“Have you hugged a straight person today?” That was the announcement students heard at Millwood High as the school kicked off its first ever “straight pride month.”
The first of its kind event at the school is the creation of the Millwood High gay straight alliance. The 20-person group is trying to encourage other students to think more about gender, sexuality and the many difficulties their peers might be facing. That’s meant “Straight Pride” announcements and posters with slogans like “Straight isn’t normal, it’s just common,” and “Do your parents know you’re straight?” decorating the hallways.
“The main idea is to promote awareness and compassion around issues for students who are struggling with sexuality,” says Millwood High vice principal Cathy Burton. “By reversing the terms ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ it added curiosity to the poster campaign.”
Burton says the campaign came as a surprise to her. “I had no idea this was going on. I came into the school, saw the posters and thought someone was trying to be a jerk!” she laughs. “All the staff have been saying what a good idea this is. No one, staff or student, has come to us with a complaint or concern.”
Aside from the posters, there will also be a “straight pride” pancake lunch, a bake sale and fundraising events outside of the school. The high school will cover a new topic related to gender identity and sexuality each month until June—including pansexual, polysexual, transgender and gender queer months.
Millwood High’s GSA remains active throughout the year with many community and school events, such as the international Day of Silence against homophobia and the annual pride parade. The also work closely with GSA groups from other schools. This is the first “straight pride” event they’ve organized.
“A lot of people don’t understand all too well the difference between sexuality and gender identity,” says Jenny Carroll, one of the staff members running the school’s GSA. “We really wanted to invite conversation and increase students’ sensitivity toward their peers. That’s why we started with ‘straight month.’ So many people see it as normal or obvious. Why would you come out as straight? No one was expecting this. It got people’s attention and that’s why we did it.”
Some students had other thoughts. One who contacted The Coast called the event “bafflingly offensive,” while others found it unnecessary.
“I think this whole thing is stupid,” says grade 12 student Sarah Marnette. “It’s like they keep trying to push the ideas of gender and sexuality and labels at us. I don’t know why it has to matter so much.”
Straight pride as a slogan has historically been used in response to LGBT pride events, often by conservative hate groups and those opposed to gay rights. But Jenny Carroll doesn’t see Millwood High’s straight pride month as controversial.
“No! Should I have?” she says with a laugh. “I love controversy, pushing the envelope, starting a conversation. And is that not what we’ve done?”