We hear a lot about bullying and the struggles teenagers have, but being a teenager will always be hard. With the body not quite caught up and the brain still figuring out the world while developing in an atmosphere of pressure, there's bound to be trouble. And lots of it. Teenagers are expected to be both adults and kids at the same time. How can you hold on to love and loss with one hand? With a good deal of struggle. And probably some poetry. That's why teenagers make great art if given the right tools. That's why teenagers can be the ones to inspire a movement and change the world. Sometimes the adults just need to get out of the way.
In Santa Rosa, California, teenagers are doing just that — changing the world. Shealynn and Charley, a same-sex couple, were overwhelmingly nominated by their peers to be homecoming queens at their local high school. The teenagers identify as pansexual, meaning they are attracted to all genders, not just the standard binary male and female.
The couple say they are shocked at all the support they've received from their student body and teachers. I'm still shocked at the acceptance I receive in my own open community, much like Santa Rosa. As an out same-sex family, we experience support far more often than struggle here, but it wasn't always this way for the LGBTQ community. Someone had to start it. Someone had to fight for same-sex marriage here and transgender equal rights. Someone had to be the first one to nominate this couple and change the history of this school and the history of these kids' lives.
I asked my friend Lisa Allison, who grew up in the Santa Rosa area, if she was surprised by this story. "I can't say I had expected it, but I'm not entirely shocked. We're pretty liberal around here. My initial thought is relief. Relief that if the largest high school in the area is this supportive and open, maybe those who are living in fear will find courage."
In 1996, it wasn't OK for me to be who I am at my high school. If I had tried to fight the system then, I would've had to fight alone. That's the real story here. This couple was nominated by an overwhelming majority of their peers. Their allies. The world is changing, in part due to the bravery of high school students, both queer and straight, like these in Santa Rosa.
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