AB Walks Forward With Queer Youth Walkout
BY ERIN TOBIN '23
On March 11, Acton-Boxborough students and staff participated in a Queer Youth Walkout. Evvy Shoemaker ’24 organized the walkout in association with AB’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, which serves as a space for LGBTQ+ students and allies at AB to combat sexuality and gender-based discrimination while celebrating pride. The walkout emerged as a response to the recent passing of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Florida, which according to NBC News, could “prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.” This protest also resisted the recent “consideraton of transgender affirming healthcare as child abuse” in Texas, as stated in a GSA Instagram post.
In a written interview with Evvy, she explained that the idea of the walkout became a reality after the Queer Youth Assembly, a queer non-profit organiztion, announced a nation-wide walkout: “After talking with my friends at GSA, we decided that it would be a really great opportunity for us.” The GSA sought to protest the growing number of anti-queer youth attacks happening in the United States in hopes of preventing those incidents from appearing in the AB community while also building a support environment for LGBTQ+ youth.
The walkout began with a speech from Tara Shriname ’22, a student leader of the GSA. She stated that the loss of recognition and support of gay communties leads to environments distant from unity, peace, and acceptance. However, she added that the courage displayed at the walk-out, even with the “simple act of being here,” is greatly appreciated and empowers the creation of more accepting communities.
The following speech made by Evvy began with a quote by Marsha P. Johnson, a LGBTQ+ liberation activist during the Civil Rights Movement. In the quote, the importance and goal of this walkout were highlighted: “How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race?” This powerful quote emphasizes the importance of having a strong sense of unity when it comes to the preservation of human rights and conveys that condemnable actions like those of the lawmakers in Florida and Texas affect not only members of the marginalized group but also the greater community.
In Acton, the LGBTQ+ community is still vastly unaccepted; in a recent poll conducted by Niche, a ranking and review site, almost 50% of Acton residents believe that queer residents are only somewhat accepted. Additionally, there have been multiple anti-LGBTQ attacks in Massachusetts and continual anti-queer normalcies at ABRHS. By addressing the severity of these attacks and unifying to condemn such actions, we as a larger community can prevent these instances of hate from happening in the first place. Evvy concluded by discussing the necessity of LGBTQ+ children feeling comfortable with their identities, and putting a stop to those who “value intolerance and hatred over safety.”
The walkout became even more momentous as it ended with a pride flag flying for the first time on the high school campus. As this symbol of inclusion and progress flew above the hopeful smiles of the community, it truly felt metaphoric of the steps everyone had taken that day to accomplish a long-awaited and necessary place of unity. As Evvy expressed, “This event was the first time since starting high school at AB that I really felt like we were all one big community, and I hope other people felt the same way…The walkout gave me more of a sense of that [impact] than I’ve ever felt.”