Setting the Example

As a new student at Andover from Madrid, Spain, one of the first things that struck me about this school was was the pride and confidence of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community on campus. I remember sitting on the floor of the Community and Mulitcultural Development (CAMD) office during orientation and hearing how Andover is an accepting community. In the wake of recent events, however, I wonder if Andover’s inclusive and tolerant policies have been adequately extended to encompass recent discussion on campus. Opinion on LGBTQ issues here at Andover is nothing like it was in Madrid. There, no one at school identified as anything other than heterosexual. There were no LGBTQ support groups and certainly no pride parades. There was only one openly gay teacher, and that is exactly how he was distinguished—the “gay” teacher. When a fellow soccer player at my school came out as bisexual, students argued that it was “weird” for her to be on a team with other girls, and some even refused to change in the same room as her. Teachers looked at her differently and teammates refused to pass her the ball. In stark contrast, Phillips Academy’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) celebrated its 25th year as an organization just last weekend. While LGBTQ individuals at Andover are certainly recognized as integrated and welcome members of the community, there is still work to be done. In the past weeks, the school has renewed its efforts to recognize and address the sexual health of its student body. Campus-wide discussion regarding student sexual health has remained heteronormative, despite the fact that a full 13 percent of the 685 students who answered the The Phillipian’s 2013 State of the Academy Report identified as something other than heterosexual. To be a completely open community, Andover must give equal attention to LGBTQ students. During parietal talks, for example, LGBTQ relationships should be given equal consideration and discussion, and house counselors should outline specific rules for parietals between LGBTQ students. Although some house counselors already do this, specific policies regarding these students should be required at parietal talks in all dorms across campus. Failing to acknowledge that there are sexually active LGBTQ students at Andover could potentially have negative consequences for the health of these individuals. There is no reason that LGBTQ relationships on campus should be given any less consideration than heterosexual ones. After 25 successful years of the GSA campaigning for equal rights on Andover’s campus, it is about time that we implement concrete policies on sexual activity and parietals that include the LGBTQ community. By not educating students about LGBTQ issues, we face the dangerous risks associated with the lack of information. We should take pride in Andover’s relatively progressive stance on LGBTQ issues within our student body. After all, it only takes one school to set the example and have a global impact.