Homophobia In School Hallways: A dialogue between Jess and Julia, your friendly neighbourhood dykes


Julia: Hey. We're here to talk about the harassment we get from homophobic kids at our high school, in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario. First of all, let me just start out by saying this: it's not really that bad. Our school is right smack in the middle of the two downtowns, so it's pretty liberal and there are a ton of different types of people who go there. Both Jess and I are in grade twelve. The harassment we get is usually from people in younger grades, because they've just started high school and hhttp://alternettest.wpengine.com/story.html?StoryID=10363&cachedefeat=yesave never really been exposed to queer people before.



Jess: Yeah. I remember when I was in grade nine and there was a lesbian couple in grade 12. I didn't make fun of them, but seeing them holding hands at school was definitely my first glimpse of queer public affection. My friends thought they were really weird because one of them looked like a boy. Anyway, Jules, how come we've never talked to our principal about the harassment problems?


"I feel like I can handle the verbal abuse on my own. If I were ever physically threatened though, I would definitely report it. School should be a safe place for everyone regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexual orientation."

Julia: Well, personally, I feel like I can handle the verbal abuse on my own. If I were ever physically threatened though, I would definitely report it. School should be a safe place for everyone regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexual orientation. Most of the verbal abuse I get is very empty and doesn't mean much. It's a drag, but it doesn't make me feel unsafe. What about you?



Jess: I haven't brought it up because I don't feel as though we've received enough comments from the same person or group of people to constitute a suspension. If I started getting daily insults from one group of people I would do something about it though, because this stuff shouldn't be happening, even if we can handle it.



Julia: But it's cool, because I really feel like if we made a report, our principal would actually do something about it. She's a pretty nifty woman. When we went to talk to her about our school's policies for this article, she seemed like she wanted desperately to get across that if any students feel unsafe they NEED to come and report it so that the school can deal with it and take appropriate measures. She said that way too many people let harassment go just out of fear.



Jess: Yeah, her attitude was great. It helped me feel a little less nervous about sitting in her office and asking her questions (eek!). I was glad that it was dress-down Friday. Seeing her in jeans made me feel less formal about our meeting. She had her secretaries (she has two of them!) photocopy statements from our school board about harassment for us. Julia took notes while she spoke.



Julia: Yup. I got the dirty work of trying to scrawl down everything she said. First, she went through the important points of the policy with us. The title page said that: " ... whether of a verbal, visual or physical nature, sexual harassment is a disruptive element that undermines the integrity of the work/study relationship and threatens the integrity, well being and performance of the individual."



Under the heading, "Statement of Expectations" the student behaviour policy states that: " ... students are expected to develop the self-discipline and the social skills necessary to progress academically and to act in ways that respect the needs, feelings, heritage and rights of all."



Jess: For those who cannot comply with the Statement of Expectations, there is a Statement of Non-Tolerance. Among the types of behaviour that will not be tolerated are: "any physical assault, threats of assault or intimidation; any sexual, ethnocultural, and/or racial abuse, slurs and harassment."



"Once, this guy from the group stopped me and asked me if I was a lesbian and I was like, "Wow ... you're so observant! Good guess!" and his friends started laughing at him. I don't see why they think that they can insult me with words that I don't find offensive."
I asked about verbal forms of harassment specifically and she told us about cases of bullying and extortion where suspension were given. I took this as proof that you don't need to wait for physical abuse or threats of physical abuse before reporting harassment to your administration.



Julia: So, although at this point in time I don't really see a need to report the abuse Jess and I receive, it's reassuring to know that our school would take action on our behalf if things ever got out of hand.



Really though, in Kitchener, most of the harassment I encounter is not at school, but when I'm out walking downtown with Jess at night. This summer one person even went so far as to throw a beer bottle at me from a passing car. Guess I've got myself a reputation because I wasn't even with Jess at the time!



Then there used to be this group of students that would hang around after school. They were pretty ridiculous. Once, this guy from the group stopped me and asked me if I was a lesbian and I was like, "Wow ... you're so observant! Good guess!" and his friends started laughing at him. I don't see why they think that they can insult me with words that I don't find offensive.



Jess: I agree. Last year I was walking from the main building to my art class and this boy was talking to his friend. They started throwing in the word 'lesbian' here and there in an effort to make me feel bad. I thought it was sort of funny that he should think I would automatically be ashamed of my sexuality because I'm not part of the mainstream. But, what bothered me the most was that even though I don't care what this boy thinks of me, and even though his insult was far from clever, it still got to me. This is something that makes me think about bringing verbal harassment to my principal if it gets much worse.



In conclusion I guess we should say that although Julia and I haven't gone to our principal, we urge anyone dealing with harassment that feels unsafe to see their principal about the problem. Your school will probably have policies similar to ours to ensure your safety. Please be aware of them and don't allow harassment to continue if it is interrupting your right to feel safe, to feel happy, and to learn.


This article originally appeared in Girl Crush Zine.

Julia is in grade twelve at Kitchener Collegate in Kitchener-Waterloo. She is an aspiring folk singer/songwriter and spends hir spare time singing and dancing in the rain with the duckies that live in hir backyard.

Jess is currently in grade 12 at KCI in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She writes poetry, is an amateur photographer, and hopes to become a medical doctor.
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