Exploring identity

by Ashley Jiang, Maya Valluru, and Maya Kumar

When students attended a biannual assembly hosted by Harker GSA, Ruth McFarlane told them to snap their fingers each time they found something she said interesting. As she clarified the terms used in the LGBT+ community or explained ways in which individuals could be allies, or supporters, of the community, waves of clicking noises sounded through the crowded gym.

McFarlane is the Director of programs at the San Francisco LBGT Community Center and a member of the board of directors for the National Center for lesbian Rights. She identifies as a cisgender lesbian woman.

She discussed the various ways to be an ally, not just to the LGBT+ community but to all minority groups. Some tips that she endorsed were listening, researching, and remaining curious.

“Being an ally is committing yourself to do the hard work of supporting social change at a person to person level,” she said. “Every single one of us can be an ally to someone who does not have our particular advantage in the world. When we commit to being an ally, we step up to the line with all our ignorance and with all our good intentions, because we know in our heart that this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Anthony Ross, the Outlet Program Director at Adolescent Counseling Services, also spoke to the student body after McFarlane. Ross’s speech focused more on his personal experience with being a transgender man. Ten years after coming out as a lesbian, he moved to California and began working with the ACS. Five years ago, he began his physical, social, and legal transition from female to male.

“I learned so much from the youth I was working with. It was unbelievable, so I spent pretty much my 30s learning about gender identity and learning about my own gender identity.”

Ross also offered advice to those who are fearful to come out to their parents or friends.

“Make sure that you have support somewhere before you necessarily come out to your family or friends. It takes parents especially a process of time to get used to the identity.”

Several young people do not openly identify themselves as members of the LGBT+ community out of fear of alienation from their families and friends. Hate crimes based on sexual preference and gender identity have been outlawed by the Matthew Shepard Act, passed in 2009, but discrimination continues to pervade communities across the country.

The Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, which came to a conclusion on June 26, legalized equal marriage throughout the entire country. Gay pride surged across the nation; over a million attended the 45th Annual Gay Pride Parade this year to celebrate their right to love freely.

This article was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on November 20, 2015.