Safe spaces a must to reduce hate

Sunday , October 29, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By JESSICA WOJCIECHOWSKI
TX. Correspondent

On June 12, 2016, one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States and one of the nation's worst terror attack since 9/11 took place.

“This was an act of terror and hate,” President Barack Obama said of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. Along with the majority of the world, I wish that the Pulse shooting would have never happened.

The tragedy, however, made me realize the importance of kindness and sincerity in any setting.

The Pulse club is a popular place in Orlando, Florida, where those in the LGBTQ+ community can feel accepted and have a good time. Or at least that was the case until last year, when an enraged gunman came into the club and killed 49 people and left 53 others severely injured.

I’m sure many people felt the same grief that I did on that day. A mixture of sadness, disappointment and anger rushed through me all at once. I have never understood the hate that comes from something as simple as sexuality.

I grew up in a household where everyone was accepted for who they were. It was a safe space. I happen to have many close friends and relatives who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

That being said, it wasn’t hard for me to learn to accept others. By the time I was in seventh grade, I noticed that many people were homophobic, racist and/or sexist. School seemed like a place that wasn’t a safe space for everyone. That broke my 12-year-old heart. For as long as I could remember, everyone loved each other for who they were.

In my three years of junior high, I did my best to stand up for what I believed in. However, I always noticed the same thing: hate. Hate was and still is everywhere, but why?

I believe most hate comes out of modern-day societal issues that were not previously large problems. The Pulse shooting is a perfect example of this. The Pulse shooting made many companies realize the importance of security, and informing their customers that they are in a safe space. Since the shooting, the LGBTQ+ community has received much less hate, thanks to safe spaces.

Now that the LGBTQ+ community has begun to gain more rights, some people have become angry. It’s so easy to become hateful, but a small change in heart could prevent things similar to this incident from ever happening again. Hateful acts clearly go beyond the LGBTQ+ community, which is why it is important to carry a positive attitude with you to whoever you may come across.

Even through our differences, we are all human. The only way for everyone to have personal safety insured is by kindness being spread rather than hate.

To directly impact my community and help make it more of a safe space, I decided to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) with my good friend Colton Robbins at Clearfield High School. Simply having the GSA as an official club has shown many students that there are people who love and care about them, even through all of the hate.

The biggest question I’ve been asked about the alliance is if you “have to be gay to join.” My answer generally consists of the following points; the GSA is meant to be a safe space for everyone, to be in the alliance you need to allow it to be a safe space, and the alliance is a great way to show support for those who feel surrounded by hate. Nearly everyone has witnessed or been apart of hate in their lifetime.

I encourage you to start a GSA at your school if it doesn’t already have one, simply to help decrease the amount of hate that spreads in the hallways. School can be a safe space for everyone if everyone puts in the effort to care about one another. At the end of the day, we’re all learning under the same roof.

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but remind yourself and the people surrounding you the lesson that your parents likely taught you: Treat others how you would like to be treated. It doesn’t matter what your political stance is, what your religious beliefs are or what your gender or sexuality is.

Just treat others with kindness and respect to create a more positive environment for yourself and others.

Jessica Wojciechowski is a junior at Clearfield High School. She is a black belt and is involved in many clubs. Email her at Jessica.wojo22@gmail.com.

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