Murray High’s QSA provides safe place, support to all studentsDec 16, 2021 10:20AM ● By Julie Slama
Murray High senior Gavin Reynolds, president of the school’s Queer Straight Alliance, stands by the flag that got crumpled. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Murray High School junior Bobbie Seher remembers texting his mother at age 13.
“I wrote, ‘I think I’m trans.’”
His mother’s reply: “I’ll support you through this journey.”
That made all the different as he officially came out at 16, six months ago.
As a member of the school’s Queer Straight Alliance, formerly known as the Gay Straight Alliance, Seher has found a supportive group during the transition.
“It’s great having a validating group,” he said. “I have people here as support and have friends who accept me. It’s a good vibe. There are a lot of queer people, who may not feel safe at home. My dad says lots of homophobic remarks and since my parents are divorced, I haven’t told him.”
Seher said that through the club as well as with staff and faculty, he has found a warm, welcoming place.
“At school, a lot of teachers are good with my pronouns, and my eighth-grade counselor helped me change the pronoun on my school records and told me she was there if I never needed to talk. This year, I was able to change my name to Bobbie from my dead name on Aspire (school records platform) with the help of Chef (KC) Gray (the club adviser),” he said. “I’m in a good spot now.”
That is why it may be confusing as the club members’ paper identity flags and a LGBTQ+ flag they made and posted in the hall were recently torn down and crinkled.
“We put them up for art week,” said senior Gavin Reynolds, president of the QSA. “We got it approved, worked with our SBOs (student body officers) and everything was done right, then it was torn down. It was surprising.”
Their artwork was displayed for about one-and-one-half days.
“Administration is supporting us and talking to those involved,” said Reynolds, who prefers the pronoun they. “We’re here because a lot of people may be feeling alone and when they do, they can get depressed and turn to suicide. We want to be an option not to feel alone, to come and have that support.”
QSA, with 70 members, meets twice per month and often tend to have art as an outlet.
“We painted paper plates of ‘what gender means to you’ and were able to talk and support each other at the same time,” they said. “Everybody seems to appreciate the time to chill, do art and express themselves.”
In another meeting club members learned about LGBTQ+ books and materials available in the school library. Club members had a virtual art tour of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and, for future meetings, may bring in speakers from Encircle, a support group for LGBTQ+ youth at risk.
Reynolds became club president after his brother, who was president before him, graduated. The club began in 2016.
The brothers each told their parents about being gay while in junior high.
“We were the only ones who everyone knew we were queer in junior high. There were more, but we both became the natural leader of queers. We had support of our parents, so when some friends stopped being my friends in seventh grade, I knew I wasn’t alone, but at times, I did feel alone at school. They called me slurs and I was essentially bullied; they were insensitive,” they said.
In ninth grade, the younger Reynolds started the Rainbow Education Alliance of Diverse Youth at Hillcrest Junior High with three other friends as a support for all students. They said it was immediately approved as a club.
“To have that validation, to have that support, it means a lot,” Reynolds said.
That’s what is essential to Gray, the club adviser.
“I give a voice to those who don’t or can’t speak up,” he said. “I’m a white, straight male and I’m wanting to make sure there is a safe spot where all students feel accepted in the Murray High community. That’s first and far most important. I feel Murray High students are mostly accepting, and our faculty and staff and our administration are being supportive, and we do have queer faculty and staff here, but there still is a transition. It is hard for those who still have some homophobic or transphobic ways and things can linger on. We want Murray High to be inclusive, a school for everyone.”