Comets Show Pride

Madeline Gooley, Editor-in-Chief

As the school year wraps up, the month of June brings the joy of summer and new feelings. June also marks pride month, an important time of year for queer people, especially teens. 

Pride is “a celebration of being truthful to yourself,” Junior at GLHS, Conley Stiles, said. 

Pride month started with a riot. In 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn, a known queer bar in Greenwich Village. Patrons were harassed and arrested by police because they were cross-dressing, violating the state’s statute on gender-appropriate clothing. 

At this point, harassment and discrimination from the local police were common and many of the bar’s patrons had had enough. Marsha P. Johnson is known for throwing the first brick and standing up for her rights. 

“Marsha was a transgender woman of color, who frequented the Stonewall Inn, the home of the Stonewall riots,” Mr. Westra-Hall, an openly gay teacher at GLHS said. “The community owes a lot to transgender women of color specifically who authentically lived their lives as they are to give us our rights today. Without people like Marsha P. Johnson, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The riots ended that night, but protests continued in the surrounding area until July 3rd. 

“Since 1970, to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we have celebrated each year about how much we have overcome and what we still need to accomplish,” Westra-Hall said. “For many years, and even today, there are many people who are actively against us, attack us, harass us, and more.”

Though the celebration of pride has continued since 1970, the LGBTQIA+ community struggled for many years and continues to carry that struggle. Same-sex marriage did not become legal in the United States until 2015 and LGBTQIA+ rights were not officially classified as civil rights until 2020 (the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQIA+ rights are protected under the civil rights act of 1964). 

Nonetheless, queer people continue to show their pride every year and celebrate who they are. 

“Pride month is a really special month for everyone in the LGBT community,” Samuel Daymon, Grand Ledge HS Sophomore, said. “There’s something really special about seeing other queer people be happy and comfortable in their identities. It gives people hope, and it makes me incredibly hopeful to know that there is that kind of joy in my future.”

Grand Ledge High School continues to give support to queer kids, especially during this month, through the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance). 

“I realized we didn’t have [a GSA] at the high school and I’d been talking to my therapist, as I was kind of like, figuring out my sexuality,” Maddie Wotruba, GSA board member said. “… I thought that we should have a space to be able to exist as queer people safely.”

This year the GSA has discussed many topics relating to queer people, including: queer/trans representation in media, promination builders of the queer community, and recently prevalent topics like the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”  that passed in Florida in March 2022. 

“We want everyone to know that anybody is welcome to come to GSA.” Kassie Diller, GSA board member said. “It is not just for queer and trans people, if you’re an ally or you just want to learn, you’re always welcome.”

The message of inclusion and learning about LGBTQIA+ is reiterated by Mr. Westra-Hall, the GSA club advisor. Westra-Hall is the first openly gay teacher at Grand Ledge HS and her advocates for teaching about these issues and history in class. 

“I am currently getting my master’s from the University of Michigan-Flint, where I am focusing on queer studies, with a focus in curriculum,” Westra-Hall said. “LGBTQIA+ students need to be able to see themselves in the curriculum first and foremost.”

All students love Mr. Westra-Hall, but her has faced some backlash from the community. 

“There was a time where a small group ran a smear campaign against me, labeling me as a pedophile,” Westra-Hall said. “I, like many other LGBTQIA+ educators, have been targeted and called a pedophile by a small group of people in the community. It is defamation to my character and does real harm, but I will not stop fighting to LGBTQIA+ students.”

Despite this Mr. Westra-Hall continues to fight for the education and rights of queer students in the classroom and serves a a role model to many. 

As pride month continues the LGBTQIA+ community will continue to celebrate who their are are the history of their identity. 

“Pride to me is finding joy in your identity,” Samuel Daymond said. “It’s all about joy.”