Facing the hetero normative narrative within South


Relationships are a natural part of high school, and are often overlooked because of how common they are — especially when it comes to heterosexual couples. For homosexual relationships, it’s the complete opposite- and with that comes a dangerous stigma that creates false assumptions about these relationships, as well as about people in the LGBTQIA+ community in general.

For Jaimie Davis* ’22, finding a partner who has related to the issues that she has dealt with has been extremely helpful, as she faced homophobia among both her friends and her classmates during her life.

“It’s nice to have found someone who shares some of the struggles I’ve experienced too- such as (issues) with my family,” Davis said. “It’s hard in some ways. Sometimes you have to be worried about what other people are going to think about that, but it’s also great to have found someone you love.”

As someone who has lived in Grosse Pointe their entire life, Davis has noticed that many people tend to have conservative viewpoints that lead to assumptions and false narratives regarding “taboo” topics, such as being a member of the LGBTQ+ community and in a relationship.

“I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I technically can’t say that I know if it would be any different, but I feel like people are a little more conservative here,” Davis said. “I’ve had to switch dance studios because people were bullying me for my sexuality and stuff like that. It sucks.”

Questions of how to normalize these relationships within our building and community have become relevant, as explicit and implicit homophobia can often be found within high schools. Without this homophobia, LGBTQIA+ students are able to be themselves with no issues, often having better mental and physical health, as well as better grades, according to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

“We have to continue to find ways to have conversations with each other one on one, and to humanize everyone in our building,” Principal Moussa Hamka said. “We are all more than whatever title is assigned to us.”

Within the South code of conduct, any form of harassment is strictly forbidden, regardless of the basis on which the harassment is taking place. However, according to the CDC, 34% of LGBTQIA+ students were bullied on campus in 2015.

“Our code of conduct is very clear,” Hamka said. “Behaviors, whether they’re directed towards LGBTQIA+ students, black students, or our white students, are not tolerated. We do have a harassment policy in our building.”

Even with the harassment policy being very clear in schools, Davis said she has faced homophobia via social media, where students are less likely to face repercussions.

“No one did anything about it,” Davis said. “I guess I never really told anyone, because it’s not like people are going to jump in and stand up for you unless they’re a part of your community, so it kinda just gets brushed aside. If people want to be better allies, it would be really nice to have more people standing up for each other. “

Though the school has its shortcomings, the administration has implemented measures to create a safer, more supportive environment for any relationship, regardless of the two individuals involved and their gender and sexuality, according to Hamka.

“We’ve started many uncomfortable conversations,” Hamka said. “Oftentimes getting started is the hard part. Many adults in this building are engaging, we have clubs, conversations with administrators and each other. I think there are opportunities in some of our classes in what we’re reading to reflect on the experiences of some of the characters in the books.”

According to therapist Ellen Miller, literature itself is a wonderful way to expose students to not only the struggles but the healthy, supported lens of LGBTQIA+ relationships. This applies to other topics as well, such as students being exposed to the systemic racism of the legal system via Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in English classes. This same exposure can be implemented regarding LGBTQIA+ issues that can also be discussed in the classroom.

“Even as grand (a) scale as in literature, in content that students are exposed to, to show same-sex couples, all the way down to how teachers talk about relationships in the classroom,” said therapist Ellen Miller, who works with LGBTQIA+ youth.

Miller said the language we use also continues to uphold traditionalist standards for relationships.

“Not keeping it heteronormative, not keeping it in the binary, but just saying, ‘when a person loves a person,’” Miller said. “Also having that conversation perpetuated amongst peers.”

Though the school tries to create a safe environment, the outside world, even sometimes including the individual’s own family, is not always supportive. Like many forms of hatred, often it is based in fear, Miller says.

“If we peel that back, it’s usually rooted in fear, in uncertainty, the unknown, and ignorance or lack of education,” Miller said.

According to Miller, it is key to approach the topic gently and with great compassion, reminding oneself that the individual knows their own sexuality much better than everyone else.

“Their sexuality is valid, they know their sexuality better than anyone,” Miller said. “So when they choose to engage in a relationship with somebody that is either the same sex or gender as them, then that is just another exploration of love that should be respected, valued, and appreciated just like any other relationship.”

Parenting an LGBTQIA+ child is also vital, as the home environment can make or break the individual’s self-worth, says NCBI.

“Your child is no different, this is who they are,” Miller said. “They’re owning that, which is a beautiful thing that should be celebrated.”

When she told their friends about their sexuality, Davis received a lot of acceptance from her friends, but also faced a lot of judgment that resulted in lost friendships.

“I didn’t know if my friends would accept me, and some of them didn’t,” Davis said. “I don’t (hide it) anymore, which is nice, but it’s definitely hard. At first, when you don’t know what people are going to think, (it’s really difficult). But I’ve gotten to a place where I feel comfortable and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

Even before she came out, Davis had faced homophobia on social media, often getting remarks from straight people about who they were attracted to and if they wanted to start a relationship together, even though Lewiston was not interested in doing so.

“I had people, before I was out, asking if I was bisexual, because they assumed that I like men,” Davis said. “And I was like ‘No, I like women;’ they didn’t really get that. I said so many times ‘I don’t like men’ and I’d still get guys in my DMs asking me if I wanted to hook up or go on a date, and I’m like ‘I’m a lesbian.’ And they’d still be like ‘Well, do you want to go on a date?’ and I’d have to tell them the same thing again.”

As someone that is a part of the LGBTQ+ community at South, Davis said she believes that in order to make the school a safer place for students, a sense of alliance and standing up for each other against prejudice must be encouraged by students in addition to administration.

“I feel like there’s a lot of people who might not want people to say homophobic things, but if they see it, or just anything wrong in general, they don’t want to get into it,” Davis said. “They want to be in the middle and be like ‘I understand this person’s opinion,’ but they don’t want to take sides. I think people need to understand that you can’t take a side with that…Finding a community (that supports you) really helps (in a lot of ways).”