In 2012, I had a really bad year at school. It was my 9thgrade year and I had just started at a new high school. I had come out as a lesbian in middle school, and now I had to come out to all new people at my high school. Also, I have a learning difference and I was worried that I would stand out. Throughout the entire year, people teased and bullied me about being a lesbian and my learning difference. I had not experienced anything like this before, as my parents are very accepting of my sexual orientation. I was worried that all four years of high school were going to be difficult.
At the end of my 9thgrade year, one of my teachers told me that there was a summer work program at The Attic specifically for LGBTQ youth like myself. I was thrilled. I signed up and began coming to The Attic in July. For the entire summer, I worked with a group of other high school students, both LGBTQ and allies, on a service learning project to create a toolkit for teachers to use to make their classrooms safer and accepting. I got to work specifically on the videos and posters that are part of the toolkit. I had an amazing experience. Everyone at The Attic was so warm, open, and inviting. They didn’t make fun of me for my differences. At the end of the summer, I knew that The Attic was a place that I wanted to get involved in beyond the summer.
This past fall, I became even more active in the programs at The Attic. I go to The Attic’s creative writing group and lesbian group. Also, I am currently part of The Attic’s first school year internship program, where I am working with The Bryson Institute to train teachers in the Philadelphia School District on how to support LGBTQ youth in school. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to the new superintendent! I shared with him my experience being bullied at school and discussed how we can work together to make classrooms more supportive.
Over the last six months, I have met so many awesome people at The Attic. But I have learned that many are not as fortunate as me- many do not have parents that accept their sexual orientation. I have talked to my mom a lot about this. It makes me so sad that some of my friends can’t be themselves when they are with their families. My mom agreed to help The Attic start a parent support group, and is currently working with a therapist at The Attic to make this happen. I really want other parents to know that nothing is wrong with their child if they identify as LGBTQ.
I am so excited that I found The Attic when I did so I can be involved over the upcoming years. My experience here has taught me that even I, as a high school student, can have a positive impact on the city and the lives of others. I am inspired now to go to college for social work, so that I can continue to help others in the future.