Teenagers in Florida face mixed feelings this month of pride

“Pride Month is a huge beacon of hope,” said Will Larkins, a rising high school graduate at Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Florida. “This is such an important time for young people, because for me growing up, seeing the month of pride and historical protests and how people begged for liberation, it has always confirmed to me that no matter how terrible I feel at the moment, there are A friendly, beautiful community awaits me once I manage to get out of every unfortunate situation I find myself in. ”

Larkins is the president and co-founder of the Queer Student Union at their school and one of the organizers of their March 2022 Say Gay Still School. 500 students. Larkins also tested their experience as a non-binary student in the Florida Senate in February. 28. Before the end of the school year, Larkins gave a class presentation on the Stonewall riots, which were a turning point in the strange liberation and the reason Pride was celebrated every year in honor of the historic uprising. Larkins’ tweet for their presentation went viral, upset their teacher, although the teacher had initially approved the presentation. According to Larkins, their teacher was upset for fear that other parents might complain about the content. The teacher filed a formal complaint with the administration, which resulted in an inspection and a meeting with the principal. As a form of disciplinary action, Larkins was eventually removed from the teacher’s classroom and transferred to another teacher’s class.

This year, Larkins is celebrating Month of Pride in his own way. While many of their peers recently attended nearby A ceremony to commemorate the six-year pulse in Orlando, Florida, Larkins used the month to rest and recover after a year of organizing and protesting at his school and community.

“I think Pride is extremely important, but after the year that was, for me personally, my holiday, I don’t think about it,” Larkins said. “I protested at different levels throughout the year and it was exhausting. I will celebrate who I am and I will protest all year round for the right to be who I am, but I will be free and pretend that I don’t need to keep my back and that there is no systematic oppression against me and I will just try to relax. “

A social science teacher who has taught for nine years and sponsored the Gay Straight Alliance at a high school in Florida says the legislation has deeply affected LGBTQ + youth. According to the social studies teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, fears and uncertainty about the law have even forced some of her students to hide and prevent others from wanting to be visible to LGBTQ +.

“Their number one fear is being exposed to their parents because they are sometimes very visible at school but not at home,” she said. “That’s why these children are coming back [the closet] because every little thing identifies them. ”

This year, all of Pride’s celebrations at the school were particularly quiet due to the law, adding to the grief after a member of the Gay Straight Alliance died in a suicide in April. According to what the student’s friends told the teacher, the student recently went out with his family, who did not accept him.

“When our student died, it was a full-time job to keep these children alive for the next week and to have no imitators,” she said. “I had to contact them one by one and ask, ‘How are you feeling, what’s going on today?’ Do you know anyone else I need to talk to? And then that kid gave me two or three other names, then he ran to those two or three other kids. It was constant all week. “

The teacher finally managed to attract therapists from a local community center who volunteer to serve the students. At their last meeting of the year, the teacher gave each student a flag of pride to celebrate in private, and they decided “to be able to survive as a club.” To protect students from exposure to parents or conservative teachers, they will change the name of their Gay Straight Alliance club to a human rights one. The group watched a movie, ate popcorn and relaxed amid grief and hardship.

“We will become like talking,” she said. “This club is going to be a human rights club, but it’s a place where you come in and you’re visible in my classroom, and that’s the degree, because everyone’s nervous, even I’m nervous.”

This year the stakes are especially high for the LGBTQ + community across the country. Just last week, 31 members of a white supremacy group were arrested in Idaho for plotting to revolt at a nearby Pride event. A 17-year-old man has been charged in West Palm Beach, Florida claims to be making online threats of mass shootings at the youth-friendly Pride on the Block event on June 5th.

According to Max Fenning, president of PRISM Floridaan organization working to expand access to the LGBTQ + -inclusive education and sexual health resources for young people in South Florida, people are only more encouraged now by the rhetoric politicians are promoting against the LGBTQ + community this year.

“We have been hostages of this ridiculously conservative legislature for decades,” said the social science teacher.

While “rainbow washing“It’s ubiquitous, Fenning said, that LGBTQ + youth in Florida see more than ever that Pride is a protest.

“Pride is increasingly turning to this marketing tool,” Fenning said. “But now is the time, especially for young people, that pride is more than that pride is our moment again. Although we are here all year round, this is our time to really show up and fight for who we are. ”

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