Speaking of Labels…What’s the Q+ About?

For many years, people used the term “LGBT” to describe the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender community. In recent years, you might have noticed a new addition at the end: “Q+”. The Q+ is meant to be more inclusive of people who identify with something that’s not in the traditional LGBT framework (such as Asexual
and Pansexual).

While it might not seem like a big deal, the distinction is important to many people —
and has actually become a hotly debated issue. A Jeff High student who wanted to be anonymous for this story says the Q+ isn’t needed: “Trans covers FTM (female to male), MTF (male to female), and non-binary (the feeling of being genderless). Lesbian and Gay cover that, and Bi covers Pan so that’s about it.”

On the other side is Amber Walker, a Jeff High student who prefers the Q+ addition because “Personally, I feel that there is a whole spectrum of possibilities that don’t fit into just four labels.”

On a recent Instagram poll, the votes for the acronym LGBT was just one person while the votes for LGBTQ+ were 17 people. Most of those polled were from the area, but some were not. An LGBTQ+ community member who voted is from a country where being a part of the community is looked down upon and it is illegal to attend Pride festivals and have samesex marriage without punishment.

Is this debate pointless? While representation is important, the LGBTQ+ community, whether you believe in the Q+ or not, is an accepting community for those of different sexualities and genders. Even though LGBTQ+ won our poll, your opinion is your opinion as long as you aren’t hurting anyone with it.

Me Oh My! Xe, Xir, Zye!

When you hear “them” what do you think? Most will think that use of “they” means multiple people. There are occasions where this is no longer the case. They is a pronoun used for someone of unspecified gender, or in some cases, someone who doesn’t identify with a gender at all. They/them pronouns are often used when someone is non-binary and/or agender. Being non-binary is when someone identifies out of the male/female dichotomy, in other words, are outside of the binary. While he/him and she/her are specifically gendered to male and female, they/them pronouns are not.

There is a debate brewing in queer and non-queer spaces about pronouns. “How much meaning should we prescribe to them?” “Are he/him lesbians valid?” You hear the murmurs of these questions constantly. 

Pronouns are sensitive, as they relate exactly to identity. The singular they has been around for centuries. The works of William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Jane Austen and William Thackeray all include a singular they. However, now this use of singular they has come into question. Why has this use of singular they become controversial? The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides this answer to the question of if you can use a singular they; “The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing.”

Then it comes to neo-pronouns. These new pronouns take on lists, the time of creation spanning from the early 1970s to yesterday. Ey/em pronouns were introduced to the queer scene in 1973, as an alternative to binary pronouns, plural, or “object” pronouns (it/its.) The queer disconnect from binary is something inherent and unique to queer spaces: the grotesque, the tacky, the beautiful, all smashed together in a revolution of beauty standards. This is apparent in the strict disregard of binary provided by the nonbinary and trans community, the butch/femme lesbian community, and the other sects of identification language in queer spaces. The pronouns are important as a badge of identity, what you call me will be what I’m most comfortable with.

Likely the reason we come to dispute these occasions of singular they, or the use of new pronouns be because this is a use in the context of queer people, and their refusal of typical gender binary. Even if you don’t want to listen to Shakespeare because language changes over time from his version of English, I pose another question: then why can’t it change now? If people are more comfortable using a different pronounーwhether it be they, he, she, or a newer oneーwhat right do we have to say, “no, this makes you more comfortable in expression, but no.” why should we be able to do that, refuse changing our language to benefit others? A simple switch of pronounsーsomething so easy we do it for dogsーwe can’t do for other people? 

Commentary: Religion in Schools – is it Constitutional?

written by Emily Tully

At the constitutional convention in 1787, our founding fathers came to the conclusion that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Many interpret this to mean that, literally, Americans have the right to practice any religion that we choose, but the government cannot force any religion onto you.

In recent times, or even since that amendment has been ratified, it has been misquoted and not followed as our founders meant.

Religion remains a topic not to be brought up with people, as most have a passionate opinion about it. Individuals follow the faith that they so choose and practice it in their daily lives to their discretion.

With that being said, there are some that don’t.

If things were as they were laid out in the Constitution, that would be fine. But companies, schools and other organizations have been shaming those who do not follow religion, or don’t practice the religion that they do, and making it institutional.

With the recent mass shootings in schools, there have been more calls for action as a means to stop the senseless violence and death that have been surrounding our society for over a decade. Solutions to the problem have been mentioned — arming teachers, stronger gun control, and even some unconventional ones, like adding more religion in schools.

The problem with teaching religion in public schools is that it is unconstitutional and hinders the process of students being able to form their own opinions.

Posts on social media from local high school students have claimed that the reason for these tragedies is ‘our country’s lack of morals and a relationship with God.’ Organizations have banded together to put ‘God back into public schools’ following mass acts of violence.

But what about those who do not practice any religion, or a religion that doesn’t have to do with God?

As a high school student, who isn’t particularly religious, I am absolutely in awe at the fact that other high schoolers want to blame this problem on something that is not based on fact. The fact of the matter is the average person, as young as 16 years old in Vermont, can purchase a gun. Eighteen-year-olds can purchase semi-automatic weapons that cause mass destruction. As many as 50 people can be killed in minutes, as seen in the Las Vegas shooting.

How long must this go on before our voices are heard? Why do these calls for action have to come from ‘children’? Why is being a ‘child,’ or a young person, a bad thing? Why do we imply that our youth is uneducated about this topic in particular; when, in reality, high school students are the ones who deal with this first hand?

As of print, there have been 82 school shootings since I started my freshman year at Jeff High, all of these resulting in injury and death. But my opinion doesn’t matter?

Students are faced with anxieties and fears that our lives will be potentially cut short, in a place where we are supposed to prepare for a life full of longevity and prosperity.

Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, has been known for her Christian belief, although she has kept quiet since her nomination. In a 2001 interview, though, she offered a glimpse into her convictions.

“Our desire,” she claimed, “is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

Isn’t this, by definition, unconstitutional?

DeVos is known for her support of private and Christian/Catholic education, supporting President Donald Trump’s call to fund families moving away from “our failing government schools” into their choice of charter or private school.

Why would the country’s Secretary of Education be focused on moving families out of government schools, instead of improving them? Is it because they cannot teach their religious agenda in public schools?

Public schools are not a place to push ideologies, whether they be religious, political or economic. Schools are supposed to be a place for us students to prosper and find ourselves — find our ways of thinking and ways of doing things in a manner that we so please. If I had listened to all of the principles that were pushed upon me, I would not be the activist and opinionated person that I am today.

It’s not just ‘liberals’ or ‘left-wing’ people who believe in teaching students in a way that they can learn for themselves. Most students that I have polled, from all walks of life, want to learn for themselves.

Junior Chris Sosa believes that, “If the government is funding families going into private schools, that’s wrong. They should be focusing on bettering our public schools, because not everyone is going to choose to go to a private school.

“It’s a bias within our government towards those who don’t follow the religion that they do,” Sosa continued.

In this time of societal divy of how to fix this nationwide dilemma of violence, does the answer really lie within amending the Constitution?

Commentary: Stigmas of Mental Illness

written by Tomi Clark

A school. A trigger of a gun. And the person behind the bullet.

With mass shootings, the assumptions that are frequently associated with those who stand behind the trigger are typical:

  1. Mental illness causes gun violence
  2. The crime can be prevented with psychiatric diagnosis
  3. The shooter is troubled, deranged and lonely

What is at the forefront of your mind when somebody mentions ‘school shooter’? Is it that the shooter is mentally disturbed and that is what drove them to burst?

Links between gun violence and mental illness have been the center of misconceptions, but labeling it as a misconception is only based on what you believe.

Abstractly, not only does mental stability come to mind when speaking of school shooters, but it brings to light other stereotypes and anxieties associated with gun violence.

More importantly, though, it brings up the ultimate question: Where is safe?

The stigmas of mental illness

The stigmas surrounding school shooters are only implications.

Do you picture someone who harbors telltale signs of loneliness, failing grades, a secret

vendetta, a broken family, and a history of mental illness?

From what is broadcast on the news, people tend to develop bias prejudices toward the mentally ill, and profile them as mass murderers. Thus, they make generalizations on the spectrum of the argument at hand.

The presumption that all mentally ill have a burning passion to shoot up schools just because of their mental state is only an implication. What did the mentally ill do to incur the wrath of harsh judgment and cruel discriminations?

Frankly, anyone can be an anomaly who commits the crime.

The assumptions that link gun violence and mental illness stem from some place, but where? Any correlation between the mental illness and gun violence is a fallacy, because not everyone who is mentally ill is going to conduct a shooting.

Anyone, not only those labeled as “sick”, has the capability to gain access to a weapon (whether by legal or illegal means), walk onto a school campus, and begin shooting at random. But the stigmas perpetuate the direction that all mentally ill are belligerent, and are simply waiting in the shadows, ready to strike.

Mass shootings are a conundrum, and all society aspires to do is understand, and know how to prevent them. The first group of people in line to blame are those who have mental health issues, even if they do not act or show signs of erratic behavior.

The notions that proclaim mental illness as being the sole reason for any mass shooting, or that advanced physiatric surveillance could prevent a shooting, is unsensible because denouncing a substantial amount of the population on a topic as grand terror scale as this is unfair. And while the shooter may have personal turmoil or mental instability, throwing blame on an entire group of people is where the line is drawn.

No school is infallible and grand scale shootings are inevitable, but discriminating and associating murder mentality with all mentally ill is unjustifiable.

This is an extensive and imperative topic at hand, and in the end it’s in your hands to decide what you deem the reasons for mass shootings are.

Commentary: Our voices will be heard

written by Lisa Morris

How many?

How many more teenagers will have to die or be injured before there are stricter gun laws and better safety in schools? How many more threats will there have to be for our voice to be heard?

How many?

When my mom and dad went to school, the thought of them possibly dying never even crossed their mind. Even when I was a little girl on my way to third grade, I never imagined that I could very well take my last breath at a school.

For the kids and teenagers all around the country that go to school with the fear of being murdered along with their classmates, it is undeniably heartbreaking for me. There is no doubt that there has to be a change.

I believe that in order for this change to occur, we, as students and as youth, have to make a stand. A stand against bullying. A stand against hate. A stand against murder in schools.

Our voices deserve to be heard, especially since we are the ones most affected by this.

Change will never happen if we do not come together and act upon what we are promising, or what we are saying we want done. All over the news and social media are articles about how there needs to be better safety in schools.

Then why did Jeff High, by all accounts a safe school, have two threats within weeks apart? At what point will we stop talking and actually start doing?

Youth, we are so important. We are the voice of change. We have so much energy and we have so much potential. When we put that energy into good use and use it for what we believe in, nothing can stop us.

Simply put, we cannot sit back any longer. We’ve always heard our teachers and our parents tell us that our actions speak louder than words. Then why aren’t we acting upon our beliefs? Why aren’t we pushing for more safety in our own schools?

In order for this change to happen, we as youth have to make our voices heard to the adults. Yes, we have made many mistakes. Yes, we will make many more.

But we can come together and speak out for more safety in our school to those leading it. Our opinions matter, but we have to speak up to the ones who have the legal power to put this change into action.

The threats towards our school, and many other schools like our, from those who are infiltrated with hate and anger will continue to happen. However, the only way we will be safe is if the community hears our voices.

It is time that our voices be heard.