Only the Beginning

Holden Moose is a guest writer through QueerNC’s student submission program. He is a high school student and GSA organizer in North Carolina.

My name is Holden and I’m seventeen years old. I live in a small town, well practically a street, called Bunn. That’s right, Bunn, not Dunn (which is what most people like to confuse it with). Though I’ve never actually been to Dunn, I’m pretty sure our abundance of confederate flags waving from the backs of big trucks really set us apart from the other city.

Enough about the town, though, let’s focus on the actual school I attend. In sophomore year, a friend of mine talked to a teacher and worked on starting up a Gay-Straight Alliance at our school. The constant anti-LGBT rhetoric being heard in the hallways made it obvious that it wouldn’t be a widely accepted club, which gave us an even bigger reason to start it. Our goal was to educate our fellow classmates and ourselves, along with creating a safe and inclusive environment for queer students and their allies.

It was suggested by our adviser that we keep it on the down low for a few weeks as we set up the club. That meant that the majority of the club members were mostly our friends. The first few meetings were spent electing officers and figuring out ways to get the word out about our club. After much preparation, our adviser asked if we wanted to start putting up posters to advertise our club.

Splitting up into small groups allowed us to make our own unique posters, along with one large poster made by the adviser. After the meeting dedicated to creating posters, we put them up along the halls. I remember everybody being much more frightened than me. They expected such a bad reaction, when honestly, I didn’t think the reactions of the other students would be that bad. Seriously, what could be the worst thing they could do?

So, it’s obvious I wasn’t expecting the immediate change in the school’s atmosphere. I saw students reading the posters and then nudging their friend, only to laugh. “Oh, it’s some gay club!” I heard; it was like they completely disregarded the alliance aspect of it. Though, it only got worse. A couple days later someone had the idea to tear our posters down. It was bad enough hearing jokes about the club in the classroom (with no teacher actually defending the club), but now our hard work was being torn down. Students would draw on the posters and write derogatory terms or even the confederate flag. I’d see our posters crumbled up on the floor or even in the trash can. Our large poster was ripped by many students, yet it still remained hanging on the wall.

Word spread that the wrestling students had torn down all the posters and the coach was hiding them in his classroom. Not sure of the validity of that last statement, but wrestling students were caught on camera and sent to the office. Many students had posted mean things about the club on social media and even tried to argue with the club’s twitter account, so one of the officers took screenshots and took that up to the office, too. Unfortunately, they couldn’t (well, really wouldn’t) suspend the athletes because it would take them off the team. So, that made queer students like me feel even more unsafe. Not even our own school was on our side!

Luckily, we continued our club despite talk that spread about parents signing some petition to take it down. We read about our rights and decided to stop worrying so much about the rumors surrounding the club. We got a new administration team next semester, a team that really loved our club and took more action to keep it alive. Despite the continuous anti-LGBT+ phrases we hear in the hallways, our club itself has made a difference in the school. The fact that it’s still standing and even got a place in the yearbook showed students that we were here and not going anywhere. Attendance has sky-rocketed since, and I’m even the president this semester. Overall the club has been a huge success, even after a few bumps in the road.

 

 

A Political Family

Lane Rosen is a second-year student at Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America. They co-founded QueerNC in 2012. Lane later received the Point Scholarship for their work in LGBTQ youth organizing.

Everyone knows I’m gay. It’s just a thing people know about me. I think most people assumed it before I even came out. Not everyone knows my gender identity; I often have to tell them that I use they/them pronouns, and that’s totally fine with me.

People don’t know that my grandfather is the Deputy President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina General Assembly. When I tell friends that, they often think it’s a very cool fact, until I add that he’s a Republican. His being a Republican in North Carolina, combined with my homosexuality, do not make for very easygoing family gatherings. I never actually came out to my grandparents. My mom did it for me in an exasperated moment of “you know Lane is gay don’t you?!” which was met with complete silence. I wasn’t mad about it; in fact I was a little bit relieved. It was no longer a conversation I had to have. I didn’t have to explain why I was wearing a suit or why my hair was short. It just went along with the “gayness.”

When I was fifteen, my friend Brennan Lewis and I created QueerNC. We started getting more involved in political activism in Raleigh. I specifically remember one time going to talk to NC legislators about an issue affecting the queer community and I had a really hard time deciding whether or not I should go say hello to my grandfather and tell him what I was doing. Throughout high school, there were many times when it would have been amazing to introduce people to my grandfather because he was a politician, but I felt so uncomfortable because of his political leanings and the conservative climate of North Carolina. The fight for marriage equality in North Carolina was something that was personally really hard for me, because my grandfather was so against it with his public political voice. Even harder was the decision whether or not to attend Moral Monday marches. I was afraid that I would be caught on camera and I would have to talk about my relationship to an extremely conservative general assembly member. Finally, HB2 came around and I checked online to see whether or not my grandfather had voted for or against it, knowing full well what the answer would be. By this point I was no longer living in North Carolina; I had moved to Hyde Park, New York to pursue a Baking and Pastry Arts degree at The Culinary Institute of America. Although I was not living in North Carolina, HB2 quickly became a national conversation that even my friends here at the CIA were engaging in. I felt it was important to explain to my friends that not only did the law make me sad because of its discriminatory effects, but because my own grandfather had personally voted to enact it.

I’m a New York resident now. I vote here, I pay attention to local politics, and I’m a proud constituent of Chuck Schumer. But as a native North Carolinian, I pay attention to politics down South as well. I like to know what’s going on where I’m from, how my community is doing, and especially what the Senator representing North Carolina’s 7th district is up to.