Is Staples Safe for All Sexualities?

Is Staples Safe for All Sexualities?

The last thing that Francis Furmanek ’11 expected when walking onto the bus after school last year was to be verbally attacked. It was not long after the bus went in motion that a student began to harass Furmanek and his friend with the call of fags.

While the situation was dealt with quickly by the administration, the question still remains as to how safe Staples, or any high school actually is for all sexualities. Today the expressions “that’s so gay” and “faggot” have become commonplace as students freely say these derogatory words and teachers let their actions slide. 

For a student like Furmanek, the president of the Gay Straight Alliance recognizes the impact these words can have even if their intentions are harmless. “Despite the lack of malicious intent, I feel it just breeds contempt for the LBGT community in a sub conscious way and I would like to see the student community use a more extensive vocabulary then ‘that’s so gay’,” Furmanek said.

With bullying being a major issue nationally today, students at Staples are fortunate to have the Gay Straight Alliance as a support system to rely on. But club advisor and Staples Chinese teacher Chris Fray thinks the administration needs to take the next step in order to facilitate the job of the group.

“The school has to show that they won’t tolerate these types of things being said. It hard for me to see teachers let these derogatory statements slide because they are ignoring the consequences these words can have, especially in an age of cyber bullying,” Fray said.

In order to prevent these derogatory statements from sliding, the GSA has led initiatives such as Ally Week and Day of Silence in order to raise awareness about the issue at hand.

In a society that has recently witnessed Rutgers student Tyler Clementi jumping off the George Washington Bridge because of being bullied after he experienced gay bullying, the world is becoming more aware of the internal struggle a person goes through to find their true identity.

For Furmanek, the Day of Silence represents a very important time to take notice of the silence some students are forced to endure. “The Day of Silence is a day to send the message of how terrifying and horrific it can be to have to hide a part of yourself from the world when other people can express it so easily,” Furmanek said.

Fray knows just what the struggle feels like that Furmanek touches upon. He knew he was gay since the age of 10, and Fray, like many others did not know how his peers would react to the news of his coming out. Fray attended Roger Ludlowe High School in Fairfield and did not announce that he was gay until entering college at the age of 18. The silence that he was forced to endure during high school was difficult, which is why one of his main goals over the years has been to make Staples an environment where kids can be comfortable releasing the truth.

“We need to be able to create an environment where people can be themselves. Not everyone can feel comfortable which is why technology can be a life saver in helping kids find others who are experiencing the same thoughts that they are,” Fray said.

The use of technology to find allies, as well as the implementation of the GSA, gives students at Staples High School an environment that few in the country get to enjoy. The environment promotes the expression of true self and Furmanek suggests for those still not comfortable with reveling their true feelings to find a trusted person to talk to.

“It doesn’t feel good to hide who you are and be afraid of judgment from peers. I would recommend finding a really good friend who you can console to about your feelings,” Furmanek said.

Although Fray and Furmanek would like to see Staples become more of a leader against bullying of the students partaking in the GSA, the two understand just how powerful the effect of the group has been. In fact, according to Fray, there was a boy eight years ago who was so badly bullied in Norwalk that his father bought an apartment in Westport so that his son could go to Staples.

They recently attended a movie centered on gay bullying called Bullycide, and Fray is excited about the new initiatives society is taken to curb the issue. The movie told the story of a boy in Oklahoma who hanged himself while his family was cooking dinner and Fray believes that our culture is now beginning to understand just how serious an issue this is after multiple suicdes recently of gay boys and girls perceived to be gay.

“After the recent tragedy with the boy at Rutgers and now this movie, the majority of the people in society are now beginning to get on the bandwagon in support of this cause. The panel discussions [that took] place after that movie show how powerful we can be if we are united.”

Furmanek was also an attendee of the exclusive showing of the movie and left the theater in New York City feeling that the bullying could begin to subside down the road.

“The movie gave me hope and made me feel like the future is brighter as people are starting to get more into the issue. We as a society need to start dealing with and addressing the issue of bullying,” he said.