As students across the country return to school, both in-person and online, they are doing so in a different climate than in previous years. Last year, most students took unprecedented steps to continue their education while the world grappled with the ongoing pandemic. LGBTQ+ youth face unique challenges in doing so, trying to live authentically while adjusting to a different normalcy.
One of them is Desmond Is Amazing, an LGBTQ+ teenager and advocate who is known for their award-winning drag performances. Desmond is also a genderfluid runway model, motivational public speaker, author and drag performer.
HRC caught up with Desmond Is Amazing to get their thoughts and feelings on what returning to school means to LGBTQ+ youth like themselves.
What does back to school mean to you? As a young LGBTQ+ person, what are some feelings you have about going back to school?
For me, back to school is a new opportunity to start fresh each year. I look forward to all of the possibilities and it's exciting. For instance, I might make new friends or do even better with my grades. I look forward to meeting my teachers because I feel that education is very important and teachers are amazing people for taking on the job of giving us a good education.
I don't really get nervous about going to school. I don't let the bullies at school get to me. I'm very comfortable with who I am so what they have to say is just an opinion and nothing more. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and I don't have to accept their opinion of me. I always say, "be yourself, always, and pay the haters no mind cause they will never be as fierce as you and I."
As someone who is living authentically as both a young LGBTQ+ person and a teen drag performer, what work do schools need to do to create inclusive school environments for people like yourself?
There are several ways that schools can create a more inclusive learning environment. The most important thing to me is that if someone is bullied, the school and the bully's parents will be held responsible for the bully's behavior. The school must have a no tolerance bullying policy and consequences should be given and documented. The bullying policy should be in every student's orientation package at the beginning of the year and posted in every classroom, lunch room, auditorium, gym, and hallway so students know how to report bullying incidents. I also feel that there should be gender neutral bathrooms and safe locker rooms. Lastly, I feel that LGBTQ+ history needs to be taught in schools. If people are taught the history of the LGBTQ community, then people who don't understand our community can learn more about us, where we came from, and what we stand for.
As a young LGBTQ person, what concerns do you have about the current state of the community? What challenges do you face?
There are a few concerns I have about the current state of the community. I see a lot of arguing and bullying going on online within the community and people accusing each other of not being "valid" enough. I don't like this at all. First of all, no one can judge how "valid" someone is because there can be no measure at all of how much someone is authentically being themselves. That's their choice and their expression and is not anyone else's decision. Our community is already judged enough so I think people need to calm down, practice kindness, be accepting of others, and most importantly unite. We can learn from history. After the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ+ community started coming together and uniting and in doing so, they were able to bring about the Gay Liberation Movement which allowed the community to face issues going on and increase activism. So, if our community doesn't unite and keeps on arguing for no good reason, we will never be able to create change for our generation. It's a challenge that I face as a LGBTQ+ youth advocate in thinking of ways I can help bring us together on issues.
What do you hope that the future has in store for young LGBTQ+ folks like yourself?
Mostly my hope for the future is that my peers will learn to come together, that people continue to educate themselves and others about issues facing the community, and that transgender and gender fluid people, especially transgender and gender fluid people of color, will be respected, able to gain employment in good jobs, and will no longer have to worry about being killed for being who they are. I also hope that people will love others, practice kindness every day even if it is as little as giving someone a compliment every day, accept people who they perceive to be different from themselves, advocate for the community, do volunteer work for marginalized communities and for people who are facing hard times, and just be more tolerant of other people. Everyone is different and unique and I think we are trying to fit people into labels and boxes and that isn't going to accomplish anything.