Sexuality, gender identity issues addressed at staff meeting

Julia Halpin | Staff Writer

Senior Tyler Walton led a discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity with the Mason High School staff on April 20. Through a question-and-answer session, Walton, who said he identifies himself as bisexual, shared his story of coming out, along with advice helping students who may be in the closet.The goal of this presentation, according to Walton, was to help the MHS staff be more aware of the issues homosexual or transgender students could face, and therefore, be more capable of helping them through those issues.

“[My presentation was] primarily a discussion over sexual orientation,” Walton said. “I want[ed] to educate the staff on a bunch of different terms that they may or may not [have] already know[n]. …I want[ed] [teachers] to be able to understand what students are going through…[that] may be in the closet and [are] trying to deal with coming out. …For the staff to have a better understanding of that place allows it to help those students.”

Math teacher Katie Holmes, an attendee of the voluntary meeting with Walton, said she views the meeting as a “step in the right direction,” and hopes that all of staff will have the opportunity to hear the information that Walton presented.

“I definitely think [the staff] learned [from the meeting],” Holmes said. “I think you couldn’t leave that meeting without learning something about what it feels like to be a student in school who’s gay, or bisexual or transgender.”

Though discussing sexual orientation and gender identity may be uncomfortable, according to Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart, this discussion between Walton and staff will help make the topic easier to talk about in the future.

“I think any time you talk about this topic, there’s going to be some [uncomfortable aspects] to it,” McCarty-Stewart said. “[That’s] the whole reason why we have to have formal sessions — to open up the dialogue, to invite people in, to help to break those barriers.”

Being a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community himself, according to Walton, his own experience of coming out helps him understand what other students are going through. Walton also said that denial of a person’s true sexual orientation is what makes coming out for homosexual or transgender students so difficult in their high school years.

“I came out as a sophomore,” Walton said. “For me, [when I realized I was bisexual] I was thinking, ‘I’m going to go to hell, I don’t deserve to live.’ …After you realize that you are [homosexual or transgender], you don’t want to be…but after so long [being in denial] really breaks down on you, especially when you’re in a society that tells you that you’re wrong.”