Senior Marina Khan, who is asexual and nonbinary, found a supportive community at Algonquin that she lacked at her previous school.
Khan came to Algonquin as a freshman after attending a private Muslim school where she says many people were homophobic.
“I had told a bunch of my friends there that I was questioning, and one of the girls told me that I need to look to God and I need to basically suppress [my sexuality],” Khan said.
At Algonquin, however, Khan found allies to the LGBT community and feels that her identity is accepted by both students and faculty.
“I came to Algonquin thinking that I was going to be a freak, so when I found out that I wasn’t, it was so nice because I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m not alone,’” Khan said. “People don’t hate because of something that I literally cannot control.”
Despite the support she has found, Khan is sometimes hesitant to talk about her identity because she is afraid it might be received poorly.
“I say I like boys and girls, so a lot of times people will assume that I have no morals or I’m confused,” Khan said. “People will tell me to pick something or they’ll assume that I’m a slut.”
Khan finds it challenging when these assumptions prevent her from speaking about who she is.
“You’re surrounded by people who seem very happy to see you…but you know if they found out about this specific part of you, they wouldn’t be so happy,” Khan said.
At lunch her freshman year, Khan heard people mocking different gender identities, an experience that has stuck with her.
“They were talking about all the different types of nonbinary and saying that they don’t exist and basically saying that there are only two genders,” Khan said. “It made me feel like they’re not very open. They don’t really know what they’re talking about.”
Khan believes educating students about the LGBT community during Biology class would help promote acceptance.
Junior and Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) president Maxwell Vere, who is homoflexible, polyamorous and transgender, feels that most students are only tolerant of his LGBT identity rather than accepting.
Vere faced discrimination when he came out his freshman year.
“When I first kept coming out to people, they were really awkward about it and teasing and shoving or making jokes,” Vere said.
One student bullied Vere for a year and a half about his LGBT identity.
“[He] would say ‘I wish you were still a girl. You looked prettier as a girl’ or those sort of things or like ‘I can turn you back straight and female,’” Vere said.
Even now, Vere still faces bullying. He overheard other students this year calling him a “faggot” and a “tranny” behind his back in the lunch line.
Vere believes that though most teachers are accepting of the LGBT community, they can sometimes be part of the problem by not taking a stand if they see other students getting bullied.
“Some [teachers] can be quite ignorant to it especially if they see people getting picked on for it,” Vere said. “I’ve seen people get picked on directly in front of teachers, and teachers just walk by. I think that’s a problem in general, not just about the LGBT community”
Overall, Vere urges his fellow students to be more sensitive when it comes to someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Stop trying to make jokes about people just because of something like that they’re romantically interested in the same gender or they identify as not what they were born as,” Vere said.
Senior Raphael Pazi has felt discriminated against at Algonquin for being gay, but his supportive friend group and position as a class officer have helped him find acceptance for his LGBT identity.
When Pazi came out his freshman year, people made comments about his sexual orientation both to his face and behind his back. One experience in particular, when he was leaving the boys’ locker room with a few of his girl friends and passed a group of boys, really struck him.
“One of them was like ‘What are you girls doing here?’ and he looked back and was like ‘Yeah Raphael, what are you doing here?’” Pazi said. “…That just showed me how ignorant people can be of someone’s feelings.”
Most of the time, however, Pazi would not hear these comments directly.
“[I remember] people talking behind my back and being like “Oh, he’s gay. That’s weird. I don’t want to hang out with him,’” Pazi said.
Though he struggled to have his identity accepted by some, Pazi always had his friends to rely on.
“I didn’t really care [that people were saying things] because my community, my most immediate friend group, was very supportive,” Pazi said.
Pazi is one of the few openly gay males in his grade, which he feels gives him unwanted attention.
“I feel so judged because I feel like people are going to be like ‘Oh there’s the gay kid,’” Pazi said. “…I’ve always hated being like the center of attention because of my sexuality.”
Pazi was elected as the Class of 2020’s vice-president three years in a row and this year, he is the class president. Running for a class officer position, he says, was pivotal in his journey of finding acceptance for his LGBT identity.
“As a gay person, accepting who I am and pushing myself in front of the whole school and my grade was a turning point for me,” Pazi said. “Because I’m like ‘Oh, I’m going to find and accept who I am, and I’m going to put myself out there as this new person that I’ve become.’”
Senior Mary Youssef, who identifies as “someone who goes with the flow,” struggled to find her identity, but with the help of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), gained the confidence to come out.
“I was afraid about coming out and then being wrong about it because then taking that back is a lot harder than saying it,” Youssef said.
When Youssef began attending GSA meetings her freshman year, she began to feel more comfortable with her identity.
“The first GSA meeting I went to was when I first started to feel better about it because at that point, I was like ‘Pansexual seems like the right thing,’ and we were going around and if you wanted to, you could share and someone else said [they were pansexual],” Youssef said. “I vaguely knew her, so I was like ‘Ok, it’s right. It’s okay. I’m validated.’”
In her experience, Youssef has found both the student body and faculty to be largely accepting of members of the LGBT community.
“Sometimes I just come out, and I’ve never had any reaction at all,” Youssef said. “It wasn’t a bad reaction. It wasn’t a good reaction. It was just ok, and I feel like that’s the best reaction.”
However, when Youssef told a male friend who she was romantically involved with about her sexual orientation three years ago, it immediately ruined their relationship.
“It felt horrible honestly because we had gotten really close,” Youssef said. “He cut off the emotional relationship that we had and that kind of sucked because he was one of those people you tell almost everything, and then he was like ‘Nope, bye.’”