Isabella Townsend (12) and Anna Clay Pancetta (12) held a fireside chat about LGBTQ+ issues earlier this week. A large, diverse group of high school students asked questions about and discussed the LGBTQ+ community and some of the challenges they face.
On Wednesday February 22, many gathered in the Weir Study to have the first Fireside Chat in St. Mary's history about LGBTQ rights. Isabella Townsend (12) explained that “LGBTQ issues at SMS are sometimes forgotten” and Anna Clay Panetta (12) wanted the conversation to “promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community and educate others on LGBTQ issues.” Fireside Chats at St. Mary’s happen in a safe place, creating the perfect setting to discuss LGBTQ issues which can be very personal, emotional, and difficult to talk about.
Ms Bielskis opened the conversation by explaining that, through literature, she discovered that maybe we are all “just a bag of others,” and then she explained that she believes it is important that we discuss things that we may not understand because “with a conversation comes information.” Students asked a variety of questions, and the group worked together to answer them thoughtfully to the best of their ability. One question, asked by Jean Jackson (12), was "What is queer?" and different girls responsed that queer can mean different things to different people because they might be questioning their gender identity or sexuality. Sidney Parish (12) also asked what non-binary genders are and Ms. Hogan explained, based on people she knows, people who do not feel that they fit either gender identify as non-binary or genderfluid. The group discussed the fact that it is important to respect people’s choice of pronouns because it is part of their identity.
The group then also discussed the difficulty of talking about LGBTQ issues with others who make comments such as “that’s so gay,” which is very offensive to gay people. Ms. Hogan explained that “when you hear offensive things, you must speak up because if you don’t have the conversation, progress will not be made.”
Participating in this conversation helped me realize that it is important to discuss the questions that we often ask ourselves but to which we don’t know the answers. It is important that we have conversations about things that we may not understand in order to be informed and respectful of others.