Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 22, Ed. 1 Friday, October 14, 2011 Page: 14 of 48
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From Page 10
want you to go to hell for doing that."
Salinas says her friend was "in shock" that a
school employee would say such a thing to a stu-
Cooper says she's had to correct other teachers
who would tell students it's not okay to be gay—
teachers who didn't even realize that Cooper her-
self was gay.
Tensions between teachers, administrators and
school employees have heightened in Fort Worth
over the years, so much so that Sharon Herrera,
an out lesbian herself, was brought in to teach
training seminars and handle complaints.
But, as reported by the Fort Worth Weekly, Her-
rera was perhaps too good at her job.
Her position was eliminated at the beginning of
this year, and although she's still an employee of
the district, she's no longer conducting the semi-
nars and handling the multitude of complaints
that came across her desk, which included in-
stances of anti-LGBTQ bullying as well sexual and
Everything, it seems, has gone silent. But that
doesn't mean everyone's problems have been
Herrera says" that quality training that is
LGBTQ-specific is vital in Fort Worth, and pro-
grams like their "It's Not Okay" campaign,
launched in June of 2010, simply do not address
LGBTQ issues in a meaningful way — or at all.
Instead, it is often left up to the more-than-ca-
pable students to stand up for themselves when
something goes wrong. That's one of the wonder-
ful things about GSAs, say participants: They get
to learn real-world activism in high school.
This year, Italia Salinas says, Q-Status has not
been allowed to make public announcements and
hang signs in the hallways, ostensibly because
they're a non-academic group. However, a con-
servative Christian extracurricular group for boys
at the school has been able to do those tilings.
Salinas and her group will have to actively fight
to get their school to respect the Equal Access Act,
which guarantees that if one extra-curricular club
has access to school resources, all of them must.
Nine students from Fort Worth ISD marched in
the city's recent gay Pride parade, and when the
Dallas Voice stopped by Southwest High School
to talk to their Gay-Straight Alliance, the room
positively lit up when the march was brought up.
Hands shot into the air, attached to squirming
bodies, each student anxious to talk about the
amazing feeling they got from being accepted in
an adult space.
In fact, says Western Hills' Q-Status teacher
sponsor Bernardo Vallarino, showing kids that
the LGBT community is more than just dance
clubs and drugs — something he was exposed
to very early on as a young man — is an integral
part of what GSAs do for students.
In forming GSAs, he says> "it creates a right
way of learning about the LGBTQ community
that doesn't include drugs, alcohol or inadequate
sex." The biggest take-away from GSAs, says
Herrera, is that they prevent bullying and, again,
save lives because of their specific focus on the
• Q-Status: "Q- Status is a group built on
the human differences of its members, a safe
place where everyone is welcome and no one
is turned away. Our focus is centered on the
education of our members and the commu-
nity around us. We thrive by making new
friends and by accomplishing our goals of in-
forming and educating others of the cultural
and legal inequalities faced by many groups
including the homosexual community and
their families. Everyone is welcome (hetero-
sexual, bisexual, homosexual, questioning,
confused, curious, etc.)!t
• LGBTQ Saves (district-wide): "LGBTQ
S.A.V.E.S. (Students, Administrators, Volun-
teers, Educators Support) fosters the well-
being of LGBTQ K-12 students,
administrators, volunteers and educators in
Tarrant County by eliminating discrimination,
bullying and retaliation on the basis of sexual
orientation, gender identity and gender ex-
pression. S.A.V.E.S. is an autonomous, all-
volunteer group and not affiliated with any
local school districts."
• Southwest High School GSA Vision
Statement: "The Gay-Straight Alliance GSA
at Southwest High School is a student-led
and -organized club that aims to create a
safe, welcoming and accepting environment
for all youth regardless of sexual orientation
or gender identity. The GSA brings together
gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and
questioning (GLBTQ) youth with their straight
peers to address issues such as bullying, ha-
rassment, discrimination and bias. GSA al-
lows youth to build coalitions and community
that can work towards making a safer school
environment for all people. Motto: Come as
needs of LGBTQ students.
Inclusivity, says Herrera, is not enough; LGBTQ
kids need programs tailored to their specific chal-
lenges — challenges that are made ever more ap-
parent every time the local news reports on yet
another bullied teen's suicide.
Southwest junior Ryan McCaleb says being gay
"is the way we live, think, breathe." But because
of the social stigma and pressure from religious
and conservative students and teachers, he says,
"You're the talk of the school, and everything
that's said comes back times 10."
The Gay-Straight Alliance is a place where kids
understand what that feels like — that unique
feeling of shame and pain that LGBTQ kids deal
with, especially LGBTQ kids in conservative cities
like Fort Worth, and that their straight friends
want to help alleviate. As president of Q-Status,
Italia Salinas says her GSA "gives [her] hope for
humanity," that hatefulness and bullying can be
prevented before it begins.
Vallarino says that in 10 years of Gay-Straight
Alliance clubs in FWISD, some goals may have
shifted. Last year, they successfully focused on
getting written policies in place against workplace
and school harassment and supporting equal
treatment, while this year they're hoping to get a
GSA in every high school and middle school.
But ultimately "One thing that has never
changed is that GSA's are a safe haven.f ■
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 22, Ed. 1 Friday, October 14, 2011, newspaper, October 14, 2011; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239189/m1/14/: accessed February 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.