On Tuesday May 7th I went to Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, California with four other queer students from UCSB. We went to promote our second annual queer conference Beyond the Basics (May 26th 2013) and answer any questions that DP’s GSA had about queerness and college. While the program went well and I was happy with the overall outcome there are a few vital changes that I want to reflect on here. The biggest issue was in obtaining visitor passes, a process necessary for us being able to speak with the students. I saw that this might be an issue and showed up to DP around 10:30 to try and arrange the passes so that when all five of us arrived right before lunch we could quickly and easily get to the GSA as their lunch break is only about 35 minutes. Getting the visitor passes took until about 11:30 because the teacher who supervises the GSA was a first year teacher and did not go through the proper means of getting us visitor passes. Luckily the Principal gave us an exception and issued our passes on the day of despite their policy requiring that visitor passes are set-up in advanced.
The second most anxious aspect was in trying to transport queer UCSB students to DP’s GSA on time (due to their incredibly short lunch break). We ended up arriving a few minutes late because one of the queer UCSB students was late showing up to go to the high school and despite everyone else being prepared this made us a bit late and sadly cut short our already short time. To solve these issues for my next “Ask a Queer” program at San Marco High School on Wednesday May 22nd, I have been sure to discuss visitor passes in advanced with the GSA coordinator. He has already arranged for us to come and says that I do not need to show up early to San Marcos the way I had to for DPHS. Finally I have asked all my participants for the San Marcos “Ask a Queer” to show up even earlier to reduce the risk of being late and to share some stories, advice, and tips from the program at DPHS.
Dos Pueblos High’s GSA was excited to meet us and see older queers. We decided to introduce ourselves and have the students introduce themselves. This broke the ice a bit and after we did a bit more talking about UCSB and our organizations, classes, and involvements before they finally had some questions for us. I would certainly recommend doing introductions and talking about our involvement as this gave context for questions. For instance I mentioned being a Feminist Studies major and that resulted in us having a concise yet informative discussion of neoliberalism. Another messages we ended up telling the high school students was that queer can be a broad and capacious as well as empowering term, encouraging them that they indeed are authentic queer people and then elaborating on what that can mean in terms of activism and involvement. We also discussed college, emphasizing that it is a privilege while hinting at how this is a means of social closure. Ultimately our discussion felt incredibly short but also very fun and important as almost all the GSA members stayed after the bell to speak with us individually a bit. They expressed excitement and in a sense it seemed like we really opened their eyes to something I didn’t really get a glimpse of until college: A viable queerness that doesn’t feel inauthentic like aspiring to mainstream gay stereotypes. After going and speaking with these young queer students I feel that we gave them something empowering just in expanding their ideas of what it means to be a queer person and how that can be something outside of the controlling images presented by our heteronormative and homonormative media.