Harmful rhetoric contributes to the over-sexualization of gay students

By Ava Sjursen / Editor-in-Chief  

On Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, Independence High School held its annual homecoming parade in Thompson’s Station. Featuring floats adorned with decorations representing various clubs at the school, perhaps the most colorful of all was that of the school’s LGBTQ Awareness Club, Indy Pride.

However, from the moment that the float began its course, the bright, bold colors of the float were met with equally colorful responses from the crowd. Rampant booing from both students and parents alike followed the vehicle down its route. 

This story sounds familiar to almost everyone across the country. In the midst of an anger-induced adrenaline rush, two students, standing at the front of the float leaned in to kiss each other, which served as a display of love combatting the harsh criticism surrounding them. 

Although the kiss might have effectively silenced the crowds in person, the war raged on Twitter the next day. The Williamson County Chapter of #MomsforLiberty, an activist group whose mission is to “stand up for parental rights at all levels of government,” captured videos of this kiss at the event and shared it on social media. The students’ faces, which were not blurred, were now subject to the harassment of thousands of parents from across the country.

A tweet, posted by #MomsforLiberty on Sept. 18, reads “Well, this happened: Independence HS’s Homecoming Parade had an LGBTQ float, featuring two girls kissing & groping in front of Thompson’s Station’s Elementary and Middle School. VIEWED BY ALL AGES DOWN TO KINDERGARTENERS 1/x” (Twitter).

The tweet also includes a 6-second video that showcases the moment where the participants kissed. 

This story is so common that “Parks and Recreation” dedicated an episode to a similar plotline, in which a group promoting “family values” clashes with the accidental marriage of two male penguins. 

In my opinion, however, the problem lies in the phrasing of the original tweet and the outing of all students on that float to the general public in Williamson County. 

If one does take the time to watch the video, and I highly recommend that you do, you will see that the alleged “groping” consists of one peck on the lips between the students that lasts less than a second.

By describing the kiss as a grope, #MomsforLiberty taps into a deeper issue within our society as a whole: the over-sexualization of gay teens. 

When the presence of gay teens is viewed as such, it is damaging to the minds of young people who simply want to live their truth. 

“The over-sexualization of LGBT people leads many to only think of the community in terms of sex. They think it’s ‘not appropriate for their children,’ because, to them, being gay in itself is only sexual,” said Harpeth Hall’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) President, junior Hannah Mosley. 

GSA: Harpeth Hall’s 2021-22 GSA Club board hanging in Bullard hallway. Photo by Priyanka Chiguluri / Editor-in-Chief.

“A lot of schools won’t let students discuss LGBT topics because of this sexualization, which leads to queer students lacking vital information they need to know about their identity.” 

My question to you is: Why? 

Why is a photo of a couple modestly sharing a kiss, similar to almost any Disney film –  which we subject 5 years olds to all over the country – or a class discussion about LGBT people’s existence taught to elementary schoolers or middle schoolers deemed grotesque and inherently sexual?

I believe the answer lies in the almost impossibly quick transition that our society went through in order to gain the level of “acceptance” that we have reached today. 

I was sitting in my AP U.S History class on Tuesday when my teacher posed the question, “What do you believe our period of history will be known for?” 

While some suggested COVID, or the development of social media, one student raised her hand and presented the idea of the growing rates of young LGBT people coming out, who are accepted without question. 

But when did this begin? Since 2014, favorable public opinion on the subject of gay marriage has risen almost 20%, paving the way for dozens of bills and acts that ensure equal rights for this group. 

This drastic transition, on paper, looks fantastic for gay Americans. After all, 70% of the American public openly supporting your right to get married would’ve been unthinkable during a Reagan or even Clinton administration. 

However, for most of history, LGBT people have been persecuted, bullied, and shoved into the closet, even in the most liberal areas of our country. A quick turnaround of public opinion is not going to erase decades of oppression. 

Therefore, I propose that there is much to be done in our country and in our schools before this negative aftertaste of the word “gay” or “lesbian” is washed out and highly sexual vocabulary pertaining to this group is cleansed from the mouths of parents trying to protect their children from exactly that. 

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