Editor's note: As a part of the 2012 Fullerton High School "Mr. Fullerton" pageant, senior Kearian Giertz was asked, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" Kearian responded that he hoped that in 10 years marriage equality would be legal so that he could marry the man of his dreams. As a result of his answer, a school administrator disqualified him from the competition. Immediately after the incident took place, Kearian's classmates, seniors Blake Danford and Katy Hall, started a letter-writing campaign, asking the question, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" They added their vision of what is needed to create safe and supportive schools. Blake and Katy teamed up with the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Orange County and Youth Empowered to Act (YETA). The campaign became the foundation for YETA's comprehensive, student-led program to inform students, faculty, and administrators about California's school laws, provide support and advocacy for students, and create safe schools in Orange County and beyond.
The Huffington Post is sharing the stories of several youth involved in the campaign responding to Seth's Law, which was enacted last week. For more information, and to participate in the campaign, visit Youth Empowered to Act.
* * * * *
I'm a varsity cross-country and varsity track-and-field runner, a singer, and an occasional writer and artist, among other things. I'm also a son, a sibling, and a friend to many.
Oh, yeah, and I'm gay.
I really cannot complain about much (even if I sometimes do, shamefully); my problems don't compare to the difficulties I have known in many other people's lives, but like anyone else, my life is still far from perfect, and some of that relates to my childhood.
Some of what I have dealt with came after the switch to a private Christian school after the third grade. I made a few friends, but I felt socially awkward. I had never faced problems dealing with my sexual orientation, other than lighthearted moments during my elementary-school years when all the boys would run from the girls, fearing the girls would kiss them. The girls would chase me, too, but I'd never let them catch me. I can't say for sure, but that may be why I like to run as much as I do today. In any case, transferring schools affected my life, as it caused me to become far more reserved and cautious, and it affected my grades and my social life negatively.
They were hard years, but it wasn't until the fifth or sixth grade that I faced bigger questions regarding my sexuality. Both my friends and enemies noticed that my behavior and speech were "different," and despite confusedly denying being gay, I was experiencing insecurities. The accusations that I was gay during a rough and baffled phase of my life urged me further into sadness.
Around seventh grade I became more comfortable with the concept of being gay, but I found myself trying to act more "straight." Really, I was just trying to make myself appear more "masculine" through my music choices and dress, avoiding anything I feared would out me. By doing this, however, I was effectively putting myself into a cramped and awkward cocoon of sorts. It wasn't until the end of my freshman year in high school that I was able to get to a point where I was comfortable enough to fully come out of the shell that had encased me.
Since then, I've become far more open to LGBT culture as I've become more accepting of myself and the good aspects of the queer world. If I were able to go back in time to give myself any advice on this, I would probably tell myself to really question who I was sooner than I did. Another thing I'd tell my younger self would be to not take personally the words and actions of others (even if I still do it from time to time), because there could be any number of reasons why someone would say or do something hurtful, and it may very well be their own personal struggle with their sexuality. And unlike what I did, which was to shelter myself and change who I was for the sake of protection, I'd recommend that any teen facing bullying and abuse challenge it in a nonviolent manner. Tell a teacher or a trusted adult. Find students who might be going through similar things.
I am hoping to give back to those who have previously been unable to get the help that they need from school authorities. Though in the long term I hope to be able to help victims through caring and charitable psychological methods, in the short term I am hoping to do some kind work through Youth Empowered to Act (YETA), and I hope to accomplish this by coming up with various new ideas and methods that can make a bigger difference in the lives of the LGBT youth around me.
The advent of A.B. 9 (also known as Seth's Law) and A.B. 1156 will help in the fight against bullying, which wreaks havoc on many kids, LGBT or not. Schools will be required to have anti-bullying policies, giving support for victims of bullying, and making it far easier for students like me to switch out of their current school district if they need to. Now as students and young adults, we need to make sure our friends and family know that Seth's Law is in effect in California, and to start standing up and speaking out.