SAGA unites a community on campus
February 20, 2019
Nearly 80 years after the first gay rights campaign, the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized same-sex conduct in Texas in 2003. More than a decade later, gay marriage was legalized via Obergefell v. Hodges.
But here on campus, there’s one group of students seeking to better understand and accept the LGBTQ+ community.
“A lot of times people, especially kids, have a lot of troubles growing up and figuring out who you are,” junior, Sexuality and Gender Acceptance club president, Maddie Aronson said. “It’s really difficult to find people like you and validity in what you think and feel about yourself. SAGA is just a place for people to know that no matter what, it’s cool, it’s fine, we’re all here for it, we’re all supportive of it, and you can just be whoever you feel like.”
A closer look
The campus’s SAGA club was established in 2017 and was met with instances of subtle retribution and microaggressions.
“Last year, when we started up, some of our posters got vandalized and some not so great things were written [on the posters] and we got stuff torn down,” Aronson said. “We’re doing okay this year, but we still get looks and snide comments and stuff, so we’re just kind of hoping that stops.”
Aronson believes change can be difficult, especially when it is proposed alongside unfamiliarity.
“I think a lot of times, the main problem is just being so attached to what people have grown up in and a lot of times, change is hard for people and something this, I guess, radical, is something people just don’t understand,” Aronson said. “If you don’t feel it, a lot of the times you don’t know how to relate to it. People with gender identity problems, somebody who doesn’t have that would never in a million years have anything to compare to that, so it’s the unfamiliarity that just makes it difficult to accept.”
But there are students who support the community as allies, such as senior Vijay Jain who identifies as straight and believes in the organization’s mission.
“We live in a society that’s dominated by straight people, so I feel like as many allies as the LGBTQ+ community can get in this club and community, the easier it’s going to be to get rights and representation,” Jain said. “I don’t really advertise myself or anything; I don’t really see it as that big of a deal, like I’m in this club and it’s what I believe in. It’s cool to be around other people that have similar views and morals.”
The club is also home to many who identify with and find community within the organization, such as sophomore Virginia Tyndal who finds acceptance amongst those who are similar to her.
“I joined this club to get a community of people that are similar to me and to meet new people who have similar interests,” Tyndal said. “I think it’s important to have a sort of safe space for different types of high schoolers because high school is a time where a lot of people don’t have someone to be around, and I think clubs can give people similar people to be around that they don’t normally have.”
For Tyndal, finding acceptance in how she identifies herself was not apparent until moving from Birmingham, AL.
“I identify as a woman, but technically bigender,” Tyndal said. “Growing up, it’s made it a bit difficult to find people that accept me, especially growing up in a conservative Alabama town. Since moving to Frisco, it’s been a lot more accepting around here. Moving from an all-white, conservative town to a very diverse town has definitely changed the way I look at other people and how other people look at me.”
Welcoming those who are often marginalized, sophomore Maria Lopez sees the club as a place for outsiders to connect to others who are alike them.
“I enjoy this club because it’s for a lot of people that can’t relate to a lot of clubs; it’s for people that are kind of on the outside, who care about this but don’t know how to show it,” Lopez said. “It’s a safe space for a lot of people, it makes people feel good; talking to other people, meeting other people.”
Where Lopez differs from Tyndal is in her journey of acceptance, as Lopez feels many people do not mind how she labels herself.
“I’m of the community, but I don’t give off that vibe, I guess,” Lopez said. “So, people just don’t care, and I’m fine with that. I’ve never personally been ridiculed because of it, because I am just kind of quiet about it and I don’t like to throw it at people.”
Widening the lens
On a broader scale, Lopez, Tyndal and those alike represent 64 percent of all LGBTQ+ high schoolers who are out to their classmates.
“I think the fact that I know now that there are a lot of LGBT in the school, and I never knew that, because it seems like a certain type of school where there’s certain type of people, and not necessarily this type of group,” Lopez said. “And now that there’s a club for the group, you notice a lot more things happening in the school and you get to know people a lot better.”
The students within the LGBTQ+ community represent almost four percent of the adult population in Texas; some of whom may become a part of resource centers and organizations like “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays”, or PFLAG, a national nonprofit organization with centers located throughout Texas, including Dallas and Austin.
“PFLAG is important to me because PFLAG support group meetings were vastly beneficial to me when I was starting my transition,” President of PFLAG Austin Anna Nguyen said via email. “The meetings were a place where I feel safe and supported and not judged.”
Similar to the campus’s SAGA, PFLAG provides a place for those within the community to join and feel accepted, as well as helps with issues and opposition that those in the community face.
“I believe that the hostility towards LGBTQiA+ people stems from the same source as hostility towards all minorities throughout history; first it was the Germans, then the Irish and the Polish, then the Chinese and the Jews, then gay people, and now trans and gender diverse people,” Nguyen said via email. “People fear what they don’t understand or are unaccustomed to. That fear is manifested as hostility and discrimination.”
In order to combat such hardships, Nguyen believes teachers play a crucial role in opening up a dialogue for students.
“I think teachers and administrators can set the tone of the conversation,” Nguyen said via email. “They can foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness. They can send strong signals and set good examples of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors towards all minorities, not just the LGBTQiA+ minority.”
In the company of these teachers and administrators is AP US History teacher and SAGA sponsor Emily Griffin, who advocates for LGBTQ+ high schoolers and their acceptance.
“I think this club is important because every person, especially in high school, needs to feel accepted and loved by other people,” Griffin said. “So to know that there are others out there that support you, even though you aren’t getting that support at home, or in society, or in the general public, at least you have a few people close to you in such crucial years that you feel supported by.”
From the first campaign in 1924 to the campus’s SAGA club, the overarching goal of almost all LGBTQ+ movements is to ensure that those in the community are viewed in the same way as their peers.
“I would just hope that people who aren’t accepting see that these people are just like everybody else,” Griffin said. “It’s just a small part of who they are, and we all have our traits and we’re all individuals and it’s important that just because something is foreign to you doesn’t mean you impose those views on everybody else.”