NKHS students and teachers share their views about what it means to be an ally

Jacob Maguire, News Editor

As the tides of public opinion have gradually turned in favor of LGBT+ rights, which recent legislative acts and court decisions have codified into law across the state and nation, the LGBT+ community at NKHS has gained considerable support. Junior Ashley Baierlein, senior Greg Zola, and Ms. Christina Lawrence are among the numerous students and faculty members at NKHS who strive to be allies to the members of the LBGT+ community.

Junior Ashley Baierlein tries to show her support for the LGBT+ community by being flexible, nonjudgmental, and kind. “I try to be open-minded and not judge people for their appearances,” Baierlein said. “I also try to offer advice and other forms of moral support.”

Although Baierlein’s sexual orientation technically falls under the LGBT+ umbrella, she still behaves like an ally to the other members of the LGBT+ community. Baierlein identifies as demisexual, which means that she does not experience romantic attraction unless if she forms a strong emotional connection with another person.

In addition to providing moral and emotional support for other members of the LGBT+ community, Baierlein has also striven to improve the recognition of LGBT+ issues on a school-wide level. For her Democracy project, which she completed earlier this year, Baierlein advocated for the increased coverage of LGBT+ topics in NKHS’s health curriculum.

“During this process, I learned a lot,” Baierlein said. “Not only did I meet lots of people who were supportive of my project, but I also met members of the LGBT+ community who I didn’t know identified as members.”

Like Baierlein, senior Greg Zola considers himself to be an ally. In Zola’s opinion, one of the best ways to be an ally is to not treat members of the LGBT+ community differently on account of their sexual orientations or gender identities. “I don’t exactly do anything outward for the LGBT+ community,” Zola said. “I have friends who identify as LGBT+ and I treat them the same as I would treat anybody else.”

Zola, who identifies as heterosexual, acknowledges that many individuals, regardless of their sexual orientations or gender identities, are reluctant to openly support the LGBT+ community because they worry that others will assume that they are LGBT+. Because the amount of support for the LGBT+ community has increased over the years, Zola believes that potential allies should not be concerned about being labeled as LGBT+. “I think that with a large amount of support from outsiders [for the LGBT+ community], fewer people will attach that kind of stigma to the supporters,” he said.

Similarly to Zola and Baierlein, Ms. Christina Lawrence, an English teacher at NKHS, strives to be a good ally to the LGBT+ community. Along with fellow English teacher Ms. Courtney Greer, Lawrence serves as an adviser to NKHS’s Sexuality and Gender Awareness Club (S.A.G.A.).

Because she teaches students during their formative years, in which many LGBT+ teenagers become aware of their true sexual orientations and gender identities, Lawrence believes that her occupation provides her with a special opportunity to be an ally to members of the LGBT+ community.

“Teachers are in such a good position to be allies because we encounter many different students and have the ability to support them,” Lawrence said. “My hope is that all teachers are allies.”

In addition to serving as an ally to the LGBT+ community, Lawrence strives to support the members of other marginalized populations, such as students who are racial, religious, or ethnic minorities. However, out of respect for the dignity of LGBT+ students and other marginalized populations, Lawrence attempts to show her support for these groups quietly.

Quoting the words on a poster in her classroom, which seniors Lily Wright and Matt Vergun created and subsequently gave to her, Lawrence said, “It’s important to ‘[b]e a set of ears, not a pair of lips.’”

In her own words, Lawrence added, “If you are an ally to any marginalized population, but [do not identity as] a member of that group, it is crucial to not force your own agenda on that group. A major part of being an ally is taking a back seat and lending your power when it is useful.”

Although Baierlein, Zola, and Lawrence have slightly different opinions about how allies should conduct themselves, they all strive to create and promote an environment of tolerance and acceptance for the LGBT+ community at NKHS.

Echoing the desires and views of Baierlein and Lawrence, Zola encourages others to be allies and hopes that support will continue to grow for the LGBT+ community.

“People should be [accepting of] others’ sexual orientations [and gender identities], and, in the end, [these characteristics] should have no effect on the way people look at them,” Zola said. “I hope that someday… somebody will be able to just be gay without having to ‘come out of the closet’ or [make] a huge announcement. It shouldn’t be a big deal for somebody to be LGBT+; it should be as normal as someone being straight.”