By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Editor’s note: Names of students in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.
When Dane Moore hears someone toss out the slur “faggot” either in jest or as something more disparaging, he’s quick to point out the original meaning of the word.
“Why would you call someone ‘a bundle of sticks?’” Moore said.
Moore began attending McNary’s Gay-Straight Alliance meetings last year when he began questioning his sexuality.
“Three of my best friends were coming to the meetings and the people who are in the group now are some of the best friends I’ve ever talked to,” Moore said.
Diane Wolter started McNary’s GSA 10 years ago after watching a son struggle with his identity throughout middle and high school.
“I knew he had struggles, especially in middle school. I wanted to be part of creating an environment where kids could just go to school and feel safe,” Wolter said.
Uneasiness around her peers led Serena Altshul to take part in McKay High School’s GSA when she was just a middle schooler.
“No one would talk to me because I was openly bi,” Altshul said. “I started going so I could have people to talk to.”
In the years since its inception, McNary’s GSA has contributed to change in the school’s climate, Wolter said.
“What I’ve seen is that more students come to the meetings willingly open to declaring their sexuality. When we started out that never happened,” Wolter said.
Most of the students felt the pressure to closet themselves ease as they made the transition from middle school to high school, but they still have plenty that they would like to see change – double standards, for instance.
“You still hear people say that gay guys are so stupid, but gay girls are hot. I would like to see that change. They’re both the same and you’re saying one is great and the other is not,” said Rachel Wyatt.
Religious views and how they affect the lives of the GSA members often come up.
“I’ve done a lot of research with my pastor and we’ve looked at the six main passages of the Bible that are perceived as anti-homosexual. They’re almost all taken out of context from the time period in which they were written,” Moore said.
GSA members are also confronted with the question of whether choice is part of their sexual preference.
“Why would anyone choose to be part of a population that a certain segment of people hates for no good reason,” Wyatt said.
“If I had the choice, I wouldn’t do it. Who wants Westboro on their tail all the time?” Moore added. Westboro Baptist Church has earned infamy for protests promoting anti-homosexual messages at the funerals of U.S. soldiers.
Most GSA members would settle for dispelling some of the predominant myths around homosexuality.
“Gay guys don’t look at every guy and think he’s hot,” Moore said. “The same way every straight guy doesn’t look at every girl and think she’s hot.”
Through it all they manage to keep a sense of humor.
Referring Leviticus 18:22, the Bible passage most often cited as anti-gay, Moore said, “If we followed everything in the book of Leviticus, we couldn’t eat shrimp, plant fields with two different types of seeds, shave our face, or wear clothing of mixed fabric. We couldn’t eat pork.”
To which Altshul quickly chimes in, “Oh, no bacon. That makes me sad.”