HOUSTON VOICE • JANUARY 14, 2000
Lambda director Tim Vining (left) supports Marty Pfeiffer's efforts to start a Gay-Straight Alliance
in Baton Rouge.
be 'different/ whatever that means.
"The hatred directed toward gays is
because we're seen as a threat to society's status quo. 'We don't care if you're gay as long
as you don't flaunt it' St) we team to hide it,
to deny it, to internalize the pain, and that's
Pfeiffer said his education and contact with
adult peers—particularly Umbda director
Tim Vining—and interaction with other gay
youth bolstered his desire to help other students—and himself.
Last year, after attending a national
(. il SEN conference, Pfeiffer deckled to start a
Gay-Straight Alliance club at McKinley High.
A GSA, he stresses, is a student-run organization that has a faculty sponsor, a mission
statement, and provides a safe space for kids
who are gay or gay-supportive.
"Our goal is to reduce harassment of
these kids, to make school safer for all students," Pfeiffer explains 'We'll do some
education and awareness about GLBT
issues, and probably do some community
outreach, some volunteering.
"[A GSA club] is basically a place for
kids to talk and feel safe. Gay and gay-supportive kids catch all kinds of hell. In fact,
the suicide rate among gay teens is much
higher than straight kids. The harassment,
cruelty, isolation and depression are very
hard to take, so support is very important."
Brenda Barron, Southern assistant field
director for GLSEN, said unlike detractors
sav, students in GSAs do not discuss sex or
teach sex education. GLSEN's Student Pride
USA offers support to more than 700 GSA
chapters in schools across the nation, "and
there have been only two instances—in
Orange County in California and in Utah—
where chapters haven't been allowed."
Taking it to the board
Pfeiffer felt the atmosphere at McKinley
I ligh seemed conducive to the formation of a
Lav-Straight Alliance group. The school is
comprised of traditional and gifted students,
"very mixed racially, with a large number of
non-conformists like mvself," he sa\s
To his surprise, Principal Almenia Warren
refused his reejuest
Pfeiffer next approached Last Baton
Rouge public school officials. One direc-
tor ol high school programs told him
school was no place for a gay organization. Higher powers, however, proved to
be more diplomatic.
He received a letter from Schools
Superintendent Gary Mathews assuring
the teen that action would be taken to
establish—because none existed—official policy for the formation of extra-curricular clubs, including the Gay-Straight
Alliance. Similar reassurances came
from Don Mercer, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction,
Pfeiffer says. Policy, however, does not
guarantee creation of PSAs.
Calls to Mathews and Mercer were not
returned by press time.
"It's my understanding that once the
policy is set, it's up to the principals to
decide if and how to implement it,"
Pfeiffer says. "I think—I hope—Ms.
Warren will allow the GSA."
An school system subcommittee is
expected to discuss policy parameters and
language during a Jan. 20 meeting. The
matter should to go before the full board a
week later. Pfeiffer plans to attend both
meetings and expects anti-gay forces to be
there as well.
"I'm enough of a pragmatist to know I
have to 'conform' a little," he says, referring to the board meetings. "I probably
won't wear the earrings and other things
[because] it's important that mv message is
heard and that my appearance doesn't
Yming, who teaches at St. Joseph's
Academy, is leading a Lambda card-signing campaign to show support for Pfeiffer
and GSA clubs in every school that wants
one. He also has urged supporters to contact Mathews directly to express their support, and to attend both sessions.
"We're expecting opposition by the
usual people who are bigoted and filled
with hatred toward gays," Vining said, "so
it's important that people—gay and
straight—get out and support Martv and
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