when we hear them, as non-Queer students usually don’t have to worry about being disrespected for their sexuality or gender identity, and therefore, are less aware of the situation. Queer students are better at recognizing queerphobia because we’re faced with it every day of our lives.

96% of all students polled reported that these comments are being made by other students, while 4% reported comments made by a teacher or staff member. Upon hearing these remarks, 73% did not take any action; 19% told their friends; and 8% told their parents, a teacher, or another member of the staff. 

If you’re reading this, and you’re among that 73%, please don’t be afraid to report queerphobic slurs, and ignorant comments in general, to an adult that you trust; and to the staff heard making these remarks: Shame on you! If you’re in that 4%, I strongly urge you to tell Kibby as soon as possible because they should not be allowed to get away with this!

In addition to the questions, I also left two free-response boxes. The first asked students to describe, in graphic detail, the nature of the comments that they heard, and the second asked them to leave any additional information that they feel would be relevant to this article.

As you can probably imagine, most of the responses to the first box described the classic scenario of straight boys calling each other “gay” or “f****t”, and in the second box, I saw a lot of people excusing this behavior, assuring that it was all “just a joke” between friends. 

Well, guess what? It’s not a joke. This language has been used to destroy and dehumanize Queer people for decades and carries a great deal of weight, so unless you are Queer and have felt the pain of these words, you have no right to reclaim them. Period.

I even saw several comments calling me these slurs, and while I’m truly flattered to know that you’re all thinking of me, it only further proves my point: Queerphobia is rampant at Pinole Valley High School, and something needs to be done!

Another comment left in the second box offers a likely cause and perfect solution:

“I think the reason people say slurs and feel free to be openly hateful is because they are misinformed and have never had access to an honest conversation about LGBTQ+ people and their identities.”

The first step to treating ignorance is through education. People usually never have to encounter an openly Queer person until middle or high school, and when they do, they don’t know how to interact with us because they don’t understand us or they’re afraid of us, and that fear and ignorance can easily manifest as hate.

It’s my belief that all students and staff at high schools across the country should be educated about the LGBTQ+ community and Queer identities. It’s a vital and necessary step in the creation of a safe learning environment that’s welcoming to Queer people, especially in a day and age when we are finally starting to be acknowledged by society, and if you don’t think so, then you’re part of the problem.

My name is Mason Montano — a gay, non-binary and genderqueer individual and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community — and I said what I said.

Human Rights Campaign
October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

This article was originally published in October 2019 and later revised in April 2020.