Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LGBT art piece stirs hate, support at Mercer High

This from the Advocate Messenger:

Junior Meagan Brown knocked on teacher Katie Yandrick’s door Thursday, politely asking to borrow an extension cord. It was near the end of the day at Mercer County High and kids were restless. As Brown waited for the cord, Katie Slope from Yandrick’s class came to the hallway and began hugging her. Brown was fighting back tears.

Brown had just finished an art installation in the hallway, something she started a week ago, taking great lengths to get approval from the appropriate faculty members and the principal, and someone had tried to destroy it.

But she wasn’t crying because of that.

“Today is the first time I’ve felt accepted,” she said. Some people were watching over the art piece when she wasn’t around, making sure no one else attempted to tear it down. People walked up and hugged her. It had been an amazing day, despite the problems, she said.

The top of the art piece said LGBT in brightly colored letters, and below it was a girl intricately cut out of black paper, seemingly being pulled in each direction by arms with different things written on them — mostly words describing feelings. “Anxiety,” “suicide attempts,” “depression,” “insomnia.” Most of them were not positive words.

“These are words that described what it’s like for someone in the LGBT community to go through daily,” Brown said, still speaking very softly. She said she’s not good with words, and pointed to the printed statement beside the piece of art.

She said this piece of art she’s worked so hard on described the darkness someone who’s struggling with their identity feels caving in on them, how it feels when others are rude to you because you’re not like them. Brown said she tried to fit into “normal standards” because people didn’t understand her, and she fell into darkness.

“I made this because I want other members of this community to know that they have support, people who understand and who are there for them,” she said. But mostly, she did it for her best friend, Chase Allen. He hears her begin to cry again, walks up behind her and hugs her around the neck.
Allen is going through a lot of changes, Brown said, and he needs to know people are there for him.
But today, some people were letting this community know otherwise. The top of the art installation had been ripped down. Mean words were written nearby, “Die, faggot, die,” and “gays suck” were a few. Bible versus were written on the wall below.

“I’ve read the Bible, twice ...” Brown said. There’ve been a handful of people giving pushback, she said. But more than a handful of people offering support. A group of students began to form as Brown and Allen continued fixing the piece, one male student asking “Does the ‘T’ stand for, like, transsexual?” and a conversation began between him and the others. Several stood back and just watched. Some commented further.

Brown said the LGBT community — which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — includes heterosexuals, too. “Straight allies are a part of the LGBT community as well, so everyone is included in our little society.”

Brown said the amount of people who have “come out” to her and thanked her for the art piece has been amazing. That made her feel good, too, like what she had been through in the past, all the hurt and despair, actually helped others possibly avoid those emotions.

She said her community’s mission and requests are simple.

“Discrimination isn’t okay. Not agreeing with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people is okay — just don’t discriminate or use derogatory terms toward those who are.”

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