Maddison Miszewski

Speaking Out Against the Social Norm

GSA members from many SRVUSD schools gather to increase the sense of community among the club members from each school. There were speakers, games, and discussions concerning stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTQ groups during school.

GSA members from many SRVUSD schools gather to increase the sense of community among the club members from each school. There were speakers, games, and discussions concerning stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTQ groups during school.

Mikayla Flores, Sports Editor

   Many students work to make changes around Monte Vista, but few have gone as far as this student to make a lasting impact in student’s lives here.

    From being active in Speech and Debate, NHS, Science Alliance, Choir, GLSCYN, and Drama, senior Madison Miszewski has involved herself in many activities at Monte Vista.

    Some of her most active participation has been in GSA. Miszewski is the president of GSA for her second year in a row now. Gender-Sexuality Alliance, formerly known as Gay-Straight Alliance, is a club at Monte Vista advised by Ms. Slipka. The club name was changed during the first week of this school year in order to encompass a broader range of minority groups.

    At Miszewski ’s first GSA meeting during her freshmen year, she remembers playing a game called Step Up to the Line. In this game, a statement would be spoken aloud, and if that statement was true for somebody in the room, they were to step up to the line of tape across the floor.

    “They said, ‘Step up to the line if you feel safe at school’,” Miszewski said.

    Not a single GSA club member playing this game four years ago stepped up to the line.

    After looking around the room at the other GSA club members and realizing she wasn’t the only one who didn’t feel safe, Miszewski set off to work on making the school a more comfortable place for all students. This has not been easy task.

    “I sit and talk with people all the time,” Miszewski said. “I spend a lot of time talking with administration…and Leadership.”

    She has been working with our principal, Dr. Ahern, on a new project. This month, a program called, “Breaking Down Walls” will be starting up. It is put on through the same organization as Link Crew.

    “It will be helping the school climate, and work on making the school a little bit better, and a little bit safer for everybody,” Miszewski said.

    The program is being launched to facilitate communication among students, regardless of their peer groups. There will be a schoolwide assembly and three workshop days following it, that will be lead by a Learning for Living staff member.

    Mrs. Greco, the Leadership teacher at Monte Vista, explained the program during a lunchtime meeting for the leaders of the program.

    “We’ve never done anything like this at Monte Vista…This is an actual attempt to pull people together on our campus, and improve it,” said Greco.

    The Workshop days will include six hours of activities and inspirational interactions, and up to 150 students will be attending each of the three days. These workshop days will take place from October 17th-20th.

    Miszewski strongly believes some major changes need to be made around Monte Vista to ensure all groups around school will feel accepted.

    “The rally last year was definitely sort of a jumping off point for GSA,” Miszewski said. “This kind of comedy had been happening for a long time at our school, and for the first time, I finally had the power as GSA president to question it.”

    Last year at the rally, a boy dressed up as a girl and pretended to kiss another boy. When he took off his wig and revealed that he was a boy, the other boy that had been “kissed” pretended to be grossed out, and students in the audience laughed.

    “Statistically, you have at least 20 transgender students that watched that performance, sitting there being like ‘I’m a joke to these people. My identity isn’t valid, my identity is not okay…at least 100 people out of our student body watched that gay joke and were like ‘oh, so I’m funny, so I’m a joke, my identity is humorous’,” Miszewski said.

    The first action she took towards speaking out included gathering information about similar experiences that had occurred at other schools.

    “I…made a Google Document and told people if they saw any school-sponsored homophobia, sexism, or racism, they should write it down there and write down who did it, because we were having trouble convincing admin that it was a problem,” Miszewski said.

    Miszewski came out in eighth grade as bisexual, and in ninth grade she started to address these problems. She struggled a lot as a freshman, watching the weekly bulletin videos, which she remembers had many jokes involving guys pretending to be gay. She remembers listening to people whisper slurs in the classroom. But she wasn’t willing to just sit and listen.

   “I asked my health teacher in my Freshmen year why there is no education about LGBTQ people in health class,” Miszewski said. “What she responded with was a definition of gay, straight, and transgender. She asked the class, ‘What’s transgender?’ And this guy raised his hand and said, ‘a girl with a [penis]’, but she ignored that…”

    She believes harmful jokes are made about people who identify as transgender and that it is still a problem she wants to work on fixing.  

    “If you have male parts and you don’t identify as male, then you are not a male, but you are transgender,” Miszewski said. “Genitalia does not correlate with gender. Genitalia correlates with sex.”

    The correct definition of transgender is: Somebody who doesn’t feel they are the gender they were assigned at birth.

    Last year on February 24th, the 5th Annual Gay Straight Alliance Forum was held in Monte Vista’s Workday Student Center. GSA club members and faculty from many SRVUSD schools gathered together to work on increasing LGBTQ awareness in the district.

    “There’s a lot of things that I personally do to end humorous slurs…the easiest thing to do is just to call people out on it,” Miszewski  said. “Everytime I hear a slur at school, I go, ‘Hey that is not funny and that is not cool.’”

   GSA meets once every other week to discuss possible resolutions that can be made for issues such as this. They already have plans for this year. Miszewski  is going to talk to the health teacher about getting a new health curriculum and is also working on getting an LGBTQ speaker during access period.

    “This type of humor targeting the LGBTQ groups needs to change, and no one else is willing to do it. Everyone is afraid, even the teachers are afraid,” Miszewski said.

         The rally had been a joke, intended to be funny. Unfortunately, humor like this is very common in society today, and most students probably didn’t even realize that this humor would offend somebody or make them feel less safe at school.

   “I know we are old enough to understand that this isn’t funny,” Miszewski said. “We are almost adults. We should be working our hardest to be the best we can be.”

    Many students laughed at the joke at the rally. This doesn’t imply that they were purposefully making fun of LGBTQ groups. The joke mostly likely was not intentionally targeting LGBTQ groups to make them feel less accepted at Monte Vista. However, it is this type of comedy that Miszewski  wants to take out of the social norm so that students won’t get accidentally offended again.

    “People think that’s a social norm,” Miszewski said. “If we take that out of our social norm, people stop doing it…The important thing that people need to understand is that when your comedy is at the expense of someone else, it’s not funny.”